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UFC Fighters with the Most Championship Appearances

Sean SmithAnalyst IJanuary 9, 2017

UFC Fighters with the Most Championship Appearances

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    Anderson Silva is undeniably the most decorated fighter in UFC history, but would you believe he currently hasn't even competed in the second-most championship bouts in the organization's existence? In fact, the middleweight champion is not even alone in third place in that category.

    It is the goal of every UFC fighter to earn a shot at that gold-plated belt. As hard as it is to reach that goal, it's even harder to win the title and hold onto it for as long as Silva has.

    The following list will take a look at the 10 fighters who have competed in the most UFC title fights. How close are the likes of Silva and Georges St-Pierre to topping this list? Are there any other active UFC fighters making a push toward the record? Let's find out.

9T. Pat Miletich

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    Championship Appearances: 6


    Pat Miletich received a spot in the UFC's first ever welterweight (then-lightweight) title fight shortly after winning the UFC 16 lightweight tournament. In his championship bout against Mikey Burnett, Miletich walked away with a controversial decision victory that put him on a path toward becoming one of the greatest champions in UFC history.

    After his win over Burnett, Miletich earned four straight title defenses in bouts against Jorge Patino, Andre Pederneiras, John Alessio and Kenichi Yamamoto before losing his title in a submission loss to Carlos Newton.

9T. Frankie Edgar

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    Championship Appearances: 6


    Despite winning only half of his past six fights, Frankie Edgar is set to compete in a seventh consecutive championship bout. After beating lightweight legend B.J. Penn in back-to-back title fights, Edgar defended his belt on two occasions against Gray Maynard before coming up short in a pair of championship bouts opposite Benson Henderson.

    Now, due to an injury to previous top contender Erik Koch and the controversial nature of his most recent loss to Henderson, Edgar is preparing for a featherweight title shot against Jose Aldo. If that matchup comes to pass, Edgar will already tie himself with the next legend on this list.

8. Chuck Liddell

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    Championship Appearances: 7


    After winning 12 of his first 13 fights, Chuck Liddell was given an opportunity to compete against Randy Couture for the interim light heavyweight championship. Liddell would come up short against Couture, but that did not mark his final chance to earn UFC gold.

    Following an appearance in the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix, Liddell returned to the UFC and score two straight knockouts to earn a second crack at Couture. 

    "The Iceman" knocked Couture out in the first round to begin one of the greatest title reigns in light heavyweight history. Liddell defended his title against Jeremy Horn, Couture, Renato Sobral and Ortiz by knocking each opponent out before finally losing his title to Quinton Jackson.

7. Tim Sylvia

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    Championship Appearances: 8


    Tim Sylvia is on the receiving end of a lot of criticism these days, but his spot on this list among some of the best the sport has ever seen shows that "The Maine-iac" is worthy of respect.

    Sylvia earned his first shot at a UFC belt by going undefeated in his first 14 fights. Making the most of his opportunity, Sylvia stopped Ricco Rodriguez in the first round. Sylvia defended his belt against Gan McGee before having his arm broken by a Frank Mir armbar.

    Due to Mir's noted motorcycle accident, Sylvia shortly found himself competing in an interim title fight against Andrei Arlovski. Sylvia lost that fight, but that bout began one of the more memorable heavyweight rivalries in MMA history.

    After winning his next three fights, Sylvia was offered a rematch with Arlovski. This time, Sylvia was able to reclaim the UFC championship, which he defended in a rubber match with Arlovski and in a fight with Jeff Monson before suffering an upset loss to an aging Randy Couture.

6. Tito Ortiz

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    Championship Appearances: 9


    A career-long UFC fighter, Tito Ortiz's first title shot with the organization came in September 1999 against Frank Shamrock. Ortiz lost that fight, but he immediately returned to title contention when Shamrock decided to temporarily retire from the sport.

    As a result, Ortiz took on Wanderlei Silva for the vacant light heavyweight (then-middleweight) championship and won via decision. Silva left the UFC and proceeded to dominate in Pride, while Ortiz held on his title for awhile and became the longest-reigning light heavyweight champion in UFC history.

    To this day, Ortiz's run of title defenses against Yuki Kondo, Evan Tanner, Elvis Sinosic, Vladimir Matyushenko and Ken Shamrock stands as the longest streak of its kind that the UFC's 205-pound division has seen.

    However, Ortiz would eventually lose his belt to Randy Couture in September 2003. "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" earned a final shot at the title three years later against Chuck Liddell, but a third-round knockout put Ortiz's championship hopes to a permanent end.

3T. B.J. Penn

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    Championship Appearances: 11


    B.J. Penn's title fight experience began more than a decade ago with a lightweight title fight against Jens Pulver. Though Penn lost that fight in a close decision, it wouldn't take "The Prodigy" long to return to UFC championship contention.

    About one year later, Penn fought to a draw with Caol Uno in a bout for the title that Pulver eventually vacated due to a contract dispute. Nearly five years would pass until Penn next competed for the lightweight belt, but he made some noise at welterweight in the meantime.

