The UFC has been the premiere mixed martial art's promotion for more than a decade.
Many elite level fighters have graced the famed Octagon. Legends include Royce Gracie, Marco Ruas and Don Frye, just to name a few.
With the explosion of MMA worldwide, there is never a shortage of top-tier talent.
Some of this talent fades for a number of fighters overshadowing their one-time tremendous success inside the cage. Examples of this harsh reality include Matt Serra and Mark Kerr.
At times, however, a champion rises above the rest that defends his belt with the skill and level of excellence unrivaled by his piers.
These champions are among an unequaled iconic status.
The following is a compilation of the 10 greatest champions in UFC history.
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Is he arrogant? Yes
Is he brash? Yes
Does he need some professional assistance in his ringside announcing of this sacred sport? Yes
With that said, Frank Shamrock was a tremendous champion in the early years of the UFC.
Defeating Kevin Jackson at UFC 14 to become the first middleweight champion (later renamed the UFC light heavyweight championship), Shamrock's list of accolades inside the Octagon are incredible.
- Retired as the four time undefeated champion
- No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world during his title reign
- Named "Fighter of the Decade" for the 1990's by the Wrestling Observer
- Three-time "Fighter of the Year" award winner by Full Contact Fighter
Relinquishing his title at the pinnacle of his career, Shamrock pursued announcement duties briefly with the UFC. Falling out of favor with Dana White, Frank found himself back inside the cage competing for the Strikeforce and Elite XC promotions.
After receiving a machine-gun like beating from the kicks of Cung Le, Shamrock is once again behind the microphone for Strikeforce.
Inside the Octagon, Frank Shamrock was one of the 10 best champions of all time. Outside the cage, well that debate is for another story.
"El Guapo" Bas Rutten is considered one of the first prolific kick-boxers to transition flawlessly into mixed martial arts.
This Dutch sensation was the UFC heavyweight champion, a three-time King of Pancrase champion and ended his career on an unbeaten 22-fight streak.
Popularizing the dreaded liver shot, Bas Rutten was an evolutionary in MMA. He possessed the ability to land devastating strikes with both legs and both hands as well as earn victories via submission.
Beyond fighting, "El Guapo" is known for his charisma and on-air personality. Rutten was the co-announcer of Pride Fighting Championships for many years and performs the same role for HDNet currently.
A devastating force inside the Octagon and an ambassador outside of the cage, Bas Rutten has rightfully earned the No. 9 greatest champion in UFC history.
Rich "Ace" Franklin arrived into the UFC by unloading a barrage of punches on Hall of Fame fighter, Ken Shamrock.
Earning a TKO victory over Shamrock in the 2:42 mark of the first round, Franklin's entrance into the Octagon was a foreshadowing of his future career.
With an overall MMA record of 28-6 with 15 knockouts, his strategy as a competitor did not change—he fought to win by knockout.
Franklin's reign as champion lasted only three fights, until he was dethroned by the Brazilian striking sensation, Anderson "The Spider" Silva.
Never to regain the middleweight championship again, Rich's title reign elevated the middleweight division before Silva catapulted the 185 pound class into the stratosphere.
Even with a short run as the UFC middleweight champion, Rich Franklin deserves his due credit as one of the top 10 UFC champions in history.
Quite possibly more well known for his trash talking skills or the fact that he is married to adult film star, Jenna Jameson, Tito Ortiz was once a prolific champion in the UFC.
While with the UFC, Ortiz was the light heavyweight champion from 2000-2003.
A huge pay-per-view draw, "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" placed fans in the seats and sold out venues nationwide.
Parlaying his fame and status, Tito is also a savvy businessman, creating the Punishment Athletics clothing line, which is hugely famous.
Winning the UFC light heavyweight championship belt in 2000 by defeating Wanderlei Silva, Ortiz went on to defend his title on five separate occasions eventually being defeated by Randy Couture in 2003.
One of the most polarizing figures in all of mixed martial arts, "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" was at the top of the UFC light heavyweight division for over three years.
That is an amazing accomplishment and one that deserves recognition on this list.
Like Rich Franklin, whose title reign was cut short by the immortal Anderson Silva, you most may not remember that Matt Hughes was one of the greatest UFC welterweight champions prior to Georges St-Pierre.
Matt Hughes' list of accomplishments as an ultimate fighter cannot be rivaled by many.
