For as long as we could remember, we’ve always imagined pitting our favourite characters from different shows or brands against each other in an all-out battle, such as, He-Man vs. Thundercat; DC vs. Marvel; Goku vs. Superman.
In whatever shape or form, we used to debate what the outcome would be if two major characters from differing worlds were to duke it out, and the sport of MMA is no different!
When Pride FC first emerged back in 1997, UFC had a hell of a competition on its hands, with the best international fighters coming all the way to Japan to carve their names in the history books: Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva and Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira to name but a few.
Many fans will be surprised to learn that the first potential cross-promotional event between UFC and Pride FC, Total Elimination, went back as far as 2003.
Since then, fans of the two major powerhouses have been eager to witness more match-ups between their favourite warriors, but the two companies have never been able to reach a formal agreement.
When Pride FC closed its doors in 2007 due to its affiliation with the Yakuza, many top tier athletes were brought into the UFC, and so our dream matches were finally realized in the form of Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva, and Randy Couture vs. Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Although UFC President, Dana White, has stated in the past that the promotion would not be hosting any cross-promotional events, Bellator held its first major event in Japan with Rizin Fighting Federation co-promoting. This not only proved the union to be a healthy business venture, but reignited our hopes for potential cross-promotional fights in the future.
With all that said, let’s get right into the eye of the octagon storm and cross straight over into these Top 5 Dream MMA Cross-Promotion Fights! (in descending order)
5. Ryan Bader (Bellator) vs. Reinier de Ridder (ONE Championship)
In every promotion, there’s bound to be a champion longing to extend their legacy, by crossing to another division to carry two straps of gold over their shoulders.
Dan Henderson became the first and last fighter to win the Pride FC titles at Middleweight and Welterweight, while Conor McGregor became the first Irish superstar to win the UFC Lightweight and Featherweight belts simultaneously. Since then, it’s almost become a tradition for athletes to aim for the double gold.
In Ryan “Darth” Bader’s case, he had an impressive eight-year career in the UFC, beating former Light-Heavyweight champions, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and “Suga” Rashad Evans. However, he was never able to reach the top of the food chain during his tenure in the company.
It wasn’t until he stepped into Bellator, where he won the Light-Heavyweight championship in his debut, and defeated the GOAT of MMA, Fedor Emelianenko, to claim the Heavyweight championship, that he was able to achieve the accolade of two-time World Champion. It’s safe to say that jumping ship to Bellator had been a winning move.
“The Dutch Knight” Reinier de Ridder is currently 16-0 in ONE Championship. His skills on stand-up and grappling have been an asset in his conquest to win the Light-Heavyweight, and Middleweight championship against the former King of ONE Championship, Aung La N Sang.
Although Bader lost the Light-Heavyweight championship in 2020, a potential crossover bout between “Darth” Bader and “The Dutch Knight” at Light-Heavyweight could really raise the roof.
4. Zhang Weili (UFC) vs. Xiong Jing Nan (ONE Championship)
More fighters hailing from China have made a critical impact on the international MMA market in recent years, especially in the sudden rise of Zhang Weili.
Weili had already been a long-time contender with a 19-1 record and three straight wins in the UFC before she was granted a title shot at the Strawweight World title for the first time in her career.
At UFC Fight Night, Weili shocked the MMA world by knocking Jéssica Andrade out in the first round to become the first UFC champion from China.
Casual UFC fans, however, may be unaware of the existence of another Chinese athlete who had won the Women’s Strawweight title a year before Weili. Xiong Jing Nan became the first Chinese fighter to win a world title in ONE Championship.
Both Chinese stars share similar successes. They have fought and beaten the best of their respective divisions; Zhang Weili having twice defeated the former Strawweight queen, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, whilst Xiong Jing Nan had defended her championship against megastar, Angela Lee, in their first outing.
These two powerhouses could set the MMA world on fire if they ever met in the cage, in what could very well be the fight of their lives!
