Mixed martial arts is an adrenaline-packed sport that attracts athletes of different heights and weight classes. Height isn’t as valuable in UFC as in other sports, but it still helps in intimidation and achieving technical superiority. The fighters on this list have taken full advantage of theirs.
The tallest UFC fighters of all time are:
12. Daniel Spitz
11. Travis Browne
10. Sean McCorkle
9. Alexander Volkov
8. Paul Varelans
7. Tim Sylvia
6. Emmanuel Yarbrough
5. Dan Christison
4. Wes Sims
3. Gan McGee
2. Semmy Schilt
1. Stevan Struve
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the tallest athletes to enter the octagon. I’ll shed light on their personal lives and their UFC careers.
12. Daniel Spitz (6 ft. 7 in.)
Also known as “Daddy Long Legs,” American Daniel Spitz is 6’7” (2.01 m) and the first entry in our 12 tallest UFC fighters of all time list. He is a heavyweight mixed martial artist weighing 244 lb (111kg).
Spitz played football both in high school and university. After graduating with a psychology undergraduate, he switched to MMA and got a 5-1 amateur record.
His UFC debut was at UFC 209 on March 4, 2017, where he lost to Mark Godbeer. He won his second bout against Anthony Hamilton, winning via TKO in just 24 seconds of round one. Spitz’s next bout was with Walt Harris at UFC Fight Night 131, where he lost in round two.
Daddy Long Legs pulled out of his March 9, 2019 scheduled fight with Jeff Hughes due to injury. He lost his next match to newcomer Tanner Bosser, who saw the UFC release him the following year.
His MMA record stands at six wins and three losses.
11. Travis Browne (6 ft. 7 in.)
Although not as tall as the likes of Stefan Struve, Retired American mixed martial artist Travis Browne is considerably tall standing at 6’7” (2.01 m). He fought in the heavyweight division, weighing 244 lb (111 kg).
Also known as “Hapa,” Browne played basketball in high school and college. He started Brazilian jiu-jitsu training at 26 years and soon trained in boxing.
Though joining MMA later on in life, he started with an impressive 9-0 winning streak.
Browne joined the UFC in March 2010 and won against James McSweeney via TKO. He then got a controversial draw in his second bout with Cheick Kongo. Hapa won consecutive fights with, Stefan Struve, Rob Broughton, Chad Griggs, and Gabriel Gonzaga.
He had his first professional loss to Antonio Silva, who capitalized on Brown straining his left hamstring.
Browne recorded 18 wins and 7 losses in his career before retiring in 2021.
10. Sean McCorkle (6 ft. 7 in.)
Also known as “Big Sexy’’, Sean McCorkel is a retired 6’7” (2.01 m) MMA fighter. He competed in the super heavyweight division weighing 315 lb (143 kg).
Big Sexy played basketball in high school and college, then trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. After meeting veterans Jake O’Brien and Chris Lytle, he moved on to mixed martial arts.
Debuting in September 2010, McCorkle went against Mark Hunt and took him out in just 67 seconds. The match ended with Hunt’s arms damaged. He also fought and lost to both Stefan Struve and Christian Morecraft. In October 2011, UFC terminated Big Sexy’s contract due to back-to-back losses.
McCorkle was later featured in the UFC Undisputed 3 video game for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Besides the UFC, McCorkle also fought for the KSW, Bellator, and the KOTC.
9. Alexander Volkov (6 ft. 7 in.)
Alexander Volkov, also known as Drago, is a 6’7” (2.01 m) Russian mixed martial artist weighing 263 lb (119kg). Valkov made his MMA debut in 2008 with an impressive TKO win against Nikolay Pleshakov.
A month later, he made another TKO win against Adam Alikhanov barely 20 seconds into the match. With it, he cemented his status as a fast-rising lethal fighter.
Drago signed with the UFC in 2016, where he won his debut brawl with Timothy Johnson. He would later win unanimously against Roy Nelson. He then recorded wins against Struve, Fabricio Werdum, Walt Harris, and Alistair Overeem.
