The Oldest Active UFC Fighter
Mixed martial arts is considered a younger person’s sport. And, well, how could it not be? The physical toll fights take on your body is extreme, and the preparation that goes into each and every match is exhaustive. The older you get, the harder it is for your body to live up to the competition’s standards.
At the same time, there is a discrepancy between how young the active roster at UFC seems and how young it actually is. A lot of this has to do with the way the sport is covered.
It is geared predominantly toward young males. You see it in the advertising. You see it in the brand messaging. Even the top UFC betting sites will place an emphasis on young adults, knowing that they’re more likely to use mobile apps.
Still, the actual UFC roster is not laden with just 20-somethings. There are plenty of middle-aged fighters. And while we can’t say any of them are firmly in the middle of their prime, they’re not exactly footnotes either. Many of them are still marquee draws and making it through matchups at a high level.
Just for kicks, here are the oldest active UFC fighters, and what you can expect to see from them when they set foot in the octagon again. Please note their ages will be rounded to the nearest month as of December 2020.
Anderson Silva (45 years, 7 months)
Anderson Silva isn’t just the oldest active fighter on UFC’s card. He holds that distinction by a margin of roughly two years.
Watching Silva in the octagon, he seldom shows his age. He’s not exactly super athletic, but he’s quick and can take a punch to the middle of his body better than most 30-somethings.
Silva’s days of contending for belts might be over. That’s fine. His track record includes holding the middleweight belt for a whopping 2,457 days and 16 consecutive victories—the longest title reign, of any weight class, in UFC history.
Yoel Romero (43 years, 7 months)
Did you know Yoel Romero is 43? Not only that, did you know he’s actually closer to 44 than 43?
You’re forgiven if you didn’t. He doesn’t fight like someone in his mid-40s. His athleticism is off the charts, and he remains a legitimate title shot.
Though his last fight ended in defeat, he came oh-so-close to winning the middleweight title from Israel Adesanya—who, at age 31, is roughly 12 years his junior.
Aleksei Oleinik (43 years, 5 months)
Very few current UFC fighters can say they began their career in the octagon during the 1990s. Aleksei Oleinik is among the scant few.
The 43-year-old made his debut all the way back in 1996. What’s more, he began his UFC tenure fighting in the heavyweight division. All these years, he continues to wage battle in the same heavyweight division.
That is a truly impressive feat. The heavyweight division exacts a steeper physical toll on a fight-to-fight basis. It’s absolutely wild that Oleinik hasn’t tried to drop down—or retire altogether—after more than a quarter-century fighting at this level.
Marion Reneau (43 years, 5 months)
Marion Reneau is, quite comfortably, the oldest female fighter in the UFC. And yet, she’s not showing her age.
Currently, she ranks as the sport’s No. 10 bantamweight fighter. Her credentials are often dismissed since she’s only 5-5-1 for her career, but context is important.
She never really had a prime. She didn’t make her debut until 2010 when she was already in her 30s, and the longer recovery time in-between fights have limited the number of appearances she’s racked.
This is nothing to downplay. Age works against you in this sport more than others. Reneau deserves praise for continuing to get after it into her mid-40s.
Demian Maia (43 years, 2 months)
Demian Maia’s track record speaks for itself. He is among the most celebrated grappling experts in the sport, with 11 tapout submissions under his belt.
It is this knack for turning his bouts into floor matches that helps his longevity. Fighting vertically opens you up to more powerful punches and kicks. Grappling slows down both the pace and physicality of a fight. Maia, not coincidentally, has largely avoided major injuries and super long layoffs.
Clearing the age-43 threshold does not have him thinking about retirement. People thought he might walk away after his last fight in March 2020, but he has said he plans to keep going.
Depending on the day that’s in it… #ghostwriter