3. Deiveson Figueiredo (UFC) vs. Adriano Moraes (ONE Championship)
Since the flyweight division’s inception in the early 2010’s, there has been an abundance of fast-paced and enthralling battles, with Demetrious Johnson ruling over the division as its conquering UFC champion for five years.
Both the UFC and ONE Championship are the leading promotions hosting the best fighters in the flyweight class.
Brazilian native, Deiveson “Daico” Figueiredo, is a BJJ black belt with serious punching power that makes him one of the most formidable fighters in the UFC.
Having been in the promotion for three years, 2020 would be Figueiredo’s year. Initially winning the vacant Flyweight championship, he would go on to successfully defend his title against Alex Perez at UFC 255, and draw against Brandon Moreno at UFC 256 in one of the best fights of the year.
Figueiredo would duke it out again with Moreno in the next two years. Despite losing the title in their first rematch, Figueiredo would regain the belt in their third outing, re-establishing his dominance of the division.
From the Federal District of Brazil, Adriano Moraes is not only One Championship’s most dangerous grappler, but he’s established an unprecedented legacy for himself, becoming a three-time Flyweight champion.
His knockout victory against former UFC Flyweight champion, Demetrious Johnson brought about one of the biggest upsets of 2021.
Which of these two BJJ masters do you think would be left standing to rule supreme over the Flyweights?
2. Kamaru Usman (UFC) vs. Yaroslav Amosov (Bellator)
What happens when you take “The Nigerian Nightmare” from the UFC, and Bellator’s “Dynamo” and pit them in a cage against each other? Well, you get about the most enthralling Welterweight fight in history that’s what!
Born in Auchi, Nigeria, and fighting out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman first made waves in the UFC after winning the 21st season of The Ultimate Fighter. He has remained undefeated in the promotion to this day.
On March 2, 2019, Usman conquered Tyron Woodley to become the new Welterweight champion, and has continued to thrive against the likes of Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal, establishing a reign of dominance, the likes of which has not been seen in the division since Georges St-Pierre.
Hailing from Irpin, Ukraine, Yaroslav “Dynamo” Amosov is a four-time world champion in Combat Sambo and an undefeated prospect in the Welterweight class.
From 2018 to 2021, Amosov ploughed his way through the competition to earn his chance to face Bellator’s top athlete, Douglas Lima, and to win the Bellator Welterweight championship.
This potential matchup, to the delight of MMA fans, could set the stage as the biggest grappler vs. striker fight in the history of title bouts.
1. Patrício Pitbull (Bellator) vs. Alexander Volkanovski (UFC)
The Featherweight division showcased some of the most enthralling fights of the modern era and served as a gateway to some of the greatest fighters of this generation: Urijah Faber, José Aldo, Conor McGregor, Brian Ortega, and Max Holloway.
As the division continued to thrive, more featherweights would follow in the footsteps of these accomplished athletes.
Hailing from Mossoró, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, Patricio Pitbull made his Bellator debut back in 2010.
Winning his first Featherweight world title in 2014, he would go on to reclaim it in 2017 and again in 2022 following a brief leap in 2019 to the Lightweight division when he defeated Michael Chandler to become the Lightweight champion.
This BJJ black belt, and four-time world champion has now reached the pinnacle of his career, and is currently ranked the no.1 Pound for Pound Best Fighter in Bellator.
Australian Featherweight, Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski, entered the UFC back in 2016 with a current record of 12-0 in the promotion.
After beating former champion José Aldo, Volkanovski won Featherweight gold by defeating Max Holloway.
Volkanovski would go on to defend his title against Brian Ortega, “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, and on two occasions against Max Holloway, cementing his rightly-earned status as Alexander “The Great”.
If a masterclass takes place between these two warriors striving to earn the title of ‘Greatest Featherweight Champion’, well, when all is said and done, in true Highlander spirit, “There can be only one”!