All fighters dream of becoming champions at some point in their careers, but some dream even bigger in hopes of becoming the greatest fighter in the history of the sport. Those fighters strive not only to become titleholders, but to defend their titles for years and dominate all challengers.
Despite MMA's short history, several fighters have already separated themselves as their division's greatest champions. A large part of attaining that status was the ability to pile up title defenses in decisive fashion against high-level competition.
With that, let's take a look at each weight division's most dominant champion of all-time.
Honorable Mention: Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Brock Lesnar
There have been multiple heavyweights to pick up two title defenses in the UFC. However, Fedor Emelianenko is the only heavyweight champion of a major MMA organization to defend his title three times. "The Last Emperor" also picked up a number of additional victories during his reign as Pride champion, giving him the edge over UFC heavyweights Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia and Brock Lesnar.
Some may argue that Couture deserves the nod over Emelianenko on this list, but the very fact that Couture was a three-time heavyweight champion is an example of Couture's lack of dominance in comparison with Emelianenko, as he was dethroned from the top of the UFC's heavyweight division three times. To be fair, though, one of those instances was due to a contract dispute.
In March 2003, Emelianenko defeated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to become the second Pride heavyweight champion. Well over one year later, after non-title fight wins over Gary Goodridge, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman and more, Emelianenko finally defended his belt for the first time against Nogueira, who had earned an interim title with a win over Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.
After beating Nogueira for a second time, Emelianenko picked up two more title defenses against Filipovic and Mark Hunt before the Pride organization was purchsed by Zuffa and discontinued. Between those victories, Emelianenko scored another submission win over Mark Coleman in a non-title bout
Following the downfall of Pride, Emelianenko defeated Sylvia to win the WAMMA heavyweight title, which never really gained notoriety due to the exploding popularity of the UFC. However, the Russian heavyweight defended that title against Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers before going on a three-fight skid that has essentially derailed his career.
Honorable Mention: Wanderlei Silva, Tito Ortiz, Frank Shamrock
Other light heavyweight champions may have had longer reigns, but no 205-pound fighter defended his belt in more dominant fashion than Chuck Liddell. During his time as champion, including his title-clinching win over Randy Couture, Liddell finished all five opponents he faced.
Though he was the only light heavyweight in UFC or Pride history to have more consecutive title defenses than Liddell, Tito Ortiz didn't face the same level of competition and suffered a knockout loss against "The Iceman" during Liddell's reign as champion.
As champions, Wanderlei Silva and Frank Shamrock may have matched Liddell's number of consecutive title defenses, but Liddell was still a more dominant champion than either competitor.
During his reign as Pride titleholder, Silva lost three non-title bouts and fought to a draw in another. Though three of those fights came at heavyweight, suffering losses while champion certainly doesn't display dominance.
The first UFC champion in the 205-pound division, Shamrock's level of competition was far inferior to the type of challengers Liddell faced. Shamrock earned the belt with a win over Kevin Jackson and picked up two of his four title defenses against Igor Zinoviev and John Lober.
In addition to the wins already mentioned over Couture and Ortiz, Liddell's championship reign included victories against Jeremy Horn, Renato "Babalu" Sobral and an additional knockout of Couture.
Honorable Mention: None
There is no middleweight champion who has accomplished anywhere near what Anderson Silva has done during his current reign as 185-pound titleholder. Rich Franklin is easily the second most dominant middleweight champion ever, considering Dan Henderson was never given the opportunity to defend his Pride title, but he has less than a quarter the amount of title defenses that Silva has racked up and was easily defeated by "The Spider" on two occasions.
Silva is going on six years as the kingpin of the middleweight division. While he has a tough rematch in front of him against Chael Sonnen, there is no doubt Silva will be considered the most dominant middleweight fighter of all time far into the future.
After dethroning Franklin in October 2006, Silva has beaten Sonnen, Nate Marquardt, Dan Henderson, Demian Maia, Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, Vitor Belfort, Yushin Okami and picked up another win over his predecessor.
Honorable Mention: Matt Hughes
At this point, it's probably safe to say that Georges St-Pierre has surpassed Matt Hughes as the most dominant welterweight champion in MMA history. In addition to winning two of his three matchups against Hughes, St-Pierre broke the division's record for most consecutive title defenses with his victory over Jake Shields.
Hughes does have seven title defenses in total, one more than St-Pierre, but his brief break between title reigns was a sign of his lack of dominance in comparison with the Canadian champion. Since regaining the title after losing it to Matt Serra in a massive upset, St-Pierre has been an unstoppable force.
Aside from being poked in the eye by Shields, St-Pierre has hardly faced any adversity in his current championship reign. While he hasn't been able to finish many of his recent opponents, St-Pierre has been able to completely shut down the offense of his foes. While maybe not as entertaining as Anderson Silva's performances, St-Pierre's wins have been arguably even more dominant.
Honorable Mention: Frankie Edgar
It could be argued that Frankie Edgar was a greater lightweight champion than B.J. Penn. However, despite the fact that he lost twice against Edgar, Penn was certainly the more dominant 155-pound titleholder.
After earning the title with a controversial win over Penn, Edgar picked up one of his three title defenses with a draw against Gray Maynard in a fight that saw the champion get knocked down multiple times. Conversely, Penn finished every one of his opponents as champion before being dethroned by Edgar.
While it could be argued Edgar's competition was slightly tougher, Penn did face worthy challengers during his reign as lightweight champ. After winning the belt with a submission of Joe Stevenson, Penn defeated former champion Sean Sherk and perennial contenders Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez.
Honorable Mention: Urijah Faber
Between his fights in the UFC and WEC, Jose Aldo has tied former WEC champion Urijah Faber for the most consecutive featherweight title defenses in a major MMA promotion. Since taking the WEC belt from Mike Brown, Aldo has defended it against Urijah Faber, Manny Gamburyan, Mark Hominick, Kenny Florian and Chad Mendes.
While Faber did have some impressive adversaries during his run as featherweight champion, earning two of his five title defenses against the likes of Chance Farrar and Joe Pearson put "The California Kid" behind Aldo in the race for most dominant 145-pound champion in MMA history.
In July, Aldo will attempt to further separate himself from Faber, as he looks for another title defense against the fast-rising Erik Koch.
Honorable Mention: None
Some might argue that Miguel Torres deserves some type of honorable mention as the second most dominant bantamweight champion ever, but the 26-year-old Dominick Cruz takes this one in a landslide.
During his streak of four straight title defenses, the weakest opponent Cruz faced was probably Scott Jorgensen, who is a far more impressive challenger than anyone Miguel Torres met during his reign as WEC champion. Cruz has already earned the record for most consecutive title defenses, with each of his wins as champion coming against better fighters than Yoshiro Maedas, Manny Tapias and Takeya Mizugakis, who Torres defended his belt against.
In addition to his victory over Jorgensen, Cruz has defeated top bantamweight contender Urijah Faber and flyweight title contenders Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson since dethroning Brian Bowles as WEC champion.
Honorable Mention: Shinichi Kojima
With the UFC set to name its inaugural flyweight champion in the near future, the 125-pound division is about to go through some major changes. Before the UFC began its flyweight tournament, most of the world's top 125-pound fighters competed in Tachi Palace Fights and Shooto.
However, with the UFC now putting together flyweight fights, it won't be long before the majority of elite 125-pound fighters are competing inside the Octagon. One of those fighters is Shooto champion Jussier da Silva, who has defended his title twice and only lost to Ian McCall during his career.
Some might argue that McCall is more deserving of this spot or at least an honorable mention, but "Uncle Creepy" never got a chance to defend his Tachi Palace Fights title before coming to the UFC, where he will have the chance to start a new reign as champion if he can defeat Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez consecutively.
Before da Silva reigned over Shooto's flyweight division, Shinichi Kojima held the title and defended it three times. Though he had more title defenses than da Silva, Kojima suffered three losses, one against da Silva, before vacating his belt due to injury. Kojima also fought to two draws during his time as titleholder, making him a less dominant champ than da Silva.