In 2023, the UFC celebrates its 30th anniversary. Each year, the Octagon is home to incredible performances and moments, some of which belong to young rising fighters or fighters who are hitting their stride before reaching 30 years old.
There are over 225 fighters on the UFC roster under the age of 30, and that crop of UFC fighters will likely lay the foundation for the UFC for many years to come.
But which fighters under 30 are the best and/or have the brightest futures ahead of them?
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You’re about to find out fighters 10-1, who are budding contenders looking to join the ranks of their division’s elite.
10. Tai Tuivasa
There might not be a more entertaining man in the UFC’s heavyweight division than Tai Tuivasa.
While the Australian superstar is known for his trademark shoey celebration, it’s his epic performances in the Octagon that have helped him land on this list. Tuivasa has been in the UFC since 2017 and we’ve seen him add to his game as he’s gained more experience over the years.
UFC 30TH ANNIVERSARY EXPERIENCE
His wins over the likes of Andrei Arlovski, Stefan Struve, Augusto Sakai, and Derrick Lewis have proven that he’s a real force to be reckoned with at heavyweight. And at just 29 years old, his prime is still ahead of him.
9. Alexa Grasso
Moving up to flyweight has produced the best run of Alexa Grasso’s UFC career. The 29-year-old decided to join the competition up at flyweight after a majority decision loss to former strawweight champion Carla Esparza.
Alexa Grasso's Family Business
Alexa Grasso's Family Business
Since then, Grasso has been on a tear, racking up four wins in a row en route to earning a flyweight title shot opposite of Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 285.
See Everything That's Happening In The Flyweight Division
Grasso could be the latest fighter from Mexico to add a UFC belt to her resume, following in the footsteps of Yair Rodriguez and Brandon Moreno after their wins at UFC 284 and UFC 283, respectively.
Next Up: Grasso has the chance to put an end to Shevchenko’s championship reign at UFC 285: Jones vs Gane.
8. Marvin Vettori
With 13 UFC fights under his belt, Marvin Vettori is one of the more experienced fighters to be featured in this series. Vettori made his UFC debut at UFC 202 and has established himself as one of the true elite middleweights.
Vettori fell short of dethroning then-champion Israel Adesanya at UFC 263, but “The Italian Dream” has his sights on getting back into the title picture in 2023 before his 30th birthday in September.
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Next Up: Vettori will face a surging Roman Dolidze at UFC 286: Edwards vs Usman 3 in London on March 18.
7. Taila Santos
Last summer, Taila Santos almost pulled off one of the most shocking upsets in UFC history. The 29-year-old Brazilian nearly defeated Valentina Shevchenko to become the flyweight champion.
That performance showed that Santos should not only be considered one of the division’s best, but also a real threat to whoever has the belt.
View Santos' Athlete Profile Here
Santos was scheduled to face Erin Blanchfield in her first UFC main event on February 18, but unfortunately was forced to withdraw from the fight due to issues with her corner obtaining visas to travel from Brazil.
6. Kai Kara-France
The heavy-hitting Kai Kara-France only has a little over a month and some change left to be on this list, which he absolutely deserves to be on.
Kara-France hasn’t been able to get past flyweight champion Brandon Moreno, but both of their fights were very close, including their recent fight at UFC 277 for the interim UFC flyweight title.
WATCH: Kara-France's Wild Comeback Win At UFC 259
Kara-France’s style and his ability to end a fight at any second makes him one of those fighters that truly lives up to his nickname. “Don’t Blink” will be involved in some big fights at flyweight in 2023 as he looks to get another shot at Moreno.
5. Arnold Allen
There is no denying Arnold Allen any longer.
Arnold’s blistering win over Dan Hooker and his hard-fought win over Sodiq Yusuff have helped him maneuver up the rankings for what looks to be a massive 2023 campaign.
The 29-year-old from England is 10-0 in the UFC and on a 12-fight win streak overall. Although “Almighty’s” last win came after an unfortunate knee injury to Calvin Kattar, it’s been clear for quite some time that Arnold is a real title contender at featherweight.
Where We Stand In The Featherweight Division
Next Up: Arnold will get his chance to stamp his ticket as a future title challenger when he faces former champion Max Holloway in the main event in Kansas City, MO on April 15.
4. Petr Yan
It’s slightly unfair to put Petr Yan on this list, only because he turned 30 on February 11, but you’ll have to give us a break!
Petr Yan | Journey To Champion
Petr Yan | Journey To Champion
“No Mercy” has an undisputed UFC bantamweight title and an interim UFC bantamweight title on his resume and he’s aiming to get back into title contention in 2023. His razor close split decision losses to Aljamain Sterling and Sean O’Malley take nothing away from how dangerous and how tough of a fighter Yan is.
Check Out What's Happening In The Bantamweight Division
It’ll be interesting to see how Yan bounces back and if he can reclaim his throne.
Next Up: Yan will fight Merab Dvalishvili in the main event at the Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas on March 11.
3. Sean O’Malley
“Sugar” Sean O’Malley has proven the doubters wrong.
His split decision win over Petr Yan made it very clear that he can not only hang with, but defeat, the cream of the bantamweight crop. O’Malley has developed into one of the biggest stars in the sport, combining his creative personality with his dynamic fighting style.
WATCH: Bonus Resume | Sean O'Malley
The 28-year-old O’Malley is 7-1-1 in the UFC and has likely earned himself a chance to fight Aljamain Sterling whenever the champ is healthy.
2. Khamzat Chimaev
Khamzat Chimaev has rose to stardom since making his UFC debut in the summer of 2020.
Chimaev quickly established himself as one of the most dominant fighters in the UFC. He broke the record for the quickest turnaround between UFC wins in the modern era in his first two UFC fights and has since beat highly respected opponents such as Gerald Meerschaert, Li Jingliang, Gilbert Burns, and Kevin Holland.
WATCH: Chimaev vs Burns At UFC 273
Other than his 2022 Fight of the Year throwdown with Burns, the 28-year-old has been nearly untouchable. It will be interesting to see what Chimaev’s next fight is – when it comes to who the opponent is and what weight class it will be in.
1. Brandon Moreno
Someday someone is going to make a movie about Brandon Moreno.
The 29-year-old flyweight champion has faced plenty of adversity in his MMA career, such as losing on The Ultimate Fighter and being cut from the UFC in 2018. But he bounced back in a big way and displayed incredible improvements to his game en route to an epic title fight draw with Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 256.
WATCH: Brandon Moreno Becomes The UFC Flyweight Champion At UFC 283
That set up Moreno’s wild rivalry with Figueiredo, as the two flyweights would go on to fight a UFC record four times. Moreno put an exclamation point on both his wins over Figueiredo, submitting him at UFC 263 and dominating the Brazilian at UFC 283. That settled the score, with Moreno taking home 2-1-1 bragging rights and the UFC flyweight belt.
There are plenty of exciting options for Tijuana’s greatest in 2023, but more than likely a second (technically a third) scrap with Alexandre Pantoja awaits.