- Two-time UFC welterweight champion
- Five-time Submission of the Night award winner
- Two-time Fight of the Night award winner
- UFC Hall of Fame inductee
- Most wins inside the famed Octagon with 18
- Two separate six-fight win streaks within the UFC
- Seven successful title defenses
A worthy champion during his day, Matt Hughes is rightfully the No. 6 greatest champion in UFC history.
One of two fighters to win championship titles in two separate weight classes, "The Prodigy" B.J. Penn has been a part of the title talk since he sprinted into the Octagon back in 2001 versus Joey Gilbert.
This legendary Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion has evolved into a complete mixed martial artist.
Possessing tremendous boxing skills, very good take-down defense and a legendary ground game, B.J. Penn is the quintessential total package inside the cage.
A one time lightweight champion and a one time welterweight champion, "The Prodigy" remains in the discussion of the welterweight title hunt.
Fighting to a majority draw versus Jon Fitch at UFC 127, Penn is attempting to rekindle the championship pedigree that he once graced as he continues to climb up the welterweight title ladder.
"The Iceman" Chuck Liddell needs no introduction.
Winning the UFC light heavyweight championship belt at UFC 52 with a knockout victory over fellow Hall of Fame fighter, Randy Couture, "The Iceman" adorned this coveted title for almost two straight years.
In the Octagon, Liddell's style is legendary. More of a counter-striker with a variety of lethal punches and kicks, his non-traditional fighting technique was never duplicated.
Throwing looping hooks off his back foot or a straight right leaning in the opposite direction, Chuck's kick-boxing techniques were flawed, yet of championship quality.
A fighting champion, the UFC and its fans reveled in his legendary match-ups with both Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture.
Credited alongside Randy Couture for bringing The Ultimate Fighting Championship mainstream and into America's homes, Chuck Liddell's ride as the UFC light heavyweight champion not only drew new fans to the sport, but created the relevancy that MMA now is rewarded.
A three-time former heavyweight and two-time former light heavyweight champion, Randy "The Natural" Couture is a living legend.
The first fighter to hold two championship belts in two different divisions, Randy competed in a record 15 title fights.
A Hall of Fame fighter, many consider Randy Couture to be the greatest to ever step foot inside the Octagon.
Earning his first UFC heavyweight championship belt in 2000, Randy would then go on to earn titles in 2003, 2004 and 2007.
An accomplished Greco-Roman Olympic wrestler, "The Natural" developed his weaknesses and enhanced his strengths to become a formidable competitor for the UFC for over a decade.
In addition to his amazing accolades, he, alongside Chuck Liddell, is credited for the rise of popularity in the UFC over the past 10 years.
A deserving champion who has accomplished as much outside of the Octagon as in, Randy "The Natural" Couture is the No. 3 greatest UFC champion of all time.
The No. 1 welterweight and the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet by Sherdog.com, Georges St-Pierre continues to perform as a fighting champion.
Truly a marvel athletically, GSP is known for his incredible conditioning, strength, flexibility and adaptability inside the Octagon.
Constantly improving his fight game, Georges has evolved into a tremendous boxer, wrestler and jiu-jitsu practitioner in addition to his foundational kick-boxing skills.
A two-time UFC welterweight champion, St-Pierre has defended his title on five separate occasions.
Outside of the cage, GSP has become the face of mixed martial arts for a variety of Fortune 500 companies including Gatorade and Under Armour.
Truly a champion, Georges St-Pierre will be tested once again by Jake Shields on April 30th in Toronto, Canada.
It is tough to debate that Anderson "The Spider" Silva is not the greatest UFC champion of all time.
The UFC's longest reigning champion, Anderson has earned 13 consecutive wins inside the Octagon.
And his victories, more than not, have come in exciting fashion.
Whether he re-arranged Rich Franklin's nose to originally earn the middleweight championship belt.
Or locking in a heroic triangle choke after enduring four-plus rounds of a savage beating at the hands of Chael Sonnen, Silva continues to reign supreme inside this very challenging middleweight division.
With an overall MMA record of 28-4, "The Spider's" most recent knockout victory of fellow Brazilian, Vitor Belfort, earned him the record for the most number of title defenses with eight.
An extremely dynamic Muay-Thai kick-boxing specialist, Silva's championship run does not look like it will end very soon.
Anderson "The Spider" Silva has earned my No. 1 ranking as the greatest UFC champion of all time.