The UFC Lightweight Title: A Lineal History Infographic

By Ben Duffy Oct 17, 2018
At UFC 229, Khabib Nurmagomedov tapped out a valiant, but outmatched Conor McGregor in the fourth round to retain his Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight title. Most of the conversation in the aftermath of UFC 229 focused on the ugly post-fight brawl and its potential consequences for the undefeated Dagestani champ and his team. However, once the dust settles and rulings are handed down, the fact will remain that “The Eagle” has placed himself in rare company. As the 10th man to wear the undisputed belt and only the eighth to defend it successfully, Nurmagomedov rules what is by acclamation the deepest, most competitive division in the sport.

It wasn’t always that way, of course. The division was once so unloved that, thanks to a combination of lukewarm fan interest, a thin roster and a fluke fight outcome, the 155-pound championship lay vacant from March 2002, when champion Jens Pulver bolted over a contract dispute, until October 2006, when Sean Sherk defeated Kenny Florian to capture the title and rekindle the division. Unthinkable as it seems now, many fans during that four-and-a-half-year interregnum spoke about lightweight in the way some today talk about flyweight (men’s or women’s; take your pick), questioning whether the “little guys” would ever be a deep enough division to consistently develop title contenders -- let alone sell pay-per-views -- and wondering whether the UFC might not be better off shuttering the weight class entirely.

Thankfully, the UFC never did give up on lightweight, and by the time of B.J. Penn’s long-awaited title reign in 2008, the division was well on its way to becoming the shark tank it is today. While most of the lightweight stars from Pride Fighting Championships chose to stay in Asia after the promotion was acquired by Zuffa in 2007, the UFC’s absorption of World Extreme Cagefighting in 2010 and Strikeforce in 2013 bolstered an already-loaded 155-pound division even further.

Here, then, is the history of the UFC lightweight title. It tells a story of triumph over adversity and of turning away determined challengers: not only for the individual men who have held the belt but for the division itself.

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Sherdog.com Khabib Numagomedov Conor McGregor Eddie Alvarez Rafael dos Anjos Anthony Pettis Benson Henderson Frankie Edgar B.J. Penn Sean Sherk Jens Pulver Sherdog.com UFC 229 UFC 223 UFC 205 UFC Fight Night 90 UFC on Fox 17 UFC 185 UFC 181 UFC 164 UFC on Fox 7 UFC on Fox 5 UFC 150 UFC 144 UFC 136 UFC 125 UFC 118 UFC 112 UFC 107 UFC 101 UFC 84 UFC 80 UFC 73 UFC 64 UFC 41 UFC 35 UFC 33 UFC 30

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