Since the inception of ultimate fighting, the sport has adored many gifted and talented fighting champions. Beginning with Royce Gracie's three championships during the advent of the UFC which revolutionized the sport of mixed martial arts and brought Brazilian jiu-jitsu to North America.
Following Royce's term as champion, Mark Coleman introduced the effectiveness of wrestling within the Octagon as he became the UFC's first heavyweight champion at UFC 12 in 1997.
Stylistically a polar opposite to Mark Coleman, Maurice Smith claimed the heavyweight title from the Hammer with a jaw rattling head kick at UFC 14 in 1997 proving the effectiveness of kick boxing within the cage.
Over the years, champions have come and gone. Few have been able to defend their titles with longevity and continually adapt their game to take on up and coming hungry fighters.
Of all the champions within the various promotions of mixed martial arts, I believe the following have had the greatest impact on the sport during their championship reigns.
A fighter's global influence, impact within the media, business, sales and marketing as well as effectiveness in defending their championship and overall elevation of the sport of mixed martial arts were the factors I used in determining who made my list and their placement within the ranks.
There is one notable exclusion, that being Brock Lesnar. Brock earned the UFC's heavyweight championship after his destruction of Frank Mir at UFC 100 in July of 2009.
He has had significant impact within the sport elevating ticket sales and setting pay-per-view buy records (please refer to my article, "Brock Lesnar's Financial Impact on the UFC," in which I discuss in detail the profitability of Brock as champion).
Whereas Lesnar has had a global influence financially, his long term success as champion was never solidified. Therefore, he did not make my list.
The following is my list of the 10 most influential and significant champions of mixed martial arts history based on the criteria I have established.
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