Are you wondering who the youngest UFC champions of all time are?
In the 29 years since the UFC was founded in 1993, many of the early champions were breaking through at young ages as MMA was developing. This is because they could get title shots quickly and there weren’t a lot of older fighters with a decade of MMA experience in their way.
Fast forward to 2022, the average age of all UFC champions across UFC history is 29 years old, and this number is always on the rise. Currently, the average age of UFC champions in August 2022 is 32 years old.
This is because the sport is fully developed and the UFC has over 700 fighters, meaning it’s a lot harder for a young fighter to get a title shot and the fighters with a lot of experience are much better because of it.
In 2022, a lot of UFC fighters require at least 6 consecutive wins where they continually beat fighters ranked above them until they get a title shot. In rare cases, special talents get a title opportunity in as little as 2 or 3 fights, but it can depend a lot on the quality of the top 10 fighters in a particular division.
As an example, light heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka earned a title shot after winning his first 2 UFC fights, because he was a dominant champion in other organizations and beat two top ten UFC contenders.
Even then, Jiri is 29 years old and much older and more experienced than any of the young UFC champions on this list.
- Youngest UFC Champions
- 1. Jon ‘Bones’ Jones (23 Years, 8 Months Old)
- 2. Jose ‘Junior’ Aldo (24 Years, 2 months)
- 3. Josh ‘The Warmaster’ Barnett (24 Years, 4 Months)
- 4. Carlos ‘The Ronin’ Newton (24 Years, 8 Months)
- 5. Frank Shamrock (25 Years Old)
- 6. Frank Mir (25 Years Old)
- 7. Ricco ‘Suave’ Rodriguez (25 Years, 1 Month)
- 8. B.J. ‘The Prodigy’ Penn (25 Years, 1 Month)
- 9. Tito ‘The Huntingdon Beach Bad Boy’ Ortiz (25 Years, 2 Months)
- 10. Rose ‘Thug’ Namajunas (25 Years, 4 Months)
- 11. Cody ‘No Love’ Garbrandt (25 Years, 5 Months)
- 12. Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway (25 Years, 6 Months)
- 13. Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre (25 Years, 6 Months)
- The Bottom Line
Youngest UFC Champions
This list includes only undisputed UFC champions, rather than interim champions and UFC tournament champions, which took place from UFC 1 to UFC 41 and only once after this at UFC 152 to introduce the men’s flyweight division (125 lbs).
1. Jon ‘Bones’ Jones (23 Years, 8 Months Old)
>Age: 23 Years, 8 Months (8,644 days)
>Title Win: Light heavyweight champion at UFC 128 on March 19, 2011
>Date of Birth: July 19, 1987
The youngest UFC champion of all time title belongs to the greatest MMA fighter of all time, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.
Jones started as a wrestler in high school and also played American football as a defensive lineman, where he was given the name ‘Bones’ due to his long thin limbs.
Jones initially went to college to study criminal justice but dropped out to start an MMA career. He turned professional in 2008, where he quickly racked up 6 straight wins to become the USKBA light heavyweight champion before the UFC took a chance on his talent.
From 2008-2011, Jon Jones put together a 6-1 record, receiving his only loss in a fight he was dominating, due to illegal 12-6 elbows against Matt Hamill.
Jones became the light heavyweight champion at just 23 years old by beating Mauricio Rua at UFC 128, less than three years after he turned professional.
2. Jose ‘Junior’ Aldo (24 Years, 2 months)
>Age: 24 Years, 2 Months (8,838 days)
>Title Win: Featherweight champion at UFC 123 on November 20, 2010
>Date of Birth: September 9, 1986
Jose Aldo began his career training capoeira at the age of 14 before starting Bjj at 17. Soon after, he became an MMA professional at 17 and won many fights in various promotions before joining WEC.
In WEC, Aldo continued his dominance and won the featherweight title at 23 years old, defending it twice.
