The UFC Welterweight Championship: A Visual History

By Ben Duffy Jul 12, 2020
The “Nightmare” continues for the rest of the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight division.

It wasn’t always thrilling to behold, but Kamaru Usman spent the better part of five rounds smothering the normally dynamic Jorge Masvidal on Saturday at UFC 251, and in the end won a hard-earned unanimous decision. While Masvidal’s spirited performance may generate some interest in a rematch with full training camps for both fighters, Usman has no shortage of worthy contenders waiting in the wings, probably starting with the man whose withdrawal from UFC 251 opened the door for Masvidal to get his shot: Gilbert Burns.

For the moment, however, Usman sits in rarefied company as a UFC welterweight champion with multiple title defenses. If the 170-pound division isn’t the best weight class in the history of the promotion, it must be a close second behind lightweight. Scan the 10 names on the left-hand side of the infographic, and you see a lot of meat and not a lot of filler. There are a couple of the greatest fighters of all-time and several more who were at least among the greatest of their time. The right-hand side tells a story as well, with some incredibly skilled and accomplished fighters trying and failing to scale the throne. Not many weight classes have a second tier as historically impressive as Jon Fitch, Jake Shields and Demian Maia.

Of course, that’s owing to welterweight’s chief charm: It is a division historically ruled by dominant champions. Compared to the sad-sack early years of the UFC’s lightweight and heavyweight divisions, where nobody even seemed to want the belts, and in fact multiple sitting champions bailed for greener pastures, 170 was put in an immediate stranglehold by Pat Miletich, who defended the newly-minted strap four times. Ever since, it’s been more of the same. While welterweight has its share of parity and weirdness, and boasts two of the greatest championship upsets ever, it’s a division where a man often gets the belt and spends a couple of years turning away all comers. Miletich. Matt Hughes. Georges St. Pierre.

Here is the nearly 22-year history of the UFC welterweight title and the times it was won, lost or defended. It tells the story of a hyper-competitive, cutthroat division, one where to strap the belt on your waist was to attach one of the sport’s largest bull’s eyes to your back.

Ben Duffy/ illustration


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