Volkov is currently a UFC Heavyweight fighter, previously competing for Bellator MMA and M-1 Global. He also has a Tsu Shin Gen blackbelt, a Kyokushin Karate brown belt, and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt.
8. Paul Varelans (6 ft. 8 in.)
Nicknamed “The Polar Bear,” Paul Varelans was a 6’8” (2.03 m) martial artist weighing 300 lb (136kg). Varelans played football in high school and later joined his university’s boxing club.
He debuted in the UFC in July 1995 at the UFC 6: Clash of the Titans. Varelans won over Cal Worsham via a knockout in the quarter-finals in his first match. David Abbot later knocked out the gigantic Paul Varelans in the semi-finals. He later appeared in UFC 7 and UFC 8 before joining ECW.
The Polar Bear’s professional record stands at nine wins and nine losses. It’s widely considered an underachievement for a man of his size. Paul Varelans died in 2021, aged 51, following a battle with COVID-19.
7. Tim Sylvia (6 ft. 8 in.)
Tim Sylvia is a former 2 time UFC champion with a towering height of 6’8” (2.03m) . He participated in the heavyweight and super heavyweight divisions. Popularly known as The Maine-iac, Sylivia first ventured into karate as a child and started wrestling in high school.
Sylvia made his first UFC appearance in 2002, defeating Wesley Correira in a TKO at UFC 39. He then defeated Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 41, winning his maiden UFC heavyweight title. Sylvia also defeated Gan McGee at UFC 44, but ended up forfeiting the title after testing positive for Stanozolol.
He later commented that he used the drug to reduce his weight, which didn’t stop him from being slapped with a $10,000 fine and a six-month suspension.
Outside the UFC, Sylvia also won the Extreme Challenge and the SuperBrawl. The towering star also participated in events organized by ONE Fighting Championship and TNA wrestling.
Tim Sylvia retired in 2015, having won 31 matches and lost 10.
6. Emmanuel Yarbrough (6 ft. 8 in.)
Emmanuel Yarbrough was a 6’8” (2.03 m) martial artist. He was also known as Tiny, a satirical nickname given to his peers due to his gigantic size. Yarbrough held the Guinness world record as the heaviest living athlete, weighing an incredible 704 lb (319.3kg). The legendary fighter started as a football athlete at Morgan State University before switching to wrestling later on.
“Tiny” trained in judo and won a silver medal at the US Nationals. He later prospected amateur sumo and mixed martial arts.
The towering Yarbrough only appeared once in the UFC in a fight against Keith Hackney. He was 600 pounds (272 kg) and was knocked out by the 5’11” (1.8 m) Hackney. The victory earned Hackney the nickname “The Giant Killer.”
He passed on in 2015 following heart complications. He’s remembered as one of the most popular sumo wrestlers outside Japan.
5. Dan Christison (6 ft. 8 in.)
Also known as “The Sandman,” Daniel Christison is 6’8” (2.03 m) and ranks 5th in our list.
Big Dan weighs 265 lb (120kg) and has the highest UFC reach at 85 inches (216 cm). Christison had a rough upbringing in Los Angeles, which sparked his interest in mixed martial arts.
He first studied Chinese martial arts and later branched to Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Christison appeared in The Ultimate Fighter Season 2, losing his first match to Seth Petruzelli. He would later fight and defeat Brad Imes at UFC Fight Night 4. The sandman then lost to Frank Mir during UFC 61.
Christison also fought in the King of the Cage (KOTC), WEC, IFL and is a former WEC Super Heavyweight Champion. He retired in 2010 with an impressive 27-7 career record.
4. Wes Sims (6 ft. 10 in.)
At 6’10” (2.08 m), Wesley Sims is among the tallest athletes in MMA history. The 260 lb (118 kg) heavyweight has a reach of 81 inches (205.7 cm), making him a dangerous adversary. He played basketball in high school but switched to professional wrestling in university.
Sims dropped out after his first semester and was introduced to MMA by Mark Coleman.
