The UFC's heavyweight title is the oldest title in the promotion's history. Anyone watching UFC on FOX 1 knows who the champion is. Junior dos Santos is the UFC heavyweight champion and the baddest man on the planet. He will retain that distinction until somebody beats him.
But strangely enough, there actually is another rightful claimant for those same bragging rights. How is this possible, you ask?
Well, let's consider this for a moment. What if you lose your title to MMA politics? If you are the baddest man on the planet until somebody beats you, somebody has to beat you to take that away from you. Does it really matter if the UFC strips you of the title? You're still the baddest man on the planet until somebody actually beats you.
This leads us to the linear UFC heavyweight title.
In 1997, Randy Couture beat reigning champion Maurice Smith to become the new UFC heavyweight champion. But Couture never defended his title inside the UFC. After a contract dispute with the UFC, Randy Couture signed with Vale Tudo Japan and was promptly stripped of his title by the UFC.
But he didn't actually lose to another fighter. So while the actual title belt stayed with the UFC, the linear UFC heavyweight title and bragging rights for "Baddest Man on the Planet" walked out of the octagon with Randy Couture in 1997.
In his very first fight in Vale Tudo Japan, Couture lost the linear title to Enson Inoue who submitted Couture with an armbar. It took just 99 seconds.
Who will be champion after the linear and official UFC titles are reunited?
Fujita would then lose the linear title on that same evening, losing by TKO (corner stoppage) to Mark Coleman. Coleman probably never realized that he had just unofficially regained the UFC title he had lost three years earlier.
On November 3, 2001, Nogueira would merge the linear UFC title with the Pride FC title when he earned the first ever Pride FC heavyweight champion title.
The bigger of the Nogueira twins just kept on winning fight after fight after that. It would be another two years after capturing the linear title that somebody finally beat him.
That loss came at the hands of Fedor Emelianenko at Pride 25. Big Nog lost both the linear UFC heavyweight title and the Pride FC heavyweight title to Emelianenko. Fedor put on a dominant performance, beating Big Nog by unanimous decision.
Fedor Emelianenko would go on to successfully defend the linear UFC heavyweight title 18 times and for seven years. This is the longest streak of successful defenses of any title in MMA history—an impressive feat even for an unofficial title.
Nobody stays unbeaten forever. Not even Fedor. The end of the Last Emperor's reign came on June 11, 2010, at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum. When he tapped out that night, Fedor Emelianenko handed over both the Linear UFC Heavyweight Title and the Linear Pride FC Heavyweight Title to Fabricio Werdum.
Finally, after an astounding thirteen year absence from the UFC, the Linear UFC Heavyweight Title is finally coming back to the UFC!
Whoever wins that fight will go on to face Junior dos Santos for the UFC heavyweight title.
Soon the UFC Heavyweight Championship of the World will be reunited with the linear UFC heavyweight title and "The Baddest Man on the Planet" bragging rights that go with it. The only question is, who will that man be?