Who was the UFC's first bantamweight champion?

UFC belt
UFC belt / Noel Vasquez/GettyImages

Who was the first fighter to win the UFC bantamweight championship?

The UFC's men's bantamweight division is widely considered to be among the world's most challenging and exciting. It has been an astronomical ascent for the 135-pound division, whose first title fight was not even on a UFC card.

On Oct. 28, 2010, Dana White announced the UFC's plans for a merger with WEC, which brought both the bantamweight and featherweight divisions into the fold. The deal went into effect in January 2011.

The WEC's final event, WEC 53, took place in December 2010 and saw two championship fights: one at lightweight and one at bantamweight. While the lightweight winner could attempt a unification bout with the UFC's 155-pound champ, this was not the case for bantamweight. The UFC did not have a bantamweight division in 2010, so the victor between reigning WEC champion Dominic Cruz and his challenger, Scott Jorgensen, would have a claim to UFC gold.

Cruz dismantled Jorgensen en route to a unanimous decision victory - each judge scored the fight 50-45 in Cruz's favor. With the win, Cruz became the WEC's last bantamweight champion and the UFC's first.

The career of Dominick Cruz

In 2011, Cruz defended his title twice against two legends in Urijah Faber and Demetrious Johnson, doing so by unanimous decision in both fights. Unfortunately for Cruz, the injury bug hit, and he spent over three years on the sideline after his second UFC title defense. The inactivity forced the UFC to vacate the bantamweight belt, taking it out of the hands of its inaugural owner in January 2014.

Cruz would not fight again until September 2014, when he earned another title shot with a victory over Takeya Mizugaki. By this time, TJ Dillashaw was the new champion. Cruz and Dillashaw squared off in the octagon in January 2016, where Cruz recaptured the belt with a split-decision victory to complete his legendary MMA comeback story.

Cruz would make one more defense against Faber before falling to Cody Garbrandt in December 2016. Another injury-induced hiatus followed Cruz's title reign, as he did not enter the octagon again until May 2020 when he challenged Henry Cejudo for the bantamweight belt. Cruz's challenge was unsuccessful, as Cejudo won via TKO in round two.

While Cejudo retired (though temporarily) following the defense, Cruz has remained active since the defeat. He went 2-0 in 2021, including a fight of the night performance against Pedro Munhoz. He was on the wrong end of a devastating Marlon "Chito" Vero head kick in August 2022 and has yet to return from this defeat.

Although bantamweight is relatively young compared to other classes, Cruz helped to quickly endear the division to fight fans.

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