A champion in any sport has a huge target on their back, but when you fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the biggest and baddest men on the planet are gunning for you at all times; title shot or not. In the fifteen year, 97 event history of the UFC only 11 fighters have defended their title more than once. This list of elite fighters have justly earned their place in UFC history, as many critics and followers of the sport believe that one is not truly a champion until he has successfully defended his belt. Those that have done it more than once are unquestionably the cream of the crop. So who is the Greatest of All Time?
The following is the list of UFC fighters with multiple successful title defenses. You decide who the best of the best is. If the main criteria is the number of consecutive successful defenses; Anderson Silva is incontestably the king. If total number of defenses is your measuring stick, Matt Hughes would get the nod. And if the caliber of the champ’s competition is also a consideration; I think most will argue for Silva.
1. Matt Hughes (WW) – Title Defenses: 7
Matt Hughes was and is a UFC legend. He defended his title a total of seven times during two separate stints as the UFC Welterweight champion. During his first term as champ, he defended five consecutive times against the likes of Gil Castillo and Frank Trigg (lol). I’m having fun here, but on a serious note, Matt Hughes has beaten a load of quality fighters over his illustrious career, however, looking at his list of challengers it surely doesn’t compare to Anderson Silva’s.
2. Anderson Silva (MW) – Title Defenses: 6
After his last defense he is now the sole record holder for consecutive title defenses in the UFC. Despite all the unmerited criticism he garnered from UFC 97, he is still the UFC Middleweight champ and pound-for-pound king. The next time someone has the balls to get in the cage with him and try to IMPOSE their will on him, I bet he will continue to dominate. (read Anderson is the CHAMP!) His streak of defenses and the challengers he has beaten is nothing less than remarkable!
3. Tito Ortiz (LHW) – Title Defenses: 5
UGH!! It pains me to have to put the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” on this list, but the facts are the facts. Tito defended his Light Heavyweight title from 2000 to 2002, until Randy Couture took it away from him. This is when Randy gave the Bad Boy some well deserved corporal punishment in the form of a humiliating spanking…HA HA!!
4. Chuck Liddell (LHW) – Title Defenses: 4
The “Iceman” has one of the most impressive title defense streaks. Including his win over Randy Couture to gain the title, he won and defended the title with five consecutive TKO wins. Randy, Tito, Jeremy Horn and Renato Sobral all fell victim to the dynamite hands of Chuck during his reign as champion.
5. Pat Miletich (WW) – Title Defenses: 4
Miletich made his official UFC debut at UFC 16 and won the very first UFC Lightweight Tournament. In 2001, the UFC changed the weight class limits, creating the Welterweight. At UFC 17: Ultimate Brazil, Pat defeated Mikey Burnett and became the first UFC Welterweight champion. He went on to defend the Welterweight belt four times before losing it to Carlos Newton by submission at UFC 31.
6. Frank Shamrock (LHW) – Title Defenses: 4
“The Legend” was the Light Heavyweight champ from 1997 to 1999, until he forfeited his title due to retirement. The talent he faced was so so, but Shamrock’s wins were in impressive fashion – all by submission, TKO or KO in the first round, except for the beating he put on Tito, which ended by strikes in the fourth round.
7. Randy Couture (HW) – Title Defenses: 3
Randy “The Natural” Couture, possibly the most popular mixed martial artist of all time, has won the Heavyweight championship on four separate occasions (1 interim title), and has successfully defended it a total of three times. He also won the Light Heavyweight belt twice, but has never successfully defended it. While his win-loss record may not be as stellar as some of the UFC’s other great champions, to some he is the greatest of all time for his achievements in two weight classes at a more advanced age.
8. The following fighters have all defended their respective titles 2 times:
a. Tim Sylvia (HW) (read Tim Sylvia and the Willy Nilly Freak Show)
b. George St. Pierre (WW)
c. Rich Franklin (MW)
d. Andrei Arlovski (HW)
9. Royce Gracie (open) – Won 3 UFC Tournaments
Royce Gracie and the Gracie Jiu Jitsu family, for whom we owe much of everything to, was also a great champion. He won the UFC 1, 2, and 4 tournaments, which were night long, weight- classless events. It was not until UFC 16 that the title and belt system was implemented. Royce was also a great mixed martial artist, who many consider one of the greatest.
I think most will agree that this list of fighters is quite impressive, however, not all challengers were top contenders. Regardless of who the competition was, it is a feat in and of itself to win more than one or two fights in a row in the National Football League (NFL) of mixed martial arts, and even more so while wearing a belt.