We live in an age where so much weight is placed on a fighter’s social media presence and with that in mind, we rank the twelve UFC champions based on their popularity online.
A dozen champions, three social media platforms and only one undisputed king of the internet (no prizes for guessing that one).
It may seem pointless but given the role that social media plays in fight promotion, trash-talking, the news and even just getting to know the athlete themselves, we felt compelled to chart and rank the most popular stars out of those who currently own belts.
Some of these might surprise you.
#12. Nicco Montano – 125lbs: Twitter – 37k, Instagram – 1.1k, Facebook – 14k = TOTAL – 52.1k
Unsurprisingly, it is the Ultimate Fighter winner and inaugural women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montano who starts us off. With the division still in its very early stages, it’s not hard to see how far Montano falls behind on this list but with some pretty exciting matchups to be found within the division in 2018, it’ll be interesting to see if the champ can establish herself as a force in the UFC and move up this list while doing so.
#11. Robert Whittaker – 185lbs: Twitter – 36.2k, Instagram – 149k, Facebook – 98k = TOTAL – 283k
Robert Whittaker is a man who most certainly should expect to move up this list by the time all is said and done next year. Sure, he was promoted to the undisputed champ following Georges St-Pierre’s decision to vacate the belt, but with wins over some of the very best at 185lbs, no one can deny that there is only one king at middleweight right now.
#10. Max Holloway – 145lbs: Twitter – 103k, Instagram – 376k, Facebook – 137k = TOTAL – 616k
This one was a surprise. Max Holloway has been in public eye for some time now due to his links to the sport’s biggest star, Conor McGregor, but after his pair of wins against the legendary José Aldo, it still seems as though he will have his work cut out for him in 2018, if he does, in fact, wish to establish himself as one of the game’s premier attractions online.
#9. Stipe Miocic – 265lbs: Twitter – 137k, Instagram – 336k, Facebook – 242k = TOTAL – 715k
It’s a strange time for the UFC when the heavyweight champion of the world isn’t among the most popular fighters in the sport, but the division now currently is in something of a strange patch. We can look to UFC 220’s explosive title showdown between Miocic and the fearsome Francis Ngannou as a real breakout fight for the man who will lead the weight class into its new era.
#8. Amanda Nunes – 135lbs: Twitter – 112k, Instagram – 384k, Facebook – 341k = TOTAL – 837k
Amanda Nunes has been quietly carving out her own legacy as the most dominant champion in women’s MMA today and with first-round wins over both Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey, the fans already know that her power and athleticism make her an unmissable spectacle whenever she fights, even if her last outing – against Valentina Shevchenko – was more of a tactical battle.
#7. TJ Dillashaw – 135lbs: Twitter – 192k, Instagram – 624k, Facebook – 102k = TOTAL – 918k
Dillashaw’s stint on the Ultimate Fighter managed to bring in a legion of fans who perhaps became more sympathetic to his role in his recent rivalry with Team Alpha Male and his stunning UFC 217 win over Cody Garbrandt really didn’t seem to hurt either. With a matchup with Demetrious Johnson now seemingly inevitable, we could well see a massive growth spurt for TJ’s numbers over the course of the next 365 days.
#6. Tyron Woodley – 170lbs: Twitter – 162k, Instagram – 674k, Facebook – 103k = TOTAL – 939k
Tyron Woodley will know he has some work to do in 2018 to win over the fans after his pair of poorly received title defenses at UFC 209 and UFC 214, but with the belt still firmly around his waist and all of the skills necessary to beat anyone, next year could be the year that everyone finally warms to ‘the Chosen One’.
#5. Rose Namajunas – 115lbs: Twitter – 128k, Instagram – 603k, Facebook – 281k = TOTAL – 1.01m
This one is the real shock of them all, and though Brendan Schaub hit the nail on the head when he said that the UFC had a real star on their hands with Rose Namajunas following her UFC 217 win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk, I’m sure the vast majority of people would be surprised to see her name trump the likes of Stipe Miocic, Tyron Woodley and TJ Dillashaw on this list.
#4. Demetrious Johnson – 125lbs: Twitter – 277k, Instagram – 669k, Facebook – 78k = TOTAL – 1.02m
Coming in at fourth is probably the most technically advanced fighter in the game right now, who despite never really bringing in the numbers from a pay-per-view standpoint, has a pretty vast and devoted fanbase on the internet. If he takes on TJ Dillashaw in 2018 – as many are expecting him to do – look for some serious movement on Demetrious’ PPV needle in the future.
#3. Cristiane Justino – 145lbs: Twitter – 178k, Instagram – 515k, Facebook – 933k = TOTAL – 1.6m
Now it’s only fair to point out that Cyborg’s social media accounts have been sold and are now used as news websites, but regardless, her total still in some way reflects her popularity both at home in Brazil and beyond. Her UFC 219 matchup with Holly Holm stands as the marquee pairing she has needed for some time now and with a win, she could really stamp her authority on the women’s MMA scene.
#2. Daniel Cormier – 205lbs: Twitter – 525k, Instagram – 1m, Facebook – 461k = TOTAL – 2m
DC is a pretty big star when you think about. The world has slowly come around to him following his role as the villain in his dynamic with Jon Jones but with him proving himself as a more than capable champion, analyst and commentator every year, things have finally started to look up for Daniel Cormier, and his social media following reflects that.
#1. Conor McGregor – 155lbs: Twitter – 6.73m, Instagram – 21.6m, Facebook – 7.6m = TOTAL – 35.93m
Okay. While there are absolutely no surprises to be found with this one, the shocking thing about McGregor’s total – which stands at a hefty 36 million – is that he has managed to accumulate over three-and-a-half times more social media followers than the entire remainder of this list combined (with their total just falling shy of 10 million).
Let that sink in, ladies and gentlemen.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena