If there is one question that seems to stand above all others, particularly in the combat sports (and specifically in the UFC, where all combat sports merge under the brightest spotlight), it is simply this: What makes a great champion?
Perhaps a better question would be to ask what makes a champion great, but once again, it usually depends on whom you ask and when. After all, not long ago you could ask that question, and many would cite Junior dos Santos as an example of a great champion. But now that he has been dethroned, it seems his conqueror, Cain Velasquez, is wearing all that luster.
Of course, one criterion might be found in the rule that says a champion isn’t really a champion until he defends his title, and that seems to be accepted—at least by the fighters themselves—as conventional wisdom.
And who am I to argue with the men and women that make it all possible?
When compiling this list, I was forced to weigh different titles in opposition and decide which ones carried more weight: Is a champion with two tournament victories and a heavyweight title (but no defenses) worth more than a champion with no tournament victories but two title defenses?
These are the kinds of questions that hound any such list, and the UFC has seen several kinds of titles as they have evolved, not to mention the renaming and restructuring of weight divisions, etc.
Still, there must be a way to quantify who is the greatest champion in the history of the UFC and who comes in second and so on.
In keeping with that ambition, I present this list that humbly attempts to rank every fighter to ever wear UFC gold, based upon his as champion. The more titles a champion has had, the higher his ranking, and the same goes with title defenses, and, of course, the manner in which he dispatched of his opposition is also considered.
In the case of UFC gold (or any gold, for that matter), less is not always more, and more fights in one night is not always a greater accomplishment than single fights over the course of a champion's career.