The UFC Welterweight Title: A Visual History

By Ben Duffy Nov 9, 2021
It is a matter of opinion whether Kamaru Usman is the greatest welterweight of all time, as his boss suggested on Saturday, but he is certainly heading in that direction.

“The Nigerian Nightmare” faced his nemesis, Colby Covington, in the main event of UFC 268. The second meeting between the two men was even more closely contested than the first, which took place almost two years ago at UFC 245. After five back-and-forth rounds, Usman was declared the winner by unanimous decision, completing his fifth defense of the welterweight belt. That moves the 34-year-old champ out of a three-way tie with Tyron Woodley and Pat Miletich and into third place all-time for welterweight title defenses, trailing only Georges St. Pierre (9) and Matt Hughes (7).

If the 170-pound division isn’t the best weight class in UFC history, 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, Carlos Condit 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 Miletich, who held the newly-minted strap for almost three years. 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.

Here is the 23-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