With the numerous titles, belts, and divisions in the UFC, have you been left confused about the meaning of undisputed champion in the UFC?
In this article, we’ll find out the meaning of undisputed champion in the UFC, how it’s different from an interim champion, how and why it’s used in the UFC, and more.
What Does Undisputed Champion Mean in the UFC?
Undisputed champion in the UFC means being the one fighter holding the championship belt and title in a particular weight class, without an interim champion holding a second belt.
For women, there are 4 possible undisputed champions, and for men, there are 8 possible undisputed champions; one for each weight class division.
The undisputed champion is the winner of a championship title fight between the current champion and the title challenger.
The challenger can be the interim champion, number one contender, or someone usually in the top 5 the UFC believes deserves a title shot. At times it can be a fighter in a less deserving position who gets lucky, such as a short-notice replacement.
Note: Undisputed champions are ranked as champion © and are above the number one fighter (1) in the division.
Are Undefeated and Undisputed the Same Thing in the UFC?
No, they are not the same thing and there are clear differences.
An undefeated fighter is someone who hasn’t lost in the UFC but they may have draws or no contests on their record.
An undisputed champion is a fighter that has won the championship title fight for their weight class division and is the only belt holder.
A fighter can become the undisputed champion whilst having lost many times in the UFC, and a fighter can also be undefeated while not being an undisputed champion, as they’re likely early in their career or have just joined the UFC from another promotion.
A fighter can be an undefeated and undisputed champion simultaneously, the best example being Khabib Nurmagomedov, who retired 29-0-0.
However, technically he was not an undisputed champion the whole time since he first won the championship title belt, as his belt was disputed by interim champion Dustin Poirier (UFC 242) for a short time before Khabib beat him.
How Does a Fighter Lose Their Position as Undisputed Champion in the UFC?
The undisputed champion has to defend their title indefinitely and will remain undisputed until they become inactive, don’t defend their belt, or are stripped of their title.
Here’s a complete list:
- Vacating the championship belt through retirement (personal decision of the fighter)
- Losing the championship title fight
- Missing weight
- Illness or injury
- Political causes
- Gross misconduct leading to suspension (giving the UFC a bad name)
- Failed drug tests leading to suspension
- Rejecting title fights
- Going up or down a weight class in an attempt to become a double champ
- UFC and fighter contract disputes
If the UFC strips an undisputed champion’s belt there is a new undisputed champion declared. Titles being stripped are normally caused by misconduct or failed drug tests (Jon Jones).
If any of the above reasons cause an undisputed champion to become temporarily inactive (not stripped), but they are near certainties to defend their title in the future, the UFC creates an interim title fight, between two other fighters.
What Is the Difference Between the Interim and Undisputed Champion in the UFC?
The main difference is interim champions are a temporary champion and are a result of an undisputed champion’s inactivity.
Being the undisputed champion means there’s no interim champion; the two cannot coexist.
If the undisputed champion becomes inactive and cannot make a title fight, the UFC will create an interim title fight.
This won’t necessarily be contested by the two highest-ranked fighters, known as the number one and two top contenders, but will be between two of the best fighters in the top 10 as decided by the UFC.
The winner of the interim title fight will become the interim champion, securing their position as the next to fight for the championship title.
The defending champion cannot fight someone else in the same division unless the interim champion can’t make the fight. In this case, the UFC would likely find a replacement interim champion or challenger.
Once there is an interim belt and champion, there are now two title belts held and the champion of the division is now in dispute.
The winner of the scheduled fight between the two belt holders is to unify the division and become the undisputed champion.
Why Does the UFC Have Interim Champions?
Interim champions are a necessity in the UFC because champion inactivity is a common occurrence and the UFC can’t wait around if a champion is inactive; the show must go on without them.
Here’s a list of reasons why interim champions are used:
Entertainment – Interim title fights, belts, and new interim champions create a buzz and a continual stream of high-level fights coming in the absence of the best, keeping both fans and fighters happy in the process.
Business – The UFC is an MMA promotion and business first and foremost. They need to make a profit to keep producing the spectacular shows everyone’s come to expect. Interim fights generate high sales for the UFC as they are highly anticipated fights and can be used as the main event in a PPV.
Acts as a filter – The process of finding two fighters to fight for the interim belt is an effective way to reassess the top 10 fighters.
Keeps the pressure on – Keeps the competition amongst the top 10 fighters high and acts as a counter to a champion’s inactivity by preparing a fight for them.
A ready and available undisputed champion – By having an interim champion in place, they are ready to take the position as the undisputed champion, if the UFC decides to strip the current champion of their belt. One example is when the UFC stripped Conor McGregor of his featherweight title due to his inactivity in that division, with interim champion Jose Aldo taking his place as the undisputed champion.
What Is a Unification Fight?
A unification fight is the championship fight between the defending champion and the interim champion within a weight class division.
As there is a dispute caused by two belts being held and two fighters being titled champions, unification bouts end the current dispute between them by effectively unifying the dispute and creating one undisputed, unified champion.
Who Are Some of the Most Famous Undisputed Champions UFC?
Jon Jones – Considered the greatest UFC fighter of all time, you often think of Jon Jones when you hear the term undisputed champion. He has a total of 11 successful title defenses and 14 title wins.
Khabib Nurmagomedov – More known for being an undefeated and undisputed champion upon retiring, Khabib has a total of 3 successful title defenses and 4 title wins.
Amanda Nunes – The first and only female UFC fighter to be an undisputed champion in two weight classes (undisputed double champ), Amanda has 7 successful title defenses and 9 title wins.
Anderson Silva – He holds the record for the longest winning streak in the UFC (16) and successfully defended his title 10 times, with 11 title wins as middleweight champion.
Georges St-Pierre – Another fighter considered the greatest, he had 9 consecutive title defenses and 13 title wins in his career.
What Does Undisputed Champion Mean in the UFC – The Bottom Line
Undisputed champion in the UFC means being the best in a particular weight class division and is shown by being the fighter holding the championship belt.
A champion remains undisputed as long as they’re active and continue defending their belt. This is because activity negates the need for an interim title fight and champion.
It’s only when there’s an interim champion that an undisputed champion has their title in dispute, therefore becoming the defending champion until they unify the belt.