The Top MMA Fighters Out of Arizona: Past and Present

MMA Champion

Henry Cejudo’s name will forever be etched into the MMA history books The American state of Arizona has a deep history of providing professional mixed martial arts promotions with highly successful athletes. From the Ultimate Fighting Champion to Bellator MMA, join us in taking a deeper dive into some of the most recognizable martial artists past and present who’ve fought out of the Arizona fight scene.

Ryan Bader (28-7-1) 

The current Bellator MMA heavyweight champion and former light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader is among the most significant martial artists to stem from the Arizona fight scene.

Initially stemming from a background in wrestling, Bader took his skills to Arizona State University on a wrestling scholarship. Following a dominant reign in college wrestling, his journey into the world of mixed martial arts would remain in Arizona after he began training at Arizona Combat Sports in 2007. Eventually, he moved to Power MMA Team out of Chandler, Arizona, where the NCAA Division I wrestling standout has garnered countless success thus far.

Aged 38-years-old, Bader still competes at the highest level of professional MMA. He’s currently scheduled to defend his Bellator MMA heavyweight championship at Bellator 273 versus Valentin Moldavsky.

Notably, Bader became the first-ever two-weight champion in Bellator MMA history, which is why the underdog betting odds at Caesars Arizona have become a tempting position to consider. With a generous plus-money set of odds for his title defense at Bellator 273, sportsbooks are underestimating the Arizona-bred skillset of Ryan “Darth” Bader.

Justin Gaethje (23-3-1)

Born and raised in Safford, Arizona, Justin Gaethje has become one of the most prominent figures in modern-day MMA. Currently residing in the UFC lightweight division, Gaethje’s reputation for delivering the most entertaining MMA bouts has surpassed his ability to secure a world championship.

Beginning MMA at the tender age of 4, Gaethje would later flourish in becoming a two-time Arizona state champion as a wrestler at Safford High School. Despite travelling up north to Colorado for his wrestling tenure in college, Gaethje is an Arizonian born-and-bred fighter whose now one of the most popular competitors in the UFC.

Gaethje has resided in Colorado since his NCAA Division I All-American achievements, though it’s still a short journey from his home state of Arizona. Training under the tutelage of Trevor Wittman at Elevation Fight Team with an impressive pro-MMA record has positioned Gaethje in the top UFC rankings for most of his time spent at the promotion.

Henry Cejudo (16-2-0)

Although he retired from the sport at an early age,Henry Cejudo’s name will forever be etched into the MMA history books for the success he owned as a combat sports athlete.

Graduating from the Grand Canyon University in Arizona, the former Olympic wrestling gold medallist and two-division UFC champion made Arizona his home and represented the state whilst fighting out of Fight Ready MMA gym.

Cejudo boasts a long list of wrestling accolades from his early combat sports career. Still, his legendary status was earned when he defeated Demetrious Johnson and Marlon Moraes to capture both UFC Flyweight and Bantamweight Championships simultaneously.

Cejudo’s retirement from the sport in 2020 triggered some skepticism, as many believed he was fighting in the prime years of his MMA career. However, the announcement became official when he was removed from the rankings, and the UFC officially vacated the championship.

“Sugar” Sean O’Malley (15-1-0)

The future of MMA is in good hands, and it’s the MMA Lab in Scottsdale, Arizona, who have remained consistent in the evolution of mixed martial arts.

“Sugar” Sean O’Malley is evidence of this - a current UFC bantamweight who excelled inside the walls of Arizona’s MMA lab. In addition to his exceptional fighting skill and exquisite highlight reel, O’Malley leads a generation of martial artists by integrating entrepreneurship into the fight game. O’Malley isn’t just delivering an elite level of skill, but he’s displaying that multiple avenues are available for fighters to advance their popularity and overall income.

Aged 27-years-old, the “Sugar” show is just getting started, and he’s just one of many Arizona MMA representatives who’re involved in the advancements of the sport. While Arizona has created countless stars in MMA, the future undoubtedly looks bright for those interested.

Introducing Martial Arts School Listings on Black Belt Mag!
Sign Up Now To Be One Of The First School Listed In Our Database.
Don't miss a single issue of the worlds largest magazine of martial arts.