There’s no doubt Hawaiian MMA fighters are some of the best in the world.
Their style is often hard-nosed and in-your-face.
So many exciting fights have come from Hawaiian MMA fighters.
And not only do they put on exciting fights, but they compete at the highest levels of MMA including the UFC, Bellator, and ONE Championship.
They’ve held multiple belts in each of these organizations and set records.
Before we get started, I must say that this list is purely my own opinion. I based it on belts won, belts defended, and the quality of opponents.
So without further ado, let’s highlight the best MMA fighters from Hawaii.
10. Yancy Medeiros
We kick things off with one of the most fun fighters in the UFC.
Yancy has fought the bulk of his career in the UFC competing against some of the best guys in the world.
He has wins over Alex Oliveira, Eric Silva, and John Makdessi.
And he’s fought very notable names like Dustin Poirier, Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone, and more.
Win or lose, Yancy always comes to fight and has never backed down from competing with the absolute elite in the UFC for almost a decade.
9. Dan Ige
Dan Ige got into the UFC by earning a submission victory on Dana White’s Contender Series.
Shortly after, he went 6-0 in the UFC with wins over Mirsad Bektic, Edson Barboza, and a performance of the night over Kevin Aguilar.
Since then, he has had a few losses but only to the absolute top tier of competition including The Korean Zombie and Calvin Kattar.
The strength of schedule and great victories are very impressive for this contender in a very stacked division.
8. Christian Lee
Christian Lee has fought his entire career in ONE Championship.
He was their Lightweight champion and has also fought for their Featherweight championship.
He’s fighting in arguably the most competitive division in the world and has had notable victories over Shinya Aoki and Timofey Nastyuskin.
Timofey steamrolled Eddie Alvarez two years prior to this and I was pretty surprised to see Christian easily beat him.
It’s a testament to Christian’s skills and how he earned his rightful spot on this list.
7. Angela Lee
Angela Lee has also fought her entire career in ONE championship.
She won the Atomweight belt in her sixth pro fight and has defended it five times.
She still holds onto that belt and the future continues to look bright for Angela Lee.
6. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane
Ilima-Lei also well represents female Hawaiian MMA fighters. She has fought almost her entire career for Bellator in their Flyweight division.
She won the belt in just her seventh pro fight and defended it four times.
While I understand there may be some criticism for not having fought someone like Valentina Shevchenko, winning the title and defending it frequently is a major achievement.
And she does have a victory over UFC alum Valérie Létourneau.
5. Brad Tavares
Brad Tavares has fought the best of the best in the UFC for over a decade now.
He was on The Ultimate Fighter season 11 where he made it to the semi-finals.
Since then, he has amassed a record of 14-6 in the UFC.
Tavares has fought the absolute best opponents possible including Robert Whitaker, Yoel Romero, and Israel Adesanya.
And while these fights didn’t go his way, he went to decision with both Israel and Yoel, something few have ever done.
Also, he has victories over Nate Marquart, Antonio Carlos Junior, Omari Akhmedov, Krystof Jotko, and many more.
By spending more than a decade fighting top-tier competition, Brad has rightfully earned a spot as number five.
4. Travis Browne
This one may come as a surprise to some, but for those who remember the early days of Travis Browne, it’s no surprise.
In his prime, Travis Browne was terrifying. His superman punch knockout of Stefan Struve was devastating and at one point, Browne had a record of 13-0-1 with five straight wins in the UFC.
And while it’s true he struggled later in his career, his front kick knockout of Alistair Overeem, and his unique elbow knockouts over Gabriel Gonzaga and Josh Barnett cannot be forgotten.
3. Ray Cooper III
Ray Cooper may not be as well known to some fans, but he is an excellent fighter competing in the PFL (Professional Fighters League). Since joining the PFL he has amassed a record of 11-2-1.
Ha has notable wins over Roy McDonald, Jake Shields, and Magomed Magomedkerimov.
The best part is, by winning the PFL tournament twice he has amassed millions of dollars.
While I’d love to see him in the UFC, you certainly can’t blame him for making a lot of money while fighting quality opponents.
2. Max Holloway
Max Holloway is known for exciting fights and sharp boxing.
He won the UFC Interim Featherweight title by defeating Anthony Pettis and then went on to beat José Aldo to unify the belt. Then he defended his belt three more times.
What’s really impressive is he went on a 13-fight winning streak in the UFC with notable wins over Charles Oliveira, Brian Ortega, Ricardo Lamas, Jeremy Stephens, and Cub Swanson.
Since then he has had three defeats against Alexander Volkanovski but has not been deterred.
He put on an absolute striking clinic against Calvin Kattar and claimed he was the “best boxer in MMA”.
While his future is bright, his accomplishments are already world-class.
1. BJ Penn
The most famous and successful of all Hawaiian UFC fighters, BJ Penn has accomplished more than just about anybody in the sport, let alone Hawaii.
Most notably, he won the UFC Lightweight and Welterweight championships.
He is the second fighter ever to do this and there have only been seven fighters ever to accomplish this feat.
He was also known for taking on all comers, including a fight against Lyoto Machida at light-heavyweight. Machida outweighed Penn by 34 lbs. Machida won the fight by decision but Penn held his own against a much larger opponent.
He was also the first American to win the BJJ world championships.
There are so many great fights from BJ Penn’s career including George St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, Kenny Floridan, Diego Sanchez, and more.
Unfortunately, he is now on a seven-fight losing streak and has not fought in a few years. But the resume of BJ Penn is undeniable and his contribution to the sport is massive.
There’s no doubt in my mind these Hawaiians have earned a rightful spot on this list.
Their championships, victories, and quality of opponents are unmatched and represent the true fighting spirit of Hawaii.