In 2010, the UFC and WEC merged which saw Aldo become the UFC’s inaugural featherweight champion, at the age of 24. At the time Aldo was the youngest UFC champion until Jon Jones won the title in 2011 to take his spot.
Some believe Aldo should be considered the youngest UFC champion because he was crowned the WEC champion at WEC 44 on November 18, 2009, and the WEC more or less represented the UFC featherweight division before the UFC took it on in 2012.
Others disagree, due to the fact he was made the inaugural UFC champion without having to win a fight in the UFC.
3. Josh ‘The Warmaster’ Barnett (24 Years, 4 Months)
>Age: 24 Years, 4 Months (8,898 days)
>Title Win: Heavyweight champion at UFC 36 on March 22, 2002
>Date of Birth: November 10, 1977
Josh Barnett trained in wrestling, muay thai, and judo in high school, before turning to professional MMA in 1997, aged 20.
After a 9-0 professional record with various promotions, Barnett joined the UFC in 2001, where he lost his first fight via knockout to Pedro Rizzo.
Barnett bounced back, winning his next two fights against Semmy Schilt, and Bobby Hoffman. After his fight against Hoffman, Barnett tested positive for banned substances, kept undisclosed by the UFC and the athletic commissions for unknown reasons.
This led to Josh Barnett becoming the UFC’s youngest ever heavyweight champion, winning the title in 2002 by beating Randy Couture, aged 24.
Letting him fight Couture (UFC 36) was clearly a mistake, as he again tested positive for banned substances in the post-fight drug test, this time for fluoxymesterone, nandrolone, and boldenone.
As a result, Barnett was stripped of his title, while the win and his record as the youngest ever UFC champion remained. He was the youngest UFC champion for 8 years until Jose Aldo took his record, and he still remains the youngest UFC heavyweight champion to this day (2022).
4. Carlos ‘The Ronin’ Newton (24 Years, 8 Months)
>Age: 24 Years, 8 Months (9,026 days)
>Title Win: Welterweight champion at UFC 31 on May 4, 2001
>Date of Birth: August 17, 1976
Carlos Newton started his martial arts journey in Bjj, winning tournaments worldwide before joining the first MMA academy in Canada – Warrior MMA in Ontario.
After developing there, Newton turned professional at 19 years old to become the youngest ever professional NHB fighter (no holds barred). He quickly became the vale tudo Japan World Champion before having two fights in the UFC and moving to Pride FC.
He returned for UFC 31, as he was given an immediate title shot against the current welterweight champion, Pat Miletich. With a bulldog choke submission in the third round, Carlos Newton became the youngest UFC champion for one year until Josh Barnett took the record the following year.
5. Frank Shamrock (25 Years Old)
>Age: 25 Years (9,144 days)
>Title Win: Light heavyweight champion at UFC Japan on December 21, 1997
>Date of Birth: December 8, 1972
Not only was Frank Shamrock the youngest UFC champion after beating Kevin Jackson at UFC Japan in 1997, but he also became the first UFC light heavyweight champion. Interestingly, in 1997 it was considered a middleweight championship until all UFC weight classes were reformed in 2001.
Frank was one of the most experienced MMA fighters in the world when MMA burst into life during the 90s. He had 22 professional fights with a 14-7-1 record, mostly accumulated by fighting for Pancrase MMA.
This is the reason he was given an immediate title shot on his UFC debut and why the UFC created the inaugural middleweight title and division (205 lbs). It was a great decision as Frank went on to defend the title 4 consecutive times, before vacating the belt in 1999.
After winning the title at UFC Japan, Frank remained the youngest UFC champion for 4 years until Carlos Newton took the record.
6. Frank Mir (25 Years Old)
>Age: 25 Years (9,158 days)
>Title Win: Heavyweight champion at UFC 48 on June 19, 2004
>Date of Birth: May 24, 1979
Frank Mir is a former two-time UFC heavyweight champion and UFC legend, competing there for over 16 years.
