Top New Zealand UFC Fighters List of 2023
Let’s take a look at the best UFC fighters in New Zealand!
Subject to change
The rankings and performance specifications reflect to current state of New Zealand’s local sport scene. We are sure to update our article if changes in the NZ UFC fighters list require so.
The best New Zealand UFC fighters
|Israel Adesanya||22-1-0||#3 Pound-for-Pound global MMA ranking||15|
|Robert Whittaker||23-6-0||#8 Pound-for-Pound MMA ranking||9|
|Kai Kara-France||23-9-0||#6 Flyweight ranking||11|
|Dan Hooker||21-11-0||#8 Lightweight ranking||10|
|Janay Harding||6-5||#7 Featherweight worldwide||4|
The best NZ UFC fighters, in short
Our professional team has handpicked the most accomplished athletes with the most impressive resumes from numerous New Zealand UFC fighters.
Most of the elite fighters on this list are current or former global UFC stars. They have had considerable influence on the development of the sport in this country.
Which one of them do you think is the biggest UFC fighter hailing from New Zealand?
Israel Adesanya – the last stylebender
Adesanya started training in martial arts at the age of 18. Since, he had a stellar career in the sport, with 75 wins and five losses. He also competed as a boxer with a 5-1 record.
During adolescence, his passion for anime led him to kickboxing as his first discipline in high school. Do you think there’s some influence in his fighting style and flamboyant performances?
From MMA to UFC
His MMA career began in 2012, and five years later, he signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Israel Adesanya has an impressive MMA record of 22-1. Some consider him the biggest UFC fighter to come out of New Zealand. As one of the UFC’s current Middleweight Champions and a former Glory Middleweight Championship contender in kickboxing, he’s second in the Ultimate Fighting Championship men’s pound-for-pound rankings.
He won the Middleweight Champion title fighting Kelvin Gastelum and fellow Kiwi Robert Whittaker. He defended the title with wins over Yoel Romero Paulo Costa. His only championship loss came when he moved up a weight class and fought—and lost—to Jan Blachowich.
Robert Whittaker – aka the Reaper
Early in life, Robert Whittaker gained a black belt in karate. He drifted through a few sports before getting hooked on mixed martial arts.
This fierce competitor has developed a distinct style combining Jiu-Jitsu, karate and other fighting doctrines. Though Whittaker never trash-talks his opponents outside the octagon, Mr Nice Guy isn’t someone you’d want to take on within the battle arena.
New Zealand’s or Australia’s biggest UFC fighter?
Although he is New Zealand-born, Whittaker has lived in Australia since he started competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2012. Of course, both countries are happy to claim his victories and him as their biggest UFC fighter.
Two years into his fighting career, Whittaker moved to the middleweight class, where he soon won a few Performance-of-the-Night awards.
In 2017, Whittaker defeated Yoel Romero to become the interim Ultimate Fighting Championship Middleweight Champion. He became the undisputed titleholder after Georges St-Pierre retired due to illness. However, after a few injuries and less than pleasing fight outcomes, he lost his title to Israel Adesanya in 2019.
Whittaker vs Adesanya
Whittaker currently sits at the top of middleweight rankings and is eighth in pound for pound. While still not having managed to best Izzy, he remains among the best NZ UFC fighters.
Kai Kara-France, all bite & no bark
Kai Kara-France is another New Zealander among the greatest New Zealand UFC fighters. He’s been with the popular MMA franchise since 2018.
He started down the sporting path in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but moved to mixed martial arts in high school.
From starting to joining the championship
Kara-France’s first fight was in 2010 in his home city of Auckland. After a spate of successes, he dropped out of university to focus on his fighting career. Kai Kara-France joined Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2018, where his most significant accomplishment to date is a two-time Fight-of-the-Night and Performance-of-the-Night win.
This flyweight fighter with an electric style has had 23 wins and nine losses in his MMA career to date. He is currently #6 across the championship rankings in his weight class.
Dan Hooker: The hangman
Dan Hooker is yet another Aucklander on this list of top NZ UFC fighters. This veteran fighter once competed as a kickboxer.
Hooker has a versatile style that incorporates Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu elements. He has an impressive 9-1-3 record with a King-in-the-Ring Middleweight Championship belt.
How he joined the pros
Dan started his Ultimate Fighting Championship career because of his 10-4 record in New Zealand’s MMA scene. In 33 matches, Hooker’s recorded 22 wins and 11 losses. He’s performed in Fight-of-the-Night twice and Performance-of-the-Night three times.
The Hangman’s attractive fighting style has yet to land him a championship fight. Still, he’s currently #8 in Lightweight ranking, making him a top contender for the biggest UFC fighter global title.
The Hangman is usually featured in top posts featuring the most attractive sports players in NZ, among several New Zealand Rugby team players, such as Beauden Barrett.
Mark Hunt: The Super Samoan
Mark Hunt opened the door for New Zealanders to enter the MMA and UFC arenas in many ways.
The former multiple K-1 Grand Prix champion never made it to the top in the UFC’s ranks. Still, he had more than a few memorable moments, including the Knockout-of-the-Night vs Stefan Struve and Chris Tuchscherer.
He has also participated in Fight-of-the-Night three times. Hunt is arguably the single greatest among Ultimate Fighting Championship performers from New Zealand.
How was he within the ring?
Mark Hunt prefers a stand-up position and possesses a powerful left hook. Most of his wins came from knockout punches. On the flip side, the Super Samoan was well known for his super-strong chin.
Hunt is as famous outside the octagon as he is inside. He even landed a role in the motion picture Crazy Murder. Have you even seen this small trashy production?
In his MMA career, he recorded 13 wins and 14 losses. He had an even more impressive 30-13 record in his kickboxing career.
The Super Samoan’s best knockouts
Janay Harding: Hollowpoint
Janay Harding is one of the most famous female NZ UFC fighters around. She currently ranks seventh in the world featherweight rankings.
Harding is proudly Christchurch-born, and her distinctive fighting style includes elements of karate.
Harding competes in Bellator MMA, where her record stands at 6-5. In parallel with her MMA career, she competed for the Australian super-welterweight boxing title in 2019, losing to Tayla Harris.
The new wave of NZ UFC fighters
Top New Zealand UFC fighters like Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker have been incredibly influential in popularising this vibrant sport.
After NZ’s biggest UFC fighter, Mark Hunt, opened the door, a succession of new, top quality MMA fighters has followed in his footsteps.
Adesanya and Whittaker have already achieved incredible championship results. Brogan Anderson, Matt Vaile, and Mike Diamond are waiting in the wings.
You might see them on this list soon! And since Auckland has become a hot spot for MMA talent, the city is also nurturing a steady stream of female mixed martial arts athletes—many do feature in the world’s top 10 in selected categories.
Did we make these top New Zealand UFC fighters justice? Who is the biggest UFC fighter you are rooting for?
The fight is not over, you do not need to throw in the towel. We want to find out which contender is your favourite. Did we make New Zealand’s UFC fighters justice? Share your opinion below.