In order to become a World Champion mixed martial artist, you’ll need lots of practice to acquire the necessary skills and perfect your techniques and strategies. This requires a lot of time and effort, which explains why a lot of World Champions are older and more experienced fighters.
However, there are some very young MMA world champions who have proven that age is really just a number. These champions shot to the top with skills beyond their years due to hard work and pure talent. The following are some of the youngest champions in MMA history:
10) Ricco Rodriguez
Ricco was only 25 years and one month old when he became the UFC Heavyweight Champion in 2002. He submitted his opponent, Randy Couture, in the fifth round of their UFC 39 tilt, becoming the first person of Puerto Rican descent to win the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight championship.
9) Frank Mir
Francisco Santos Mir III claimed the UFC Heavyweight Championship in 2004 at the age of 25 after beating Tim Sylvia. Despite his young age, he had been practicing and fighting for more than 15 years at the time. Before competing in the UFC, Mir had only had two fights outside the promotion. Under the UFC’s banner, he won six out of his first seven matches before becoming the heavyweight champion.
8) Frank Shamrock
Frank Alisio Juarez III, commonly known as Frank Shamrock, became the UFC Middleweight Champion in 1997 when he was exactly 25 years old. He had fought a total of 22 times before this win. He went on to have a very impressive career and retired as a four-time champion. During his reign as the middleweight champion, he was ranked as the number one pound-for-pound fighter. He was also named the 1990s ‘Fighter of the Decade’ by Wrestling Observer.
7) Carlos Newton
In 2001 when he was only 24 years and 8 months old, Carlos Newton won the UFC Welterweight Championship. Famously known as ‘The Ronin’, Newton is often considered a ‘submission master’. During the championship fight, he was able to secure a bulldog choke submission on his opponent Pat Miletich.
6) Jose Aldo
Jose Aldo is a Brazilian mixed martial artist who became the UFC featherweight champion at the age of 24 years and 2 months. He won his WEC title when he was only 23 years old. He is considered one of the greatest featherweight fighters in mixed martial arts history.
5) Jon Jones
Jonathan Dwight Jones is a American light heavyweight champion. He first won the title in 2011 at the age of 23 years and eight months after defeating Mauricio Rua. He went on to have an extraordinary career inside the cage, never tasting defeat as the UFC’s Light Heavyweight Champion. For several years, he was considered the best pound-on-pound fighter in the world. Unfortunately, a couple of failed drug tests have kept him out of the Octagon in recent years.
4) Eduardo Dantas
Born in 1989, Eduardo Dantes has been a professional mixed martial artist since 2007. This Brazilian fighter won the fifth season of the Bellator Bantamweight Tournament after fighting against Zach Makovsky. In the second round, he ended the fight with a technical submission, winning the Bellator bantamweight title at the age of 23 years and two months.
3) Gegard Mousasi
Gegard Mousasi is a Dutch mixed martial artist who has won several titles, including the DREAM Light Heavyweight belt, the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight belt, the DREAM Middleweight belt, and the Cage Warriors World Middleweight belt. It is the DREAM Middleweight Championship that earned him a spot on this list, as he was only 23 years and one month when he won the title. Mousasi has had a long and successful career, and by the time he left the UFC in 2017, he was ranked fourth in the official UFC middleweight rankings. He currently competes in Bellator.
2) Joe Soto
Joseph Angel Soto is a Mexican-American mixed martial artist who won the Bellator Featherweight Championship at the age of 22 years and 3 months. He has been a professional fighter since 2006, though he has been fighting since high school where he was on the wrestling team. He won an athletic scholarship to attend Iowa Central Community College, where he met and competed with Jon Jones, another future champion. Joe Soto and Jon Jones were also roommates in college for two years. Soto has had a very successful career, and he has won several other championship belts, including the Tachi Palace Fights Bantamweight Championship. He has also competed successfully in several Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments.
1) Angela Lee
Angela Lee is the youngest MMA champion and the only woman in this top ten list. She grew up training martial arts, and her rise to the top represents an entirely new era for mixed martial arts.
Angela Lee was born in 1996 in Vancouver, and her family moved to Hawaii when she was seven years old. She started training and competing when she was only six years old. Her three younger siblings are also mixed martial arts practitioners, and one of her younger brothers, Christian Lee, is a professional MMA fighter for ONE Championship and a fellow member of the Evolve Fight Team.
Lee first won a title in 2011 at the USA Amateur Pankration Championships. The next year, she won her division at the World Pankration Anthlima Federation Championships in Greece. However, she won her first MMA world title on May 5, 2016, when she was only 19 years and 10 months old after defeating veteran Japanese fighter Mei Yamaguchi. She was crowned the ONE Women’s Atomweight world champion. Lee received her Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt in 2018.
Though all the people on this list broke records and wrote their names in the history books as the youngest MMA title holders in their time, it is clear that they started training at a very young age. Discipline, hard work, and determination were key factors as the rose to the top, and most of them went on to have impressive careers and win even more championships. With the same type of commitment and perseverance, you also can accomplish any goals you set for yourself as a mixed martial artist.
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