What Does Undisputed Champion Mean in the UFC? Easily Explained


UFC is the Ultimate Fighting Championship based around the full-contact combat sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). Skilled fighters from around the world who have trained and developed in fighting styles, all enter the UFC octagon with hopes to achieve the status of the undisputed champion. 

To be the undisputed champion in UFC means you are the number one fighter in your weight class. There is only one championship belt in each weight class and the fighter holding that belt is considered the undisputed champion. They will be undisputed until they either retire, lose a fight or have their belt stripped from them for political reasons. 

Amanda Nunes

An individual undisputed UFC champion can be the holder of more than one championship belt if they fight and win in different weight classes. For example, in the women’s UFC, Amanda Nunes won the Bantamweight championship title in 2016 and went on to fight in and win the Featherweight championship title in 2018. Amanda Nunes was the first woman in UFC history to be classed as the undisputed champion in two weight classes. 

What Does Undisputed Champion Mean in UFC?

In the Ultimate Fighting Championship, an undisputed champion is the winner of the championship title in the weight class they fight in. They have trained, fought, and won the fight for the championship belt and are, therefore, labeled the undisputed champion. 

The winner of the fight for the championship title will become the undisputed champion. 

What is the Difference Between Interim and Undisputed Champions in UFC?

If an undisputed champion becomes inactive for any reason, such as medical issues, injury, or suspension, an Interim Champion will take their place. 

The interim champion will be the next in line to fight for the championship title of that weight class. They will essentially “take over” the championship role as a temporary undisputed champion and will usually be guaranteed a fight with the actual champion when they return. 

Holding the interim belt will sanction their fight ticket to be the number one contender for the official undisputed belt. 

This makes the official undisputed champion’s position, now officially disputed, by the interim champ. The fight between these two UFC fighters will determine the outcome of the disputed title, effectively unifying the dispute so that there will once again be only one undisputed victor for that weight class.

Why Does the UFC Have Interim Champions?

Like most cases in the work industry, in show business especially, there is a common saying “The show must go on”. This is no different in the world of MMA and UFC. 

The UFC has interim champions largely to keep the fights going. When undisputed champions cannot fight due to various reasons, an interim title fight may happen to create a new champion who will take their place and continue to effectively fight in the UFC octagon in their place. 

This successfully continues to generate sales for UFC events where they would otherwise lead to a marginal profit loss because of contestants’ inability to fight numerous times a year because of sickness or injury. 

Much like the position of the undisputed victor, the interim champion will continue to hold the interim title until they either lose a fight, have their title stripped from them for political or medical reasons, or when they retire. Fighters have been known to have their interim title stripped from them for their inability to fight due to injury. 

They can also lose their title when the undisputed champion returns to the ring to take back their title belt. The two champions usually in most cases but not all will fight for the belt, unifying the two titles. The winner takes the undisputed role as champion and there is once again, only one undisputed champion. 

By having an interim championship belt in place, the fans, fighters, and the UFC all win. As fights will continue to entertain the fans, fighters continue to compete in the sport they professionally train for, and the UFC generates continuous revenue.  

Without interim champions, the UFC could potentially fall under fire for not having enough fights generated to keep the fans coming back. Thus, losing profit, ceasing to be able to provide future fights in the UFC octagon.

Listed above are just an overview of why UFC created Interim champions but there are much more. Read the full report on “Why Does UFC Have Interim Champions?” to learn everything there is to know about why UFC created interim champions.

What is Unification Fight?

You may have heard the term “Unification Fight” or “Unification bout” used in the UFC. 

When two fighters hold the championship belt, one as the undisputed and one as the interim undisputed, they must unify the belt when the original champ is ready to come back to the octagon. 

Unification is necessary to have only one named champion for any given weight class. 

The original champ may be out of action due to personal reasons or injury and as such the interim belt is awarded to the fighter who wins the interim champion fight. When the time comes, the belt needs to unify as one overall championship title belt for that weight class. 

In a unification bout, the two champions technically dispute each other’s status as undisputed champions and will fight for the undisputed title. 

Unification is hence the process of being united or made into a whole

Oxford Languages Definitions.

What is the Difference Between Undisputed and Undefeated in UFC?

To be an undefeated fighter is to be a contestant who has not been defeated in a UFC fight. 

To be the undisputed champion is to be the winner of a UFC fight for a championship title. 

UFC champions can be contestants who have been defeated in multiple fights but have still made their way up to the top of the line to fight and become the undisputed champion. 

If a combatant has never lost a fight in their UFC career they are deemed as undefeated. They may have a draw or a no contest (NC) but that does not add a loss to their name and as such will still be classed as undefeated. 

An undefeated contestant is not a champion until they have beaten the undisputed champion. 

  • Khabib Nurmagomedov is an undefeated combatant in UFC, with 29 wins and 0 losses to his name at the time of his retirement in 2020. 
  • Khabib Nurmagomedov is an undefeated and undisputed lightweight champion.
  • Conor McGregor was the first male to hold 2 undisputed championship belts in the featherweight and lightweight divisions but has had 6 losses in his UFC career. He is not an undefeated champion but has been an undisputed champion. 
  • Phillip Miller was a mixed martial arts fighter for numerous fighting leagues. He was undefeated throughout his whole career, winning 16 fights in total, but was never an undisputed champion before his retirement in 2003. 

What is Pound-for-Pound Rankings?

Pound for pound rankings has been a part of the UFC since 2013. A voting panel made up of media members vote on who they believe to be the top UFC fighters based on their weight class and their performance in the octagon. 

The members on this panel include writers, reporters, journalists, and radio presenters from varying media outlets such as MMA Weekly, MMA Oddsbreaker, Fight Network, and numerous other media platforms that represent the sport of UFC, and MMA among other sports. 

Not all members agree on every aspect of the vote that has been made, but the votes will rank each active UFC fighter and place them in a position on the Pound for Pound ranked system. 

This system helps the UFC to determine future contests, contract negotiations, and who will be in line for the interim undisputed champion placement if necessary. The pound-for-pound ranking system, consequently, has a huge impact on UFC combatants fighting careers and future matches within the UFC. 

You can see the pound for pound and weight class rankings here on the official UFC site, where the list is regularly updated after fights to show the contestant’s new ranking position based on how well their fight went.

If you ever wonder about how the UFC ranking is determined, you need to check out an article entitled “How Do the UFC Rankings Work?“.

How to Become an Undisputed Champion

To become an undisputed champion a UFC combatant must challenge, agree, and be placed in a fighting match in the UFC octagon with a current champion. The fight must be for a weight class championship belt in which both fighters will fight to hold the weight class title. Ultimately, the winner of this match will become the undisputed champion of that weight class. 

Jeff J.

Jeff J is a retired Gunnery Sgt. with the United States Marine Corps and a former Federal Police officer. He was involved with extensive training with weapons systems, and hand to hand combat, mentored and trained hundreds of Marines in high-level fitness programs.

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