Not everyone has what it takes to be a mixed martial arts fighter, and very few possess the physical tools, talent, technique and mental toughness required to compete in the sport’s leading promotions.
With that in mind it’s a particularly impressive accomplishment when not one, but two, members of the same family defy the odds and manage to make it to the big leagues.
In this article we’ll seek to highlight the ten best brothers to have made their mark in the sport since its inception.
Joe & Dan Lauzon
Joe Lauzon: 25-11
Dan Lauzon: 17-6
Brothers often have contrasting fortunes in their MMA careers and that’s certainly been the case for Joe and Dan Lauzon who, by their own admission, have polar opposite personality types.
Joe Lauzon, the more level-headed of the two, is a UFC veteran in the truest sense with 20 fights to his name so far spanning over nine years and he also holds the distinction of having won the most bonus awards in the history of the promotion with 13 to date.
His younger brother Dan made his UFC debut at just 18 years of age, but was released after losing and had to fight for a further three years on the regional circuit before making his return. It was to be another short-lived stay however; bowing out after another two losses amid criticism from his brother that he wasn’t taking his training seriously enough.
Both brothers still compete, with Joe heading towards his 10th year in the UFC, while Dan had a stint in the WSOF promotion and after an absence returned to fight for regional promotion CES MMA last year.
Jim & Dan Miller
Jim Miller: 25-7 (1)
Dan Miller: 14-8 (1)
Jim and Dan Miller left jobs in construction alongside their father to pursue their dream of fighting for a living, and with a true blue collar work ethic they would both go on to make a career competing in the UFC.
Jim is essentially part of the furniture in the UFC’s lightweight division with 22 fights to his name in the Octagon stretching over an eight-year period, including a seven-fight winning streak between 2009-2011, which left him close to a title shot that alas never materialized.
Dan follow his brother to the UFC after becoming IFL’s middleweight champion. He wouldn’t go on to log as many fights in the promotion as his younger sibling, making the walk to the Octagon 13 times in total as bad luck with injuries and family health issues unfortunately took their toll.
Jim is still an active fighter on the UFC’s roster while Dan hasn’t fought since being released by the promotion in 2015.
Alistair & Valentijn Overeem
Alistair Overeem: 40-14 (1)
Valentijn Overeem: 32-34
Of all the pairings mentioned here, the Overeem brothers have the most pro MMA bouts under the belts, weighing in with a staggering 121 fights between them.
Though Alistair Overeem was never a champion in the PRIDE organization he fought a who’s who of MMA during his time there and would go on to win heavyweight titles with both Strikeforce and DREAM. He added another feather to his cap by winning kickboxing organization K-1’s World Grand Prix in 2010, before finally moving on to the UFC in 2011.
The elder of the two, Valentijn had an extended run of almost 30 fights in the RINGS promotion before he even made his way to PRIDE. He was unable to find a win there, but in true journeyman fashion he would go on to compete around the world for promotions like Strikeforce, K-1, Sengoku and KSW, to name but a few.
Alistair remains an integral part of the UFC’s heavyweight division in 2016, while Valentijn finally retired in 2014.
Mauricio & Murilo Rua
Mauricio Rua: 23-10
Murilo Rua: 20-13-1
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and his brother Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua are one of the most naturally desctructive pairings on this list and a clear case of two brothers who were born to go into battle.
‘Shogun’ is a fighter whose reputation proceeds him, spending the majority of his career in two of the biggest promotions of all-time going up again many of the biggest names in the sport. He became PRIDE’s Middleweight Grand Prix champion in 2005 and would win 12 of his 13 fights in the promotion before moving on to the UFC, where he would also become a one-time light-heavyweight champion.
‘Ninja’ was also a familiar face on the PRIDE circuit and had his brother’s propensity for violence in the ring, but wasn’t able to achieve the same level of success and didn’t make the leap to the UFC. He did, however, go on to become Elite XC’s first ever middleweight champion.
Murilo retired in 2013 after 34 professional fights, while Mauricio continues to fight in the UFC to this day where he continues to hold down a top 10 spot in the light heavyweight rankings.
Fedor & Alexander Emelianenko
Fedor Emelianenko: 35-4 (1)
Alex Emelianenko: 23-7
When it comes to brothers who fight in mixed martial arts, Fedor and Alexander Emelianenko provide the ultimate example of two siblings who appear to be complete opposites.
Fedor is the quiet, humble, and calm one, yet he also happens to be one of MMA’s most revered fighters. ‘The Last Emperor’ is a fitting moniker for a man who ruled the famous PRIDE organization’s heavyweight division with an iron fist and at one stage went unbeaten for a staggering 10-year period competing against many of the most dangerous men on the planet.
By contrast, his younger brother Alexander could not be more different. While he also fought in PRIDE his career never hit the same heights as his brother, certainly not helped by the fact that outside of the ring he was following a much darker path in life.
