It’s often said that winning the title is one thing, but keeping it is another.
You go from working your way up the rankings (perhaps in advantageous match-ups as the UFC looks to build you up), to having to routinely defend against your division’s number one contender, whatever their style.
Successfully defending that belt over an extended period of time is, in my opinion, the toughest feat to accomplish in the sport of MMA.
I’ve made twelve timelines that display successful UFC title defenses made in each division. The vertical gray lines denote the crowning of a new champion, whilst the colored markers let you know when a successful defense was made.
In January, Stipe Miocic became the first fighter in over 20 years (and 19 title reigns) to successfully defend the UFC heavyweight title three times consecutively.
The light-heavyweight title has been successfully defended more times (26) than any other belt in UFC history.
Anderson Silva managed 10 successful title defenses between 2007 and 2013- a record that stood until last October when it was surpassed by Demetrious Johnson.
In almost 20 years (and 11 different champions), we’ve still yet to see a non-North American fighter hold the UFC welterweight championship.
We’ve not seen a successful defense of the UFC lightweight title since December 2015, when Rafael dos Anjos defeated Donald Cerrone.
When current featherweight champion Max Holloway faces Brian Ortega at UFC 226 this July, it will mark the first undisputed featherweight title fight in UFC history that José Aldo has not participated in.
Renan Barão made two successful defenses of the interim UFC bantamweight championship, though interim titles aren’t included in these timelines.
Barão and Andrei Arlovski are the only fighters in UFC history who successfully defended an interim title. Barão is the only fighter in UFC history to successfully defend an interim title twice.
The only flyweight champion in UFC history, Demetrious Johnson, now holds the all-time record for the most successful defenses (11) of a UFC title.
Thus far, four out of the five women (everyone except Cris Cyborg) who have vied for the UFC women’s featherweight title have been stepping up from bantamweight to do so.
The all-time women’s UFC record for the most successful title defenses is still held by Ronda Rousey (6). Only Demetrious Johnson, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones and José Aldo have recorded more successful defenses in a single title reign.
This title was only introduced in December 2017, with inaugural champion Nicco Montaño yet to attempt a defense of her title.
Excluding champions who either vacated or were stripped of their belts, former women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza holds the unwanted record for the shortest title reign in UFC history at 92 days.
Here’s a timeline that displays successful UFC title defenses in every division. Admittedly, this one’s a little clustered, though it is an aesthetically pleasing way of seeing how some of the most successful title reigns in UFC history stand out.