Spain has firmly established itself as a sporting powerhouse, producing top-tier athletes across various disciplines. While soccer is the country’s favorite, another contender has emerged to attract Spanish fans: mixed martial arts (MMA). The passion for MMA has spread across the country in recent decades, with thrilling MMA events attracting a following of hundreds of thousands of fans on a weekly basis. The success enjoyed by the sport has seen a growing number of MMA-themed real money slot games at Spain’s online casinos. In this article, we will look at the Spanish MMA fighters that are representing their country in the international MMA ring.

Ilia Topuria

Few European stars currently active in the UFC can match the level of excitement brought by Ilia Topuria. Born in Germany and later relocating to Georgia with his family, the 26-year-old’s journey into the world of MMA began with a keen interest in Greco-Roman wrestling. A move to Spain brought him to the doorstep of Climent Club, an active MMA gym, where he wasted no time immersing himself in the local scene and earning a reputation as a submission specialist. Notably, each of his first seven victories came by way of submission, showcasing his prowess in the grappling department. 

The UFC recognized his talent, signing him to the promotion in 2020. Topuria marked his debut with a resounding unanimous decision triumph over Youssef Zalal, setting the stage for a series of eye-catching performances. Notably, he secured stoppage victories against Damon Jackson, Ryan Hall, and Jai Herbert, earning consecutive Performance of the Night bonuses. His latest triumph came in December 2022 at UFC 282, where he submitted Bryce Mitchell in impressive fashion. As Topuria gears up for an upcoming clash against Josh Emmett in June, the stage is set for what could be a monumental year for the Spanish fighter.

Joel Alvarez

Joel Alvarez is one of the best active Spanish-born fighters on the UFC roster, as he has made a dominant start to his professional career. The 30-year-old was born in Gijon, and quickly began to practice martial arts after turning 18 in his home city. As he developed, he began to compete regionally in tournaments across Spain, before turning professional in 2013. Over the first five years of his career, he would fight across Spain, winning 15 of his 16 bouts.

Alvarez was undefeated during his time with Ansgar Fighting League, where he was the reigning Lightweight champion prior to his departure from the UFC. He finally made his way to the United States in 2019, but he lost his debut match at Fight Night against Damir Ismagulov. However, he quickly got back on track following that setback with a second-round knockout against Danil Belluardo. Alvarez then fought at catchweight in October 2020 after failing to make weight against Alexander Yakovlev.

But, it was a winning effort via submission. The Spaniard then landed a second straight stoppage win, as he defeated Thiago Moises by TKO, but he once again failed to make weight. Alvarez was last in action in the UFC last year, as he was beaten in the second round by Arman Tsarukyan.

Juan Espino

Juan Espino was one of the most talented fighters to come from Spain throughout his professional career, as he competed in the heavyweight division. He started wrestling from an early age and quickly made it up to the Puntal level after winning a number of prestigious titles. That continued in 2011 as he would win the gold medal at the World Championships.

After dominating the wrestling scene for Spain, he tested his talents in Lucha Laamb, and Leon Wrestling, before beginning a career in MMA. As an amateur, he registered a dominant unbeaten record of 17-0 and won the Spanish championships in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015. Espino returned to MMA in 2017, and quickly put together a long winning run following victories over Rodney Wallace, Martin Buday, and Jimmy Van Bemmelen.

He took part in the Heavy Hitters Finale of the Ultimate Fighter, defeating Justin Frazier by submission. He then made his first UFC appearance proper in 2020, defeating Jeff Hughes by submission. However, his final fight in UFC ended in a split-decision defeat against Alexander Romanov.  

Final Thoughts

The popularity of MMA in Spain continues to grow, and the success that active UFC Spanish stars are enjoying in the octagon is undeniably playing a role in that. It would be fair to presume that the popularity of the sport in Spain will only continue to grow with the continued success achieved by Spanish stars.