In this study, I’ll take a look at the most active champions in UFC history. I’ve compiled a list of every fighter to have ever held a UFC belt, how many days they held that title for, and how often they fought during their reign as champion.
Only undisputed UFC titles were considered in this study (no interim, tournament or superfight champions), with a blue shaded cell representing a current (reigning) UFC champion. For simplicity, the ‘Total Days as Champion’ figure for all reigning champions was rounded up to the 1st of May 2017.
Firstly, let’s take a look at our top ten (the full table can be found here). These are the UFC champions who put their belts on the line more frequently than anyone else:
Renan Barão is, statistically, the most active champion in UFC history. Barão only registers 2 attempted title defenses here, as his wins over Michael McDonald and Eddie Wineland were defenses of the interim title. If those fights were counted, Barão’s record would alter to 4 defenses attempted in 672 days (1 every 168 days).
Tyron Woodley is the only reigning UFC champion in the top ten, having defended his welterweight title once every 137 days since defeating Robbie Lawler in July 2016.
Now we’ll have a look at the opposite end of the spectrum. Here’s our bottom ten:
*The exact number of days Bas Rutten held his title for (between May 1999 and June 1999) is unknown. 30 days was the approximation.
Of champions who attempted at least one defense of their title, Sean Sherk was the least active in UFC history, fighting just once in a 420 day reign before being stripped following a failed drugs test.
We have 6 members of The Zero Club. These are UFC champions who, for whatever reason, never attempted a title defense. Bas Rutten vacated his title before ever putting it on the line, Josh Barnett had his belt stripped due to a failed drugs test, whilst Frank Mir was forced to vacate his title after long-term absence following a motorcycle accident.
We’ll cut Germaine de Randamie, Cody Garbrandt and Conor McGregor a little more slack, as they are simply reigning champions who have not put their titles on the line yet.
‘Well that’s all well and good’, I hear you say, ‘but some of these fighters in the top and bottom ten only held their titles for a matter of months.’
That’s true, so here’s how the full table looks if we only consider fighters who fought 3 times or more as a champion:
*The exact number of days Randy Couture held his first title for (between December 1997 and January 1998) is unknown. 30 days was the approximation.
In our table of more experienced champions, Tim Sylvia comes out on top, defending his title on average once every 138 days. Champions crowned before 2006 make up just 36% of all UFC champions, yet compile 60% of this table’s top ten.
Benson Henderson leads the way in terms of modern UFC champions, whilst Conor McGregor languishes in bottom spot, having not attempted to defend either his featherweight or lightweight titles in 518 accumulative days as champion.
That said, if we ranked this table simply by Days per Fight (and not Days per Title Defense Attempted), McGregor would actually find himself in the top ten.
Let’s take a look at how the rest of our current crop of champions fare:
Tyron Woodley, Demetrious Johnson and Joanna Jędrzejczyk are our most active current champions, whereas Daniel Cormier, Stipe Miocic and Michael Bisping have all seen relatively slow starts to their respective title reigns, though of course they’ll have the opportunity to improve these stats over the coming months.
Finally, we’ll take a look at the averages:
So there it is, on average, the 64 UFC champions in history defended their belts once every 206 days (around 1.77 times per year). An average title reign spans 584.7 days and 2.8 attempted defenses.
In an era where absent or somewhat selective champions have created divisional instability and necessitated the introduction of multiple interim titles, the busy schedules of some of the most active champions in UFC history should be greatly appreciated.