The towering former athlete fought three times in UFC between 2003 and 2004, losing all his bouts. Fans remember Sims for down-kicking Frank Mir and getting disqualified in a match he was poised to win. He got a rematch, and this time he outrightly lost via TKO.
The martial artist made a brief return to the UFC in The Ultimate Fighter TV show. He was defeated by Justin Wren in round one of his first fights, which had a lasting impact on his passion for the sport. He opted against competing again after the fight, though he would be seen teasing other fighters.
Sims also fought in Strikeforce, K-1, the IFL, and WEC. He retired in 2013 and is viewed as a fighter that could have achieved more save for his controversies.
3. Gan McGee (6ft. 10 in.)
Gan McGee is 6’11” (2.1m) and competed in the heavyweight division, weighing 260 lb (118 kg). He started his career at his high school’s wrestling team and continued through University.
McGee had a shot at winning the UFC Heavyweight title in September 2003 but lost to Tim Sylvia via TKO. Sylvia later tested positive for a banned substance, but McGee never got a rematch. He admitted that this made him lose passion for the game.
Besides the UFC, McGee also participated in the WEC, XFC, and has a solid reputation as one of the most aggressive fighters.
2. Semmy Schilt (6 ft. 11 in.)
Semmy Schilt towers at 6’11” (2.11 m). He famously competed in the heavyweight and super heavyweight divisions weighing 256 pounds (116 kg).
The Dutchman started fighting Kyokushin kaikan at eight years of age through his parent’s influence. He would later branch to Ashihara kaikan, earning a blackbelt at 18.
Schilt ventured into mixed martial arts and made his debut on May 16, 1996, at 23 years. He started with a victory over Manabu Yamada through an impressive choke. At Pancrase, Schilt’s height earned him the 6-foot-11 “Hightower” nickname.
Though he had a long fighting career, Schilt’s stint at the UFC was brief. He started with an impressive win against Pete Williams, with his height advantage standing out. However, he later lost to Josh Barnett through powerful strikes and a tapout.
Schilt competed in other tournaments, including the Pride Fighting Championship. He also participated in kickboxing tournaments organized by Glory and K-1. In 2013, Semmy Schilt retired from fighting after being advised by his medical team because of a heart condition.
1. Stefan Struve (7 ft.)
Standing at 7 feet (2.13m), Stefan Struve earns first place in the 12 tallest UFC fighters of all time. He is the tallest UFC fighter in history, rightfully earning the nickname ” Skyscraper.” The 265 lb (120 kg) heavyweight grew up playing soccer and was introduced to martial arts by his brother at the age of 14.
Struve switched to mixed martial arts and got his first amateur MMA bout at 16. He won via an impressive head kick Knockout.
The skyscraper kick-started (pun intended) his UFC career with a loss against Junior dos Santos. It was just three days after his 21st birthday.
He went on to win against some notable fighters like Antonio Silva, Pat Barry, Antonio Rodrigo,Nogueira, and former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic
Struve also had his fair share of losses, losing to Roy Nelson, Travis Browne, Mark Hunt, and Ben Rothwell.
With an 84.5 inch (215 cm) reach, Struve had a massive advantage over competitors. More so when it came to landing punches and shielding attacks.
Stefan Struve announced his retirement from professional boxing on February 15, 2021, twelve years since his NFC debut. He had been battling numerous health issues including tinnitus, hearing loss, and vertigo.
Other Notable Tall MMA Fighters
Choi Hong-man (7 ft. 2 in.)
At 7’2” (2.18 m), Choi Hong-man is the tallest MMA fighter on record. He is a superheavyweight with a massive 93 inches (236.2 cm) reach. However, the Korean Colossus hasn’t participated in the UFC to date.
Giant Silva (7 ft. 2 in.)
Boasting a staggering 7’2” (2.18 m height), Paulo César da Silva is a Brazilian super heavyweight wrestler. He also had a stint in the Brazilian national basketball team. The mixed martial artist weighs 385 lb (175 kg) and retired in 2011. He, too, never participated in the UFC.