Frank started training karate as a teenager, earning a black belt before moving on to wrestling during high school. At 17 he then started Bjj school, where he met an MMA matchmaker who convinced him to fight professionally.
Luckily for him, the matchmaker got him into HooknShoot, a well-known promotion the UFC often recruited from. Frank Mir made his UFC debut in 2001 and won 5 of his first 6 fights; earning a title shot against Tim Sylvia.
Frank snapped Tim’s arm via an armbar in the first round at UFC 48 to become the UFC heavyweight champion and one of the youngest to do so.
Sadly, Frank was in a motorcycle accident which saw him stripped of the title due to inactivity.
7. Ricco ‘Suave’ Rodriguez (25 Years, 1 Month)
>Age: 25 Years, 1 Month (9,170 days)
>Title Win: Heavyweight champion at UFC 39 on September 27, 2002
>Date of Birth: August 19, 1977
Ricco Rodriguez started training wrestling before moving on to Bjj where he won many Bjj and submission wrestling tournaments throughout his teenage years.
It wasn’t until 21 years old that he became an MMA professional in 1999, fighting for various promotions and giving himself a name when he went to Pride in Japan.
From Pride he went to the UFC in 2001, emphatically knocking out his first 4 opponents and earning himself a shot for the heavyweight title, vacated by Josh Barnett after being stripped for steroid use.
With Randy Couture way ahead on the scorecards, Ricco took him down in the fifth. From here he controlled and landed strikes on Couture, who verbally submitted because of the pain from an elbow directly to his eye.
Ricco Rodriguez was the new UFC heavyweight champion at just over 25 years old. However, his age and lack of experience showed as he lost his next 3 fights and never returned to the UFC; despite fighting for another 16 years until his retirement in 2019.
8. B.J. ‘The Prodigy’ Penn (25 Years, 1 Month)
>Age: 25 Years, 1 Month (9,180 days)
>Title Win: Welterweight champion at UFC 46 on January 31, 2004
>Date of Birth: December 13, 1978
UFC Hall of Famer, B.J. Penn, started training Bjj aged 17 in 1995, and by 2000 he had a black belt. He’s thought to be the fastest person to earn a Bjj black belt as it took him only 5 years, while the average time taken is between 10-15 years.
In the same year, Penn caught the attention of the UFC by winning the black belt division of the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Brazil, the first non-Brazilian to do so.
After joining the UFC aged 22, Penn won his first three fights and earned a title shot against Jens Pulver at UFC 35. Penn lost by majority decision, and had he won here, he would’ve been the youngest UFC champion, aged 23.
In his second title shot, he fought to a draw against Caol Uno at UFC 41, before eventually submitting Matt Hughes via rear-naked choke in round 1 at UFC 46, (2004) to become the UFC welterweight champion.
9. Tito ‘The Huntingdon Beach Bad Boy’ Ortiz (25 Years, 2 Months)
>Age: 25 Years, 2 Months (9,213 days)
>Title Win: Light heavyweight champion at UFC 25 on April 14, 2000
>Date of Birth: January 23, 1975
Tito began wrestling at the age of 19, becoming a junior college state champion and All-American for 2 consecutive years. Because of his connection to a UFC coach that also trained UFC fighter, Tank Abbott, Tito got into UFC 13 as an alternate.
On the night, he won his first fight and lost to Guy Mezger in his second. He returned to the next 2 UFC events and won at both, avenging his loss against Guy Mezger.
This earned him a title fight against Frank Shamrock at UFC 22, which he lost in round 4 after tapping to strikes that landed to the back of his head; now considered illegal strikes after being banned the following year in 2001.
After the fight, Frank Shamrock announced his retirement meaning the light heavyweight title was vacant.
7 months later, Tito Ortiz got another chance to become the champion at UFC 25. He defeated newcomer Wanderlei Silva by unanimous decision, to become the new UFC light heavyweight champion.
