In the high-stakes world of UFC, the presence or absence of the championship belt during a fighter’s walkout can be a topic of intrigue.
This article delves into the reasons why UFC fighters don’t walk out with their championship belts, exploring both practical considerations and historical practices.
Why Don’t UFC Fighters Walk Out With The Belts?
UFC fighters don’t walk out with the championship belts because the belts need to be readily accessible to a specialized artisan or jeweler for timely updates. The UFC’s Legacy Belt design, introduced in 2019, has a red stone added for each title defense and requires precise craftsmanship.
The updated belt is set to be wrapped around the waist of the UFC champion approximately 5 minutes after their victory (if they win). Having the belt with the fighter during their walkout would overcomplicate this process.
Instead, the UFC prefers to have the belt already in position and ready for the jeweler’s work, ensuring that the newly updated belt is delivered on time for the post-fight presentation.
Walking out with the belt would mean transferring it back for the update, adding unnecessary steps, and potentially delaying the post-fight ceremony.
By keeping the belt with the artisan from the outset, the UFC streamlines the process, ensuring that the belt, complete with the latest red stone, accurately represents the champion’s current achievements when it’s presented in the Octagon.
Before the belt was changed in 2019, on a rare few occasions, UFC fighters walked out with the classic UFC championship belt.
UFC champions received a new championship belt for each successful title defense, and no changes were made to the previous one.
Notable examples include:
- Tim Sylvia
- Cris Cyborg
- Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua
- Tito Ortiz
- Dominick Cruz
- Joanna Jędrzejczyk (her manager used to hold it in the air behind her)
- Lyoto Machida (his brother would hold it in the air behind him)
While the introduction of the UFC Legacy Belt in 2019 and its requirement for timely updates is the reason for fighters not walking out with their belts, it’s worth noting that before this change, other factors also influenced this practice.
Incentive for Opponents: Jon Jones, for instance, mentioned that seeing Shogun Rua with the belt before their fight motivated him intensely.
He felt that walking out with the belt could give opponents an extra incentive to win, and therefore decided not to walk out with the belt before any of his title fights.
Avoiding Distractions: Some believe that not having the belt during the walkout helps fighters stay focused on the fight without the distraction of the physical symbol of their championship status.
Tim Sylvia’s Influence: Tim Sylvia was known for frequently wearing his belt, which became a meme and possibly influenced the perception of walking out with the belt.
His overuse of the belt in various settings might have contributed to a shift in how fighters and the organization perceive the practice.
Symbolic Ownership: There’s a notion that on fight night, the belt belongs to no one until someone earns it at the end of the fight.
This symbolism suggests that neither fighter is the champion until the fight concludes, emphasizing that the title must be earned in the cage.
Security Concerns: While never addressed by the UFC, it’s possible that they stopped fighters from walking out with the belts due to the worry of them being grabbed by fans in the arena. Hats have been stolen on many occasions.