If you’ve ever seen or heard of the UFC, you would know that the champion receives a large belt following their victory. However, there is some confusion over whether this is the same belt passed from one champion to the next, or whether the belt is like a trophy that the champion is able to keep. In this article, I will explore in detail what happens to the UFC championship belt from each title fight.
From 2001-2018, UFC champions won a Classic Championship Belt every time they won or defended the championship title. From 2019 onwards, champions won a custom UFC Legacy Belt, which is adorned with one ruby for every additional title win. In both instances, the fighter keeps the physical belt.
I will explain these belt systems in greater detail below. However, there have been inconsistencies and exceptions to the rule that make the belt system more complex. One of these complexities includes champions who win multiple titles, which I will also explain.
Do UFC Champions Keep the Belt?
Up until 2019, UFC champions would win a new belt every time they were named champion or defended their championship title. This belt is known as the UFC Classic Championship Belt. However, from 1995-2001, these belts were awarded sporadically due to budgetary issues.
From 2001-2018, the old system allowed champions to accumulate as many belts as they could win, meaning they could potentially retire with multiple UFC championship belts as their prize.
However, there have been many inconsistencies to this system over the years. For example, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson was only awarded one Classic Championship Belt for 10 consecutive championship wins. After some dispute, he did eventually receive all 10 belts and went on to win two more after that.
This sometimes flawed system was changed when the UFC introduced the Legacy Belt System from January 19th, 2019.
The Legacy Belt System awards the champion one gold belt, which is designed specifically for the fighter. It is customized with their name, weight division and the country they represent.
In addition to this, the belt is adorned with 16 white cubic zirconia stones, with eight on each side. Each time the champion wins or defends their title, one cubic zirconia stone will be replaced with a synthetic ruby, starting from those on the left.
Regardless of circumstance, at no point does a UFC champion need to return the belt they received when they won their title.
There are certain circumstances that cause a champion to lose their title, which I have outlined below.
- The champion fails to defend their title in a fight.
- The champion’s title has been stripped. This can be due to leaving the UFC for another fighting competition, taking extended leave without promise of return or cheating.
- The champion has forfeited their title. This can be due to personal reasons, retirement or wanting to focus on a different weight division.
However, even champions who have lost their title have kept their physical UFC champion belt.
No champion to date has been stripped of their title since the new Legacy Belt system was introduced. Therefore it is unknown whether a champion being stripped of their title would affect their Legacy Belt in any way.
The confusion behind whether or not a UFC champion keeps their belt stems from people interchanging the words championship ‘title’ with championship ‘belt’. When it is reported that a champion has had their ‘belt’ taken away, this simply means their championship title was removed, not the physical belt.
For this reason, there have been many UFC belts manufactured over the history of the UFC. Having the Legacy Belt System in place should make the belts less common and therefore more valuable.
Can a UFC Champion Hold Two Belts at Once?
In the old system, a UFC champion could own several physical championship belts. However, in terms of holding the title of undisputed champion, it is difficult to hold two titles at the same time.
In total, there are 12 weight divisions in the UFC, which includes eight divisions for men and four divisions for women. Therefore, the maximum number of undisputed champions at any given time is 12.
For a champion to have two titles at any given time, they will need to win the championship in one division and then either lose weight or gain weight to compete and win in another weight division.
The first fighter to ever hold two titles at the same time was Conor McGregor in 2016. McGregor became the undisputed champion in both the featherweight and lightweight divisions. For his two titles, he was awarded two belts.
Therefore, it is possible that the same fighter can become champion in multiple weight divisions, and therefore hold two championship belts at once.
There was initially some confusion over McGregor receiving his second belt, but this was later clarified and he did, indeed, receive two Classic Championship Belts.
In total, there have only been seven fighters to win championships in multiple weight divisions, but only four have held two titles at the same time. These double champions (or “champ champs”) are listed below.
|Conor McGregor||2016||Featherweight Champion Lightweight Champion|
|Daniel Cormier||2018||Light Heavyweight Champion Heavyweight Champion|
|Amanda Nunes||2018||Bantamweight Champion Featherweight Champion|
|Henry Cejudo||2019||Flyweight Champion Bantamweight Champion|
In the new Legacy Belt System, the champion is awarded one belt for each weight division, but will receive rubies on their belt for subsequent wins in those divisions.
In the old belt system, as mentioned previously, the champion would win another belt every time they were named champion. For example, prior to 2019, Amanda Nunes received a new belt for every title, totalling five belts.
In the new legacy belt system, she has won three titles in the Bantamweight division and one in the featherweight. That’s a total of four titles, but she has been given two belts; one bantamweight belt with two rubies, and one featherweight belt.
Another complication to the belt system is that it is possible for two UFC fighters to hold a title in the same weight division at the same time. This is made possible by what is known as the interim championship title.
The interim championship title is only created when the undisputed champion is on extended leave. This is often due to medical reasons, but there have been several different reasons over the years.
An interim champion will receive a belt for their victory, and then be given the opportunity to fight for the title of undefeated champion when the true champion returns. If they then lose the fight, they lose their interim champion title, but keep the belt they were awarded.
There have been some cases where interim champions have been upgraded to undisputed champion by default when the true champion has relinquished their title or had it stripped.
Who Holds the Most UFC Championship Belts?
Jon Jones holds the record for the most UFC championship titles, totalling 14 championships. These were all in the light heavyweight division.
However, like Amanda Nunes, Jones’ career has spanned across the two belt systems. He won his first 11 belts in the Classic Championship Belt System, whereas he won his last three titles in the Legacy Belt System.
Therefore Jones received 11 UFC belts prior to 2019 and then one Legacy Belt in 2019. His following two titles in 2019 and 2020 added two rubies to his current Legacy Belt. Therefore, in theory, Jon Jones owns 12 physical UFC belts.
Some of these were also interim belts, which look exactly the same as the belt of the undisputed champion. This is a controversial topic among fans, who believe the interim belts should be made to look different so they can be differentiated.
Regardless, if approaching the question from a technical perspective, it is actually George St-Pierre who owns the most physical UFC belts. St-Pierre won all 13 of his championship titles prior to the 2019 Legacy Belt System, meaning that he has a total of 13 Classic Championship Belts.
Overall, regardless of whether a champion won a Classic Championship Belt, Legacy Belt or Interim Belt, or lost their championship title, they will always be able to keep the physical UFC belts as a trophy for their victory.
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