Alex has found himself in trouble with the law numerous times over the years, including spending time in prison as a youth and currently serving a four-and-a-half year prison sentence after being found guilty of sexually assaulting his housekeeper. Meanwhile, Fedor recently emerged from retirement and is back competing again at the age of 39.
Nick & Nate Diaz
Nick Diaz: 26-9 (2)
Nate Diaz: 18-10
Few siblings can hold a candle to the infamous Diaz brothers, a tight-knit duo who’ve each made a memorable impact in the sport, both inside and outside of the cage.
Nick is the elder of the two and has fought far and wide over the course of his career, winning both the Strikeforce and WEC welterweight titles along the way, while also fighting for the UFC 170-pound interim and world title straps along with finding time for detours in other notable promotions like PRIDE, DREAM and Elite XC.
Nate, on the other hand, has spent much of his career with the UFC, initially breaking through after winning The Ultimate Fighter Season 5. He fought for the UFC lightweight belt in 2012 and is one of the longest serving fighters on the roster with 21 fights in the Octagon to date.
Of course the Diaz brothers are almost as well known for their personalities as their fighting abilities thanks to their own unique brand of trash talking, uncanny knack for starting riots, love of smoking weed, and generally just not giving a damn what anybody thinks about them.
Royce, Rickson & Royler Gracie
Royce Gracie: 14-2-3
Rickson Gracie: 11-0
Royler Gracie: 5-5-1
The only family to offer up a trio of brothers on this list, The Gracie’s are essentially martial arts royalty.
Royce’s career is of course woven into the very fabric of MMA, becoming the first-ever tournament winner at UFC 1, then repeating the feat at UFC 2 and UFC 4 as he compiled an 11-fight winning streak – all by submission. In the process he made his family-created discipline Brazilian Jiu-jitsu an integral part of any self-respecting MMA fighter’s game, became a true legend of the sport, and would rightfully go on to be inducted as the first ever UFC Hall of Famer.
Rickson’s place in MMA history is more a case of what might have been, particularly since the BJJ ace was suggested to be the best of the Gracie clan and was rumored to have initially been favored over Royce to compete at UFC 1. However, despite an all-too brief two-fight run in the early days of PRIDE, he didn’t face the same level of opposition as his peers during his 11-0 run in MMA and as the elder of three brothers he had stopped competing by 2000.
While he was also a revered Brazilian Jiu-jitsu competitor, Royler’s MMA career was not especially notable compared to his brothers, but he did still compete in the early days of PRIDE as well as other Japanese promotions like Deep and Hero’s.
Rickson has never been coaxed into fighting again, leaving an air of mystique surrounding him, Royler last fought in 2011, but remarkably 49 year-old Royce Gracie is set to return to the cage in 2016 at Bellator 149, over eight years since his last appearance.
Ken & Frank Shamrock
Ken Shamrock: 28-16-2
Frank Shamrock: 23-10-2
Another legendary pairing, adopted brothers Ken And Frank Shamrock forged their place in the history of the sport back in its formative years.
Ken Shamrock was a semi-finalist at the first ever UFC event and would go on to win the openweight ‘King of Pancrase’ title before returning to the Octagon where he’d become the UFC 6 ‘Superfight’ champion, a title he’d hold until UFC 9. By that stage his place in history was already assured, but Shamrock also fought for PRIDE before returning to the UFC later in his career and most recently showing up in Bellator.
As with his brother, Frank Shamrock’s career actually started in Pancrase and it would be several years before he too joined the UFC. He made an immediate impact, winning the light-heavyweight title and successfully defended it four times before then making a controversial decision to leave the promotion, never to return. Later he would go on to win both the WEC light-heavyweight and Strikeforce middleweight titles.
Frank retired in 2009 at the age of 37, while Ken continues to soldier on at the age of 51 and will turn back the clock by undertaking a trilogy fight with Royce Gracie in 2016.
Antonio Rodrigo & Rogerio Nogueira
Big Nog: 34-10-1 (1nc)
Lil Nog: 21-7
Unquestionably one of the most famous examples of brothers competing in the sport, it’s hard to talk about either Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira or Antonio Rogerio Nogueira without mentioning the other, which is fitting given that they are twins.
Rodrigo was PRIDE’s first ever heavyweight champion and with his trademark toughness and submission skills he became a legend in the Japanese promotion, competing in many memorable bouts before eventually heading to the UFC where he would also briefly hold the interim heavyweight belt. As such he’s considered to be one of the best heavyweights of all time.
Rogerio would often fight on the same cards as his twin, though he opted to compete at light-heavyweight. He too was a stand-out in his division, compiling an eight-fight winning streak in PRIDE at one point, and also made the transition to the UFC where he’s since consistently been ranked in the Top 10.
Rodrigo retired in 2015, bringing an end to a 46-fight career and was instantly given a role within the UFC as the Athlete Relations Ambassador in his native Brazil, while his brother Rogerio still competes in the UFC’s 205-pound division.