UFC Weight Classes & Their Champions: A History

The future Hall of Famer Matt Hughes won his first welterweight championship when he defeated Carlos Newton by KO at UFC 34. Hughes defended his title five times before losing it to B.J. Penn at UFC 46.

The Fourth Middleweight Champion – Murilo Bustamante (Jan. 11, 2001-October 5, 2002)

Murilo Bustamante Bustamante defeated Dave Menne by second round TKO at UFC 35 to become the fourth middleweight champion in UFC history. He defended his title once before being stripped when he left to sign with Pride.

The Seventh Heavyweight Champion – Josh Barnett (Mar. 22, 2002-July 26, 2002)

Josh BarnettBarnett beat Randy Couture by TKO at UFC 36, winning the heavyweight title. But the belt was stripped from the him when he tested positive for steroid use. For some reason, Couture wasn’t awarded the belt afterward. The title remained vacant until Couture faced and then lost to Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 39.

Ricco Rodriguez

The Eighth Heavyweight Champion – Ricco Rodriguez (Sept. 27 2002-Feb. 28, 2003)

Rodriguez beat Randy Couture to win the vacant heavyweight title at UFC 39. The title was vacated back in July when champion Josh Barnett’s test for steroid use came back positive. Rodriguez would not defend his title as he would lose his next fight to Tim Sylvia at UFC 41.

The Ninth Heavyweight Champion – Tim Sylvia (Feb. 28 2003-Oct. 15, 2003)

Tim SylviaSylvia defeated Ricco Rodriguez by KO due to to strikes at UFC 41 to win the heavyweight championship. He defended his title once (against Gan McGee) before being stripped of the belt for steroid use on October 15, 2003. The title remained vacant until Frank Mir defeated Sylvia at UFC 48.

The Second Light Heavyweight Champion – Randy Couture (Sept. 26, 2003-Jan. 31, 2004)

Couture defeated Tito Ortiz by unanimous decision at UFC 44 to become the second light heavyweight champion. He would not defend his title as Vitor Belfort would beat him in his next fight at UFC 46.

The Third Light Heavyweight Champion – Vitor Belfort (Jan. 31, 2004-Aug. 21, 2004)

Vitor BelfortBelfort defeated Randy Couture at UFC 46 by TKO in the first round to become the third light heavyweight champion. Belfort did not defend his title as Couture returned to take the title back at UFC 49.

The Fourth Welterweight Champion – B.J. Penn (Jan. 31, 2004-May 17, 2004)

BJ PennPenn defeated Matt Hughes at UFC 46 by first-round submission (rear naked choke) to become the fourth welterweight champion. Penn did not defend his title as the UFC stripped him of his belt when he signed to fight for K-1.

The 10th Heavyweight Champion – Frank Mir (June 19, 2004-August 12, 2005)

Frank Mir

Tim Sylvia returned to the UFC after his six-month suspension for steroids. He faced Frank Mir at UFC 48 for the heavyweight title he vacated back in October. He was unsuccessful in regaining the heavyweight belt as Mir broke his arm in the first round while applying an armbar.

The Fourth Light Heavyweight Champion – Randy Couture (Aug. 21, 2004-Apr. 16, 2005)

Couture defeated Vitor Belfort at UFC 49 by TKO to become the UFC’s fourth light heavyweight champion for the second time. He did not defend his title as Chuck Liddell took the title from him at UFC 52.

The Fifth Welterweight Champion – Matt Hughes (Oct. 22, 2004-Nov. 18, 2006)

Who did Hughes armbar into submission at UFC 50?

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