UFC Championship Belts: History & Old/New Designs Explained

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Championship belts in the UFC have become one of the hottest contended belts on the planet in combat sports.

Gone are the days of the WWE belts that were all just choreographed anyway (and ruined my childhood dreams).

Now, enter the illustrious golden and sometimes bejeweled UFC Championship belts that highlight the kings and queens of fighting.

But there are plenty of white lies, “alternative facts,” and plain hocus pocus about them. In this article, I’ll make the UFC belts explained and understood in simple language.

UFC belt design history

Let’s look at all UFC belt designs over the history of the promotion including its effects on the weight class system.

Original UFC belt

When the UFC first began in 1993, there weren’t any belts!

It was originally a single tournament bracket in which Royce Gracie won for UFC 1 and was awarded a trophy.

Medals were also used to award winners of the events up to as late as 1999.

It wasn’t until UFC 5 in 1995 that the first belt was awarded to Dan Severn that had a unique “World Superfight Champion” title:

UFC Superfight championship belt 1995
MartialArtsNomad.com, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jumping forward a couple of years and the UFC scrapped the “Superfight” concept and finally adopted weight classes in 1997.

It was only two divisions at the time, Lightweight and Heavyweight, but it was a damn sight better than throwing every fighter (big and small) together to fight it out.

Trophies, medals, and belts were a bit sporadically awarded over the next few years due to financial troubles until Zuffa LLC bought the UFC in 2001.

With that new stability, the championship belts were awarded to each weight class champ.

And in time, the different weight classes continued to expand further. By UFC 14, “Lightweight” was rebranded to “Middleweight.”

And for UFC 16, “Lightweight” was re-introduced for fighters weighing under 170 lbs.

As the years have passed, more weight classes have enabled nine divisions in total (across both men and women) and a championship belt for each.

So, potentially eighteen belts at any given time — not including interim belts or other special belts like the BMF, more on that later.

It takes us to 2001 when the most famous belt version was introduced, up next.

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Looking back to the old UFC belt

The old UFC Belt for champions
Andrius PetruceniaCC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Between 2001 to 2018, the UFC used this golden-plated belt design with a black leather strap.

It was loved by most fans and likely because of how the similarities of the old UFC Championship belt match those of the audience which were a lot of WWE wrestling fans crossing over.

Max Holloway's UFC championship belt on a stool 2018
Sgt. James K. McCann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The older belt had some interesting features to it, not just in style, but also in how it would be awarded.

Before 2019, every single time a fighter won a championship fight they would be given an entirely new belt.

One fighter in particular that has the biggest collection of these belts because of this historic rule is Demetrious Johnson, who has ten Championship belts in his collection of the older design.

Demetrious Johnson
MiggyTube TV, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

He had joked about getting a photo of him standing with all his belts and finally made it happen in 2017:

The older belt also didn’t have the same personalization that the newer “Legacy” belt would end up having after 2019.

The new UFC “Legacy” belt

In 2019, the belt was changed to a new type called the “Legacy” Championship belt which is why you might see two different belts in clips of champions from the recent past.

Some fighters that are still active today have earned the old belt style, like Dominick Cruz, which is why you might see him strapped up with the old style sometimes.

The new UFC Legacy Championship belt version has a different design and features that aimed to maintain the premium feel while allowing defending champions some extra features.

Most notably, the Legacy UFC belt is only ever given once to a championship-winning fighter.

There are a total of 25 clear stones surrounding the UFC logo on the front, representing the 25th anniversary of the UFC.

Flag iconography is also placed between those anniversary stones, highlighting the countries of the first 8 UFC champions.

The Legacy belt has a left-side plate that is customized for the champion fighter which includes 8 stones surrounding it.

When the fighter successfully wins a championship bout, including defending their title, one of the stones will be replaced with a red stone to highlight that additional victory.

The right-side plate is similar in that it has 8 extra stones in case any fighter succeeds in winning more than 8 championship fights.

If a fighter somehow wins more than 16 championship fights then, well, we have no idea!

So how do UFC belts work today?

If a belt is owned by a championship, fighters ranked usually between 1-6 will be offered the chance to fight to earn the belt. One by one.

If the belt is vacant (no one currently has it because it was given up) then two top-ranking fighters will compete for it until a winner is found.

It’s fairly straightforward, it just gets more confusing when the interim belt is introduced.

Old vs new UFC belt

Let’s look at the UFC belts side-by-side:

Old Vs New UFC Belt
Left to right: Original Superfight UFC belt, old UFC belt, new Legacy belt

Each of these belts, for me, has a certain original style and class.

I’ve been a fan of the Legacy belt since it was introduced and most of my MMA-watching time came at its inclusion.

But as time has gone on and I look further into the past champions, the ‘old’ belt stands out a lot as a glistening and golden triumphant style.

UFC interim belt explained

Colby Covington wearing interim UFC championship belt
Cpl. Tiana Boyd, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

An Interim UFC belt is a provisional temporary belt given to the winner of an “Interim Title Fight” between two leading ranked fighters for that weight class.

This fight usually takes place because the actual champion of the belt is currently unable to fight due to injury or suspension.

This is the reason that even though there are nine weight class divisions in the UFC for men, there have been occasionally more belts handed out than there are divisions.

This would be a mix of actual champions and interim belt-holders.

The fighters that are chosen to participate in the Interim Title Fight are usually within the top five ranked fighters of that division.

You would expect it would be the fighters ranked in positions one and two, but often this isn’t the case.

Timing is often a big factor in fights being made in the UFC. At the top level of the sport, Championship-potential fighters will only fight up to three times a year but often less.

Having any two fighters fit and ready to fight, at the same time, can be a bit of a headache for fight event scheduling.

It’s one of the reasons you could be surprised by the fights that get made, especially for interim belts.

At the end of the day, the UFC has to keep putting on shows. There’s also the hype factor and overall money to be made.

If the fans really want to see a particular two people throw down, or their names just bring in lots of excitement, then they make a great reason to put them ahead of someone ranked even higher than them for a belt.

UFC BMF belt explained

UFC BMF belt
MMAnytt, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The UFC BMF belt was commissioned by Dana White and the UFC to create special hype around the UFC 244 main event.

It was specially created to settle the dispute between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz as being the Baddest MotherF*ck*r in the UFC.

The pair have some of the best trash talk the UFC has ever seen, so it was only natural that these two would eventually face off.

Jorge Masvidal won that fight at UFC 244 and claimed the first BMF belt.

There was plenty of debate about whether the belt should have been on the line for UFC 251 when Masvidal was to take on Kamaru Usman.

Even though it was a title fight for Usman’s belt, the BMF was not on offer in exchange.

As of right now, the BMF belt has been held by:

  • Jorge Masvidal
  • Justin Gaethje

When Masvidal recently retired from the UFC, the BMF belt was finally up for grabs and both the UFC and fans voted in a matchup between Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje to battle it out in Lightweight.

Justin managed to land a beautiful head kick to knock out Dustin and claim the belt.

The creation of the BMF belt has inspired another belt creation called the NMF belt (Nicest MotherF*ck*r), which couldn’t go to anyone else but Stephen Thompson.

Stephen is quite literally one of the most respectful guys in the UFC as he rarely talks smack about his opponents except to offer truthful critique or pleasant banter.

Really it was just a joke that the MMA community wanted to award to him and was accomplished on Ariel Helwani’s show.

Separating the facts from fiction

Coming up I’ll cover answering many of the common questions about the championship belts of the UFC.

A lot of MMA bro’s are inventing “facts” about the belt, so let’s clear them up.

Do UFC fighters keep their belts?

When a UFC fighter wins a belt, they get to keep the one they were awarded, regardless if they later lose the champion status.

What are UFC Championship belts made from?

UFC Championship belts are made from a mixture of gold, silver, copper, and potentially other metals to keep them resistant and withstanding any friction or environmental factors to remain in good quality for a long time.

Are UFC belts real gold?

The UFC belts are not made out of pure gold but are a mixture of different metals to make them more durable and resistant to corrosion.

It’s unknown just how much gold is included in the metals, but some people say around 10 percent of it is actually real gold plating.

Do UFC belts have real diamonds?

The UFC belts include diamond-looking gemstones in the Legacy belt version, which was introduced in 2019.

The gemstones aren’t real diamonds but are designed to look like them. No one knows the true value of these stones.

How much is a UFC belt worth?

A UFC champion belt can be worth up to $330,000 because of the gold materials and diamonds.

They become worth more with each title defense, as the diamonds are replaced with more expensive red gems.

The fighter’s name inscribed could also increase the belt’s worth.

How much does a UFC replica belt cost to buy?

UFC Championship replica belts have been sold on the internet for varying prices between $150 for the classic replica belt and up to $500 for belts actually signed by the champion of the belt.

Where can I buy a UFC replica belt?

UFC Ultimate Fighting Championship Title Replica Belt
4.3

Experience the thrill of the UFC with this high-quality replica belt, a great gift for teen fans or a fun gag gift for adults.

Pros:
  • Authentic toy replica of the iconic UFC Legacy Championship belt
  • One size fits all
  • Suitable for ages 8+ (including big kids!)
  • Easy to wear with velcro
  • Decorated with replica gold medallions and silver mock gemstones
Cons:
  • Limited availability and high price
  • Could be too small for some adults
Check Price on Amazon

UFC replica belts are sold on Amazon and the UFC Store.

On the UFC Store, you can usually find three versions: Old, Legacy, and BMF.

How much does a UFC belt weigh?

Each UFC Championship belt weighs around 10.5 lbs (pounds).

Approximately 2.5 lbs of that are made out of actual gold, which is what makes the belt so valuable.

The gemstones aren’t particularly valuable or add much weight.

When you win a UFC belt do you get to keep it?

Any fighter who wins a UFC Championship is awarded a belt for their victory and gets to keep it.

If they defend their title whilst holding the title of Champion, then gemstones are added to their Legacy belt to signify each successful defense.

What to read next

Now that you know everything there is to know about the UFC belts, these next articles might guide you for more UFC knowledge bombs: