The UFC has built itself on a foundation of fighters who are skilled, tough and charismatic. The truth is, many of those fighters will never be a UFC champion. Of course that doesn’t mean they won’t be successful, marketable talents who can carry the torch. So here are the top ten fighters who, for whatever reason, likely have not or will never make it to the top, but continue to grow in popularity and will always be considered UFC stars.

10. Brian Stann

Coming in at the ten-spot is decorated Marine officer Brian Stann. Once the WEC Light-Heavyweight Champion, Stann had mixed success at both 205 and 185 lbs before eventually calling it quits for good. Despite barely being a top-10 ranked fighter, at either weight class, he was still considered a contender up until the end due to the fact that he was a popular fighter and managed to land several big fights. Now retired from active competition, the Iraqi war veteran’s stock continues to grow as he has a full-time broadcasting gig with Fox Sports to cover not only the UFC, but ACC football as well. Fun fact: While Stann is the most highly decorated veteran to enter the Octagon, he failed to compete in a single UFC Fight for the Troops, despite having a total of eleven bouts with the promotion.

 

9. Kenny Florian

The three-time title challenger was the Uriah Faber of 155 lbs long before anyone really cared about who the hell Uriah Faber was. Like Stann, Kenny Florian has since officially retired and is working full-time for Fox Sports. First appearing to UFC fans on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter, Florian competed inside the Octagon 17 times and fought for the title at 155 and 145 lbs. Florian’s popularity is so high that it has been three years to the month since he last competed, and yet no fewer people know who he is.

 

8. Josh Koscheck

Like Florian, Josh Koscheck got his start to UFC stardom thanks to TUF and also has a sweet Fox Sports job to boot. His antics on reality TV made him a memorable personality, but his success in the cage allowed him to cement his legacy. With a UFC career that spanned 23 bouts, he first showed the world what he was made of when he upset TUF cast mate and Season 1 winner Diego Sanchez. This earned him a fight with the then recently dethroned welterweight champion, Georges St-Pierre. He would lose that fight, but work his way back to another fight with the French-Canadian, and this time it would be for UFC gold. Coming up short again, he would go on to have a record of 2-3 in his last five outings.

 

7. Tim Kennedy

A fighter who had to build his legacy without use of TUF, or the UFC for that matter, Tim Kennedy has a no-bs attitude and approach to training thanks to his military background that seems to resonate perfectly with his career in MMA and fight fans all around. Making a name for himself under the Strikeforce banner, Kennedy has better-transitioned  into the UFC than most of his fellow Strikeforce cadre. If Brian Stann is the “war hero” of the UFC, then Kennedy is the “war buddy.” He may be an elite member of the Army Special Forces, but his likability to fans is universal. And while he won’t be fighting for a title anytime soon, he will continue to land big fights and impress fans inside, and outside, the cage.

 

6. Urijah Faber

Urijah Faber has not only been the face of the lower weight classes, he was the face of an entire promotion, even long after he lost his belt. Between the UFC and WEC, Uriah Faber has gone 10-5 and had five-titleshots since losing his WEC featherweight belt to Mike Brown in 2008. And because I know you were thinking it, yes, those five losses were all in the aforementioned title fights. This, of course, is no knock to his skill, as Faber sits at No. 3 in the division, behind only the last two champions, and coincidentally the last two people to beat him. Despite not having a belt around his waist for the last six years, Faber was required to promote the one and only WEC pay-per-view, has published a book, built arguably the most dominant camp for lower-weight class fighters, has mainstream sponsorships and choked out no less than eight people since. Faber’s popularity and the UFC’s willingness to capitalize on it may have earned the ire of some of his fellow batamweighters, but that hasn’t stopped his star from continuing to rise.

 

5. Matt Brown

Not the first, nor the last name on this list to appear on TUF, Matt Brown’s popularity is anything but a result of reality TV. Going 5-5 in his first ten bouts, and on the brink of getting cut, Brown would go on to amass a mind blowing seven-fight win streak, with six of those bouts ending via knockout or TKO. His last three fights of that streak earned a performance bonus, and along the way also earned him the nickname “Mr. Fox” from his boss, Dana White, since Brown delivered five knockouts or TKOs in a row on televised Fox/FS1/FX cards. This all culminated in a title-eliminator as the main event of a Fox card opposite Robbie Lawler. Brown would drop the decision and is currently awaiting his next assignment pending his recovery from a broken hand. While Brown may have come up short in his last fight, he is probably the most likely fighter on this list to ever become a champion, and the fighter who earned the bulk of his popularity the old fashioned way, with knockout power.

 

4. Nate Diaz

While not the first fighter on this list to appear on TUF, he is the first on this list to have actually won TUF. He’s also one of those fighters who is so controversial and popular, that he is never more than one or two more fights away from a titleshot, despite only receiving one so far in his 19 UFC appearances. The reason is he is alway fighting the top guys, and his attitude has built him a camp-like following of fans along with an innate ability to get under the skin of his opponents. Recent contract issues put Nate on the sidelines for a bit, but he will be returning later this year to take on No. 3 Rafael Dos Anjos. A win would definitely put him on the short list of people to fight for the title next.

 

3. Nick Diaz

Nate may have won TUF and scored himself a fight with the No. 3 lightweight, but Nick Diaz was able to trash talk his way into a title fight with then welterweight kingpin GSP, despite coming off a loss to Carlos Condit. This is a guy who was one of the few memorable, recognizable fighters in the early, pre-TUF days of the Zuffa UFC era, jumps ship to Pride and beats their champion, then goes on to continue to grow his name with his wear-you-down style of fighting and trash talk in every organization that tried to make it in the big leagues but ended up failing. He is also on tap to fight Anderson Silva in January of next year. Yes, Anderson Silva the GOAT and No. 1-ranked middleweight will be fighting Nick Diaz, who has been out of action for longer than a guy who broke his leg, but also has not won a fight since 2011. How is that for popularity? The best part is, he doesn’t even seem to care if people like him or not, which just makes him that much more worthy of people tuning in to watch him fight.

 

2. Michael Bisping

The man who put UK MMA on the map, Michael Bisping is a guy who on paper should be considered a fighters-fighter. The kind of guy who never turns down a fight, always gives it everything he has, and puts on an exciting performance. But for one reason or another, he pisses people off, gets pissed off at people, and my guess is the accent doesn’t help too much when you’re trying to win over rednecks and nurfherders. But when all is said and done, Bisping, a veteran of 21-UFC fights, has been able to land nothing but big fights since winning the third season of TUF, and while his stock might not be growing at the rate it once was, he is still the biggest star the UFC has ever had from the eastern hemisphere of the globe, and his recent performance shows he’s not going anywhere soon. His popularity, if for no other reason, is a big reason guys who may be better fighters or higher ranked, but don’t make as much money, want to fight him so bad. When the day does come for him to hang them up, he’s already got a job at Fox Sports lined up.

 

1. Miesha Tate

Like Faber, Miesha Tate once wore gold in a different organization that was purchased and eventually folded into the UFC. This basically meant she was coming into the UFC with a certain advantage over her peers, but it also means she wasn’t going to get any easy fights, either. Her first two fighters were against both the current champion and No. 1-ranked women’s bantamweight, so basically a tall order to fill. Of course, if you’re a sponsor, then tough fights usually mean big fights, and big fights mean big cards with lots of exposure. Tate hasn’t been one to complain about money, necessarily, but she has mentioned wanting to negotiate for a better contract. Whether the UFC pays up or not, she has clearly been able to supplement her income with premium sponsors, and increase her exposure with countless magazine covers. Regardless of who Ronda Rousey defends her title against the next three times, combined they won’t have the kind of star power that Tate has built up since the first time they fought, which is exactly the reason there will be a third bout.