Combat sports are highly unique. Despite the fact that combat sports are a common pastime shared by almost every culture around the world, every single fighter has their own style. Toss in a wide range of martial arts, from BJJ to Muay Thai to Greco-Roman, and there’s even more fodder for interest.
Still, there’s a bit more emphasis on the fighter for any type of matchup, whether boxing or UFC. Though they have a team of trainers, nutritionists, and coaches on their side, each of them steps into the ring or octagon alone. It’s their own stores of courage and power that will see them through. Unsurprisingly, every fan has their own hero—and likely a few dream matchups in the back of their mind.
And these dream matchups aren’t always the stuff of imagination. In fact, some of the most popular and most-watched PPV events in the history of combat sports have been generated by improbable matchups. These fights have driven interest in bettors, too. There’s no better time to look for free bets from leading sportsbooks than when two powerhouses are about to slug it out.
Late in 2023, fans were treated to a boxing-MMA matchup between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou. Though the final decision drew questions from many, the matchup was a smash success in terms of revenue and action. Other notable fights include those between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, along with the long-awaited matchup between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen.
But what about other dream matchups? Those that couldn’t take place not because Dana White never got around to scheduling a match but because the competitors come from different eras, martial arts backgrounds, and weight classes? Let’s take a look at some of the longest-standing dream matchups in combat sports.
Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre
Pound for pound, there haven’t been many fighters better than Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre. Unfortunately, UFC never placed these two on a card together—even when disparities in weight class seemed to be solved. Even as late as 2019, some analysts were still keeping their fingers crossed for the matchup to form.
Unfortunately, the world will never know which fighter was the true Crème of Crop when both were in their heydays. For years, many speculated there was a secret reason that this match wasn’t made official. According to a tweet from Dana White, the reason why this fight never materialized is incredibly simple: St. Pierre wouldn’t allow it.
Clarissa Shields vs. Amanda Nunes
Over the last decade, Clarissa Shields and Amanda Nunes have helped catapult women’s combat into the mainstream. Shields, in particular, has put women’s boxing on the map alongside stars like Katie Taylor. But could she hold her own against a powerhouse fighter like Nunes?
At one point, rumors swirled that Shields was training with Holly Holm and Jon Jones at their MMA gym. Simultaneously, Nunes took a step back from fighting to focus on her personal life, hinting that a potential fight might be out of the question. Luckily for fans, the pair have engaged in trash talk multiple times over the last few years, giving MMA fans a brand new rivalry to follow.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Georges St. Pierre… or Nate Diaz
Khabib Nurmagomedov sent the combat world reeling when he announced his retirement in 2020. Unsurprisingly, the Russian legend has been listed in dozens of dream matchups, from Tony Ferguson to Ben Askren. But if we’re looking beyond the realm of realism, there are a few other potential dream fights.
As recently as 2021, rumors swirled that a faceoff between Nurmagomedov and St. Pierre could be imminent. However, Nurmagomedov had only recently retired—and, once again, it seems St. Pierre had little interest in the bout despite a hefty payout. In reality, St. Pierre says that, despite badgering from Dana White, neither he nor Nurmagomedov were interested in leaving retirement.
Another dream matchup with Nurmagomedov was a fight with Nate Diaz. Once again, this failed to materialize—even though the pair had a promising rivalry after it was alleged Diaz slapped Nurmagomedov at the World Series of Fighting back in 2015.
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