The best UFC lightweight champion of all-time, and the worst

The UFC lightweight division has had 14 champions over the course of 22 years, including someone from the conversation for greatest of all time.
The UFC belt
The UFC belt / Alex Bierens de Haan/GettyImages
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The UFC lightweight division has had 14 champions over the course of 22 years. Its hallowed lineage includes pioneers of the sport such as Jens Pulver and Frankie Edgar; it also includes today's household names of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor, Charles Oliveira, and Islam Makhachev.

The lightweight division, for all of its namesake and glory, has not always been a highlight in the Octagon. The title has been stripped from its owner on at least five occasions throughout its history for reasons ranging from the champion leaving the organization to a champion missing weight. The lightweight division even went without a champion for roughly four years.

Despite that early adversity, the lightweight division carried on and became a staple in the UFC in the late 2000s when it was featured on Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter. The season featured names like Joe Lauzon and future fan favorite, Nate Diaz. One could even make the case that the season was the lifeline the division needed, with coach and future hall of famer, BJ Penn, being the next to claim the title.

Today's lightweight division is clearly one of the deepest divisions in the UFC at present, with three fighters in the pound-for-pound top 15. The lightweight division's current champion, Makhachev, is a product of Eagle MMA and the Nurmagomedov legacy. He most recently defended his title against Alexander Volkanovski, which also had the best pound-for-pound fighter status on the line. Makhachev looks to defend his title on Oct. 21, 2023, at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Conversations about who is the greatest of all-time, commonly referred to as the G.O.A.T., will always be fluid. New names will enter the conversation, older names will drop off, stats will be debated, and opinions will vary. While Makhachev is the current champion and has a bright future, his name is not in the conversation just yet. Until then, let's take a look at the case for best UFC lightweight champion of all-time, and the worst.