    At UFC 46, Penn ended Matt Hughes' first reign as welterweight champion with a first-round submission. Though that could have been the start of big things for Penn, the Hawaiian decided to leave the UFC for a short time and was never again able to recapture the 170-pound title.

    When he returned to the Octagon, Penn lost a close fight against Georges St-Pierre. However, the Canadian later suffered an injury that allowed Penn to step in as a replacement in a title fight against Hughes. This time, Penn lost to Hughes, which would later set up a rubber match in a non-title fight.

    After his loss to Hughes, Penn returned to the 155-pound division and won the title with a victory over Joe Stevenson. Then, Penn defended his title against Sean Sherk to set up a superfight with St-Pierre in which the welterweight title was on the line.

    Following his second loss to St-Pierre, Penn picked up two more lightweight title defenses against Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez before losing back-to-back title fights against Frankie Edgar.  

3T. Anderson Silva

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    Championship Appearances: 11


    Anderson Silva's championship history can be summed up much more quickly than it can for Penn and other fighters with double-digit title fight appearances. The middleweight champion simply won his belt and has held onto it for a long, long time.

    Silva won his title with an October 2006 knockout of Rich Franklin before rattling off 10 straight title defenses against Nate Marquardt, Franklin, Dan Henderson, Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, Yushin Okami and Sonnen again. 

    During that time, Silva won three fights at light heavyweight and defeated Travis Lutter in a bout that would have added another title defense to his record had Lutter made weight prior to the fight.

3T. Georges St-Pierre

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    Championship Appearances: 11


    Undefeated in his first seven MMA fights, Georges St-Pierre was thrown into a welterweight title fight with a legend in Matt Hughes. St-Pierre was submitted in the first round of that fight, but the loss gave him the experience he would need to eventually dethrone Hughes two years later.

    After beating Hughes, St-Pierre suffered another setback in an epic upset loss to Matt Serra. Since then, though, St-Pierre has not come close to losing any of his fights.

    With Serra temporarily out of commission, St-Pierre won a rubber match with Hughes for the interim title before avenging his loss against Serra to become undisputed champion once again. 

    After that, St-Pierre picked up consecutive title defenses against Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn, Thiago Alves, Dan Hardy, Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields. In November, with his title fight against interim champion Carlos Condit, St-Pierre will move into a tie for second place with the following fighter on this list.

2. Matt Hughes

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    Championship Appearances: 12


    It appears Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva are on their way toward surpassing Matt Hughes on this list. Still, Hughes will forever be remembered as one of the best fighters in MMA history.

    Hughes' first championship bout in the UFC came 33 fights into his MMA career. In that title shot, Hughes found himself caught in a triangle choke, but he was able to slam Carlos Newton to the canvas for a knockout win.

    Following that win, Hughes defended his belt against Hayato Sakurai and validated his first win over Newton with a more decisive victory in a rematch. Then, Gil Castillo, Sean Sherk and Frank Trigg all fell victim to Hughes before the welterweight champion lost his title to B.J. Penn.

    After Penn left the UFC due to contract dispute, Hughes regained his belt with a submission win over Georges St-Pierre. Hughes defended his belt against Trigg and Penn during his second reign as champion before finally passing the torch to St-Pierre, but Hughes should have added one more title fight to his resume were it not for Joe Riggs failing to make weight prior to UFC 56.

    Hughes met St-Pierre in a rubber match for an interim title later in his career, but St-Pierre once again defeated Hughes and ended the legend's days as a contender.

1. Randy Couture

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    Championship Appearances: 15


    In the fourth fight of his career, Randy Couture won the UFC heavyweight title by defeating Maurice Smith via decision. However, Couture briefly left the UFC after that win and was stripped of his belt as a result.

    When he returned to the Octagon, Couture was granted an immediate title shot against Kevin Randleman, who "The Natural" finished in the third round to reclaim his belt. Couture defended his title on two occasions against Pedro Rizzo before losing against Josh Barnett. 

    Because Barnett was instantaneously released from the UFC after failing a drug test for his fight with Couture, "The Natural" was given a chance to reclaim his belt against Ricco Rodriguez. Couture lost to Rodriguez, though, and moved to the light heavyweight division.

    With Tito Ortiz unwilling to fight Chuck Liddell at the time, Couture was inserted into an interim title fight with Liddell and he made the most of it by stopping "The Iceman" in the third round. Couture defended his belt against Ortiz before losing it temporarily due to an unfortunate cut in the opening minute of a bout with Vitor Belfort.

    In an immediate rematch, Couture regained his belt from Belfort, but he would then lose it again in another rematch against Liddell. After picking up one win, Couture was given a rubber match with Liddell, but he was defeated once again.

    Though he retired from the sport for one year following his second loss to Liddell, Couture was given a heavyweight title shot upon his return to the Octagon. Despite being a significant underdog, Couture defeated Tim Sylvia and picked up one last title defense against Gabriel Gonzaga before running into Brock Lesnar.

    For now, Couture's record is safe, but St-Pierre and Silva are quickly approaching and are certainly capable of surpassing the legend should they continue competing in the years to come.

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