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 worst UFC lightweight champion of all-time: Sean Sherk

Sean Sherk is likely a name you have never heard of, even if you are more than a casual fan. Some of that is due to factors beyond his control, such as the lightweight division effectively disappearing from 2003 until 2006 and being book-ended in the title lineage by now Hall of Famers, Jens Pulver and BJ Penn.

Sherk had just defeated Nick Diaz at UFC 59 when the opportunity came to fight Kenny Florian at UFC 64 for the lightweight title. Sherk would win the fight by decision and even go on to defend the title against Hermes Franca at UFC 73. There was one thing that was in Sherk's control though and is the primary reason for his consideration here; a positive steroid test resulted in his title being stripped away. Beyond that, it tarnishes his entire 41-fight career, with every win always in a shadow of doubt.

Despite his transgression and its impact on the UFC's continued efforts to brand themselves as a genuine sport, the UFC gave Sherk the opportunity to regain his belt at UFC 84. Sherk would lose to the reigning champion, BJ Penn, by KO/TKO. Sherk would fight three more times for the UFC, with his final fight earning him a split decision victory against Evan Dunham in 2010.

Such a scandal, no matter how brief or long, recent or far removed, does nothing but leave a black-eye on the sport and the competitor. Perhaps more concerning is that it still occurs today in major promotions, even with the implementation of widespread testing. USADA is a step in the right direction to maintain the credibility of the sport, but it cannot be the only preventative measure.

Thankfully, the lightweight division did not go on another multi-year hiatus after Sherk's transgression. Rather, it went on to thrive and produce some of the sport's greatest names including Frankie Edgar, Gilbert Melendez, and Anthony Pettis, just to name a few.

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