Jon Jones went on to become a legend, 19-year-old Sage Northcutt sparkled before Dana White ruthlessly cut him and Muhammad Mokaev is Britain’s next big hope – how the UFC’s youngest fighters have fared after Raul Rosas Jr earned a contract at 17…
- Raul Rosas Jr was 17 years and 348 days when he won on Contender Series
- He is the youngest fighter to be signed to the UFC in the history of the promotion
- It remains to be seen when his debut will come, but he joins illustrious company
- Jon Jones, Robbie Lawler and Vitor Belfort are among prodigies signed young
Raul Rosas Jr could be a name MMA fans remember for years to come, or he might crash and burn – overcome by the pressure of too much too soon.
The youngster hit the headlines this week for securing a contract with the UFC by winning on Dana White’s Contender Series at the tender age of 17 years and 348 days.
He is the youngest fighter to ever put pen to paper with the world’s leading MMA promotion and could yet become the youngest to make his full debut.
Dana White described him as ‘special’ and batted away questions over whether the starlet was already prepared for the big time.
Mexican Raul Rosas Jr, 17, has made history by becoming the youngest ever UFC fighter, earning a contract when he defeated Mando Gutierrez on the Dana White Contender Series
Rosas Jr, who is unbeaten in his six professional bouts, is full of confidence too, proclaiming: ‘I know what I can do, and (White) knows what I can do. Well, he really doesn’t, but he will know what I can do out there.
‘I would fight this Saturday, but I heard there’s no event this Saturday, so I’ll fight when they have another event. I’m just ready to go out there and get the kill.
‘I know it won’t be easy, but nothing is easy in this life. I will become the youngest UFC champion. I don’t care what it takes, nobody is going to take this away from me.’
Rosas Jr will join an elite club of prodigious talents to enter the UFC at a young age. So who are the youngest fighters in history and how did their careers pan out?
UFC debut – 21 years and 232 days
The British rising star is tipped by many as a future champion. Like Rosas Jr, he is also aiming to become the youngest fighter to have the belt wrapped around their waist in history.
He is already sensationally well-rounded and an entertaining watch. The flyweight has not yet tasted defeat and submitted Cody Durden in fine style in the very first round of their clash earlier this year in London.
Muhammad Mokaev (left) is one of Britain’s next big hopes in the UFC and is still undefeated
He followed that up by beating Charles Johnson, again on home soil, and the sky is the limit for Mokaev.
Having moved to the UK from Russia at a young age, the youngster’s story is a fascinating one. He was placed in a refugee camp upon arrival before the Home Office moved him and his father to Wigan.
After training at a youth centre, he quickly realised his talent for martial arts and the rest is history.
UFC debut: 21 years and 21 days
Heard of him? Arguably the greatest MMA fighter ever, depending on whether or not you discount him from the conversation over failed drugs tests, Jones is the standout name from this list.
He became the youngest UFC champion in history by beating Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua back in 2010.
And despite the extra-curricular controversies, of which there is a list as long as your arm, he has set the benchmark over the last decade.
Jon Jones has done it all in the UFC over the years and was the youngest champion in history
Jones has won 15 fights with a title on the line and his only ever defeat was due to a questionable disqualification for illegal use of the elbow.
‘Bones’ has been out of action for more than two years now having decided to move up to heavyweight but the story is far from over.
He is likely to make his debut in the division in the coming months and who would bet against him adding to his legacy by becoming two-weight champion?
UFC debut: 20 years and 103 days
The Californian bantamweight is one of the few fighters on this list to have called it a day.
He is only 30 but decided to hang up the gloves following an impressive nine-year stint. McDonald started his amateur career at just 14-years-old so there are more miles on the clock than it seems.
McDonald won 19 of 23 professional fights, fought nine times in the UFC and then retired after two scraps for Bellator.
Michael McDonald (right) is now retired but enjoyed a solid run in nine years with the UFC
UFC debut: 20 years and 90 days
Hooper is a popular and recognisable face on the UFC circuit already and the featherweight has a bright future.
His results have been mixed so far with three wins and two defeats but he is gaining valuable experience at the top level at such a young age.
Hooper’s talents were spotted early and he was signed to a professional outfit with just five amateur fights to his name.
He then went on to amass an unbeaten record in 10, including a win on Dana White’s Contender Series, before the big show called him up.
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One of the most popular fighters on the roster, Holloway was in the conversation among the greatest featherweights before his three defeats by Alexander Volkanovski.
