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
2 of 3

The best UFC lightweight champion of all-time: Khabib Nurmagomedov

Khabib Nurmagomedov was already 25 fights into his run at perfection when his lightweight title opportunity came against Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 in 2018. Unfortunately, his good fortune had to come at the expense of Tony Ferguson, who was sidelined due to a knee injury and unceremoniously stripped of the title. The fight went to decision, as many of Nurmagomedov's fights had, to that point. Despite going the distance it was not a particularly close contest.

Nurmagomedov would go on to defend his title against former champion, Conor McGregor, six months later in October 2018. The win came by submission due to a rear naked choke and marked the beginning of his only three-finish run in the UFC. Nearly one year later, in September 2019, Nurmagomedov would successfully defend his title against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242.

That title fight would turn out to be the final time that his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, would see him fight in the Octagon before passing away on July 3, 2020. Many expected Nurmagomedov to never return to fighting after losing his father. The loss was not only felt by Nurmagomedov, as the Russian combat sports patriarch was also like a father figure to everyone in their gym.

Nurmagomedov would surprise everyone when he agreed to defend his title one more time in October 2020 at UFC 254 against Justin Gaethje. Nurmagomedov's run at perfection was cemented in the second round of that fight when he submitted Gaethje with a triangle choke.

While he has not fought since, Nurmagomedov did spend a significant amount of time carrying on his father's legacy as a coach, ushering in multiple successful MMA careers. While he has taken an even further step back from MMA at this point, his name will continue to ring in conversations for the greatest lightweight of all-time and even greatest mixed martial artist of all time.