10. Rose ‘Thug’ Namajunas (25 Years, 4 Months)
>Age: 25 Years, 4 Months (9,259 days)
>Title Win: Strawweight champion at UFC 217 on November 4, 2017
>Date of Birth: June 29, 1992
Thug Rose is a former two-time UFC champion who started training taekwondo at age 5, before practicing Bjj and karate at age 9. In high school she started kickboxing and MMA, eventually making her professional MMA debut in 2013 aged 21.
After showing promise while fighting for Invicta, Rose was signed to the UFC to fight in The Ultimate Fighter season 20 – the show which would crown the first UFC female strawweight champion in 2014.
Rose battled to the final but lost against Carla Esparza. If she won, she would’ve been the youngest UFC champion of all time, aged 22.
However, Rose kept fighting and got her chance 3 years later to fight for the strawweight title in 2017 against the dominant champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Rose shocked the world after beating Joanna in the first round via TKO, to become the UFC strawweight champion aged 25.
11. Cody ‘No Love’ Garbrandt (25 Years, 5 Months)
>Age: 25 Years, 5 Months (9,308 days)
>Title Win: Bantamweight champion at UFC 207 on December 30, 2016
>Date of Birth: July 7, 1991
Cody Garbrandt started boxing at the age of 5 and started wrestling in high school. After falling out of love with wrestling, Cody took up boxing again and compiled a 32-1 amateur boxing record.
He then turned his attention to MMA, competing as an amateur in 2009 and turning professional in 2012 aged 21. After fighting for various promotions he became a UFC fighter in 2015 and went on an absolute tear, knocking out 4 opponents and winning the fifth by unanimous decision.
This earned him a fight for the bantamweight belt against Dominick Cruz at UFC 207 in 2016. In over 8 years no one came to close to beating Dominick Cruz in a fight, but with multiple knockdowns and a great performance, Cody was the new bantamweight champion via unanimous decision.
12. Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway (25 Years, 6 Months)
>Age: 25 Years, 6 Months (9,313 days)
>Title Win: Featherweight champion at UFC 212 on June 3, 2017
>Date of Birth: December 4, 1991
Max started training kickboxing aged 15, before beginning his professional MMA career at 19 years old. In just three fights, he became the X1 lightweight champion.
He then became the youngest fighter on the UFC roster when he faced and lost his first fight against Dustin Poirier, aged 20.
With a few more wins and losses, Max kicked on to deliver a 10-fight win streak which earned him a title fight against Jose Aldo at UFC 212.
Max knocked out Aldo in the third round to become the undisputed featherweight champion. Holloway would be higher on this list if interim titles were included, as he won the interim featherweight title at UFC 206 on December 10, 2016, 7 months prior.
13. Georges ‘Rush’ St-Pierre (25 Years, 6 Months)
>Age: 25 Years, 6 Months (9,314 days)
>Title Win: Welterweight champion at UFC 65 on November 18, 2006
>Date of Birth: May 19, 1981
Georges St-Pierre, or GSP, started learning karate at the age of 7 and acquired a black belt by 12 years old. At 16 he started wrestling, boxing, and Bjj to round out his game, before turning professional in MMA aged 20.
GSP joined the first MMA promotion in Canada, UCC, winning his first 4 fights and then winning his first fight in TKO MMA. Now 5-0, GSP signed to the UFC in 2004, racking a 6-1 record with his only loss against Matt Hughes.
GSP got a chance for revenge against Matt Hughes at UFC 65 and knocked him out in round 1 with a head kick and follow-up punches, becoming the undisputed welterweight champion and going on to become one of the all-time great UFC fighters.
The Bottom Line
As explained in the introduction, a lot of the fighters on this list became one of the youngest UFC champions of all time before 2007.
Take nothing away from their achievement, but it was definitely easier to become a UFC champion during the years MMA was developing.
Nowadays, it’s a lot harder to get a title fight and when a young fighter does, the current champions are hugely experienced and are the best in the world because of this.
Overall, it’s a much harder task, making this list unlikely to change much for many years to come.