He still has an enduring appeal and claims to be the best boxer in the UFC. His fight with Calvin Kattar was prime evidence supporting that claim and Holloway has seen it all already.
‘Blessed’ is at a bit of a crossroads at the moment given the champion’s dominance and he is perhaps too small for a move up to lightweight.
But the Hawaiian’s legacy is already intact having beaten the likes of Jose Aldo, Charles Oliveira and Anthony Pettis.
It will be fascinating to see where the 30-year-old goes from here with so many miles left on the clock.
Max Holloway (left) is one of the best but lost three times against Alexander Volkanovski (right)
UFC debut: 20 years, 55 days
The man, the myth the legend. Nick Diaz, brother of Nate and one of the UFC’s original stars, may have now run his race in the promotion.
His last performance against Robbie Lawler was creditable at least but there are major questions about whether he should still be competing at the top.
Diaz is a law unto himself at times and fans have warmed to his antics over the years.
Robbie Lawler defeated Nick Diaz in a rematch 17 years in the making last September
He had his debut way back at UFC 44 before a hiatus between 2007-11 and eventual return against BJ Penn.
Losses to Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit before another decision defeat by Anderson Silva (later ruled a no contest) hardly matter as the Diaz popularity and legend appears bulletproof to losses.
Known for his constant pressure and talking to opponents during fights, Diaz has been a born entertainer and fascinating character down the years.
UFC debut: 20 years, 51 days
Another UFC legend. Lawler at his peak was among the scariest prospects in MMA, with punishing boxing skills under which opponents withered.
He won the welterweight crown against Jonny Hendricks in 2014 and defended it twice against Rory McDonald and Condit.
The McDonald fight in particular will go down in history as one of the bloodiest affairs in which both men gave absolutely everything.
His run of two wins from his last eight leave plenty to be desired and perhaps that McDonald battle took a few years off.
He is scheduled to fight Santiago Ponzinnibbio in December and another defeat could spell the end of his time fighting for the UFC.
Lawler is still going strong at 40 but his recent record other than the Diaz win is patchy
UFC debut: 19 years, 312 days
The Brazilian terrified opponents at his peak and is tied for third in terms of most KOs in UFC history (14).
Belfort made his debut against fellow legend Chuck Liddell way back in 2004 and saw the UFC go through a rapid rise to prominence, of which he was a key part.
The southpaw won five knockout of the night bonuses and was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fighter. He is another to make a foray into the boxing world since leaving the UFC.
Vitor Belfort became a UFC legend and possessed enormous power during his prime years
He beat Evander Holyfield by first-round TKO in September last year and is now an aging gun for hire at 45.
It must be said, Belfort knocked out Michael Bisping with a head kick that led to the Brit going blind in one eye, a bout in which he was alleged to have been on performance enhancing drugs.
Back in 2006, he tested positive for 4-hydroxytestosterone, an anabolic steroid that led to him being banned for nine months.
UFC debut: 19 years, 216 days
The American looked every inch the new kid on the block when he burst onto the scene with his ridiculous athleticism, model looks and flashy techniques.
He won his first two fights in style and was portrayed as a possible future face of the organisation.
But things turned sour; he lost to Mickey Gall and Bryan Barberena before surprisingly exiting the UFC off the back of three successive wins.
He then signed for ONE Championship and lost his first encounter.
Northcutt was heralded by Dana White upon his arrival as a teenager but the UFC president later said he thought he should retire.
Sage Northcutt was talked up as the next poster boy of the UFC but it did not work out
He said: ‘I would really like to see Sage Northcutt retire. I hope he does. Good looking, charismatic kid, smart.
‘He was [going to] college to be an engineer. He’s got a lot going on in his life. This isn’t the sport for him.
‘I don’t want to sound like I’m shitting all over the guy because I really like the kid a lot. But this isn’t the sport for him. I would love to see him retire before he seriously gets hurt.’
UFC debut: 18 years, 198 days
Lauzon and his brother Joe first became known for their backyard fights with each other online and transferred their skills into careers.
Well-rounded lightweight Dan only fought twice in the UFC, losing on both occasions before parting ways with the company.
It just goes to show, for all the prodigiously talented youngsters who go on to make it big with the promotion, there’s always the chance it might not go to plan for others.
Lauzon has not fought since 2015 but ended his professional career with an impressive record of 17 wins from 23 fights.
Dan Lauzon did not last long in the UFC despite being the company’s youngest ever debutant
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