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UFC Welterweight Title: Current holder, previous winners, history and lineage

One of the earliest weight categories in UFC history, the welterweight championship was initially known as the lightweight championship, though the belt was still contested at 170lbs.

First contested in October 1998, the 170lb belt was referred to as the lightweight championship until May 2001, when won by Carlos Newton.

Below, we look at the history of the championship, including former champions and the current number one contender.

Current UFC welterweight champion

Leon Edwards is the current UFC welterweight champion, having beaten Kamaru Usman at UFC 278.

How many UFC welterweight champions have there been?

Including interim champions, there have been a total of 14 UFC welterweight champions. Excluding interim champions, 12 people have been the UFC welterweight champion.

Previous UFC welterweight champions

Here is a full list of UFC welterweight champions:

  • Pat Miletich (October 1998-May 2001; four defences)
  • Carlos Newton (May 2001-November 2001)
  • Matt Hughes (November 2001-January 2004; five defences)
  • BJ Penn (January 2004-May 2004; stripped)
  • Matt Hughes (October 2004-November 2006; two defences)
  • Georges St-Pierre (November 2006-April 2007)
  • Matt Serra (April 2007-April 2008)
  • Georges St-Pierre (December 2007-April 2008; interim)
  • Georges St-Pierre (April 2008-December 2013; nine defences, vacated)
  • Carlos Condit (February 2012-November 2012; interim)
  • Johny Hendricks (March 2014-December 2014)
  • Robbie Lawler (December 2014-July 2016; two defences)
  • Tyron Woodley (July 2016-March 2019; four defences)
  • Colby Covington (June 2018-September 2018; interim, stripped)
  • Kamaru Usman (March 2019-August 2022; five defences)
  • Leon Edwards (August 2022-present; two defences)

UFC welterweight title number one contender

Although Kamaru Usman is still technically the number one-ranked welterweight, despite his last fight being a defeat to Khamzat Chimaev at middleweight, Belal Muhammad is the next in line for a shot at the welterweight title, and the American will take on Leon Edwards at UFC 303 on 27th July.

History of the UFC welterweight division

The UFC welterweight championship – initially known as the UFC lightweight championship (but contested at 170lbs) prior to 4th May 2001 – was first won by Pat Miletich In October 1998. With the UFC expanding its lower weight classes in the late 1990s, Miletich won the inaugural UFC welterweight tournament in March 1998, beating Mikey Burnett for the inaugural title (then known as the lightweight championship) in October that year.

In a time when the lighter fighters spent time in other promotions, Miletich would only defend the title four times in his next nine fights (losing three of them in other promotions). Miletich beat Jorge Patino in January 1999, Andre Pederneiras in July 1999, John Alessio in June 2000 and Kenichi Yamamoto in December 2000 before being dethroned by Carlos Newton in May 2001 via an unforgettable bulldog choke.

Then came Matt Hughes. The UFC Hall of Famer beat Newton in November 2001, clearing out the welterweight division from there with wins over Hayato Sakurai in March 2002, Newton again in July 2002, Gil Castillo in November 2002, Sean Sherk in April 2003 and Frank Trigg in November 2003 before losing to BJ Penn in January 2004.

Penn left the UFC for the K-1 promotion and was subsequently stripped of his title, with Hughes regaining his title with a win over the fast-rising Georges St-Pierre in October 2004, making two more defences against Trigg in April 2005 and Penn in September 2006, before losing the rematch with St-Pierre in November 2006.

St-Pierre lost his title in one of the UFC’s all-time biggest upsets, losing to Matt Serra via first-round TKO in April 2007 before claiming the interim title against Matt Hughes in December that year, unifying the division with a win over Serra in April 2008.

From there, GSP would go on one of the UFC’s greatest ever runs. Between August 2008 and November 2013, St-Pierre would beat Jon Fitch, Penn, Thiago Alves, Dan Hardy, Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, interim champion Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz and Johny Hendricks before taking time away from MMA.

Condit would defeat Diaz for the interim title in February 2012 after St-Pierre suffered an ACL injury, with GSP unifying the division upon his return.

GSP made a total of nine defences before taking an extended hiatus from MMA after beating Hendricks via a controversial split decision that most onlookers gave to Hendricks. It was the last time St-Pierre would be seen in the Octagon for four years, eventually returning to beat Michael Bisping for the UFC middleweight title, while the 170lb division moved into a new era.

Hendricks got a near-immediate second title shot in March 2014, and would beat Robbie Lawler to the vacant crown, losing to Robbie Lawler that December.

Lawler’s first title defence would be one of the most brutal UFC fights in history and quite possibly the best as Ruthless stepped into the Octagon with Rory MacDonald. Lawler broke MacDonald’s nose in the first round, with MacDonald breaking his own foot later. The challenger nearly stopped the champion with a head kick towards the end of the third round and was ahead on the scorecards with five minutes left in the contest, but with MacDonald’s face a disfigured wreck, Lawler managed to record a stoppage win early in the final round.

Lawler beat Condit in January 2016 before the turn of Tyron Woodley. Woodley, a wrestler by trade, clipped Lawler in the first round to win by TKO, taking the belt in July 2016. Woodley’s first defence in November 2017 ended in controversial fashion. Fighting out a close bout with Stephen Thompson, Woodley was initially announced as the winner by split decision before the result was corrected to a majority draw.

Their rematch in March 2017 was a dull affair in which Woodley won by majority decision before making two more defences against Demian Maia in July 2017, then submitting Darren Till in September 2018.

The defence against Maia saw Woodley suffer a shoulder injury that created an interim champion in Colby Covington, who beat Rafael dos Anjos in June 2018 before being stripped of the interim belt in September after suffering an injury of his own.

Kamaru Usman would beat Woodley via unanimous decision in March 2019 to mark the beginning of a new era in the welterweight division. Usman would make a total of five title defences between December 2019 and November 2021, beating rival Covington twice as well as Jorge Masvidal twice and Gilbert Burns.

Usman looked set for a sixth straight defence when comfortably beating Leon Edwards in their rematch before being on the end of one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, being knocked out in the final minute of the final round.

Edwards’ first defence was the trilogy fight with Usman in March 2020, where he won by majority decision, making his second defence against Covington in December 2023.

After much speculation surrounding his next fight, it was confirmed Edwards would be fighting Belal Muhammad at UFC 303 on 27th July.

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