clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Morning Report: Dana White gives his top three fighters to watch for in 2021

Dana White
Dana White
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

2020 is finally over and now all eyes can look ahead to what comes next in 2021.

For the UFC, this year was both blessing and curse. The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the world for most of this year, specifically as it relates to sports, and caused more fights to be canceled than ever before. However, the UFC also was able to respond swiftly to the changing landscape of things and, reportedly had their best year ever by many metrics. But perhaps the best thing for the UFC this year is something that cannot be quantifies, at least not yet: the emergence of a whole new crop of stars.

Speaking to SHOUT! The Buffalo Football Podcast, UFC President Dana White talked about some of the rising talent in the UFC and gave his pick for three fighters to keep your eye on in 2021.

“Obviously, Khamzat,” White said. “What I love about that kid is that he wants to fight all the time. The guys that are as good as him and want to fight all the time, not everybody wants to fight him, so it’s tough to make fights. You sprinkle some COVID on top of that and here we are. Everybody was asking this weekend why he pulled out of the fight. He got COVID. He’s a savage. He tried to get back in the gym and train through it but I guess his lungs didn’t respond well, so the doctor wants him to take some time off until he trains again. He doesn’t even want him to start training until sometime in January.

“So you’ve got him - Kevin Holland. Another guy like Chimaev, wants to fight all the time. The kid went 5-0 in 2020. He’s fun, he’s exciting. Good looking kid. And then another one would be Joaquin Buckley, who had in 2020 — not in 2020, but ever — he had one of the most viral moments ever in UFC history with that knockout he had (over Impa Kasanganay).”

There’s good reason for White to be so bullish on Chimaev, Holland, and Buckley, as all three had sensational 2020s, going a collective 10-1 in the UFC, with the one loss being Buckley losing to Holland. In fact, Dana’s top-three is identical to MMAFighting’s 2020 Breakout Fighter of the Year list.

Those three fighters were just the tip of the iceberg, though. 2020 also saw a huge influx of prospects entering the UFC off of the weekly Contender Series programming. The Contender Series began as a feeder program for talent into the UFC but this year, especially with the frequency of fights being cancelled or rebooked on short-notice due to COVID-19, it seemed to make a jump in importance this year, with Alex Perez becoming the first Contender Series alumni to challenge for a belt. So with the Contender Series and more traditional avenues of fighter acquisition still pulling in elite stars, Dana White thinks there’s even more in store for next year.

“Those are just three,” White concluded. “We’re putting together this piece right now for the contender series and the amount of talent that’s coming off that show is phenomenal. And that’s just three guys out of many.”


EOTY. UFC 256 takes home 2020’s Event of the Year honors.

Superfight. UFC targeting Jan Blachowicz vs. Israel Adesanya light heavyweight title fight at UFC 259.

Hike. Starting with UFC 257, ESPN raising the price of UFC pay-per-views again.

$$$. Dana White: ‘In a perfect world’ if Conor McGregor wins at UFC 257 he faces Khabib Nurmagomedov next.

Reciprocity. Scott Coker happy to book Jake Paul vs. Dillon Danis as long as the trade-off is one boxing match and one MMA fight.


The A-Side Live Chat.

Top-Five Submissions of the Year.

Best of UFC in 2020.

Best UFC debuts of 2020.

Every PFL Championship finish.

Best ONE Championship moments of 2020.


Dana looking ahead.

Conor weighs in on the price hike.

The beef.

Marlon fight.

Good guy Do Bronx.

What a shirt.



Jan Blachowicz (27-8) vs. Israel Adesanya (20-0); UFC 269, Mar. 6.

Jinh Yu Frey (9-6) vs. Gloria de Paula (5-2); UFC Fight Night, Mar. 13.


Well, we’ve done it. We made it through one of the most difficult years in recent memory. Pat yourselves on the back and lets hope 2021 has smoother sailing. No TMR tomorrow but we’ll be back on Monday. Until then, enjoy tonight, stay safe, thanks for reading, and see y’all in 2020.



Do you agree with Dana’s list?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    (353 votes)
  • 38%
    (219 votes)
572 votes total Vote Now

If you find something you’d like to see in the Morning Report, hit up @JedKMeshew on Twitter and let him know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram and like us on Facebook.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting