Who was the first undisputed champion in UFC lightweight history?
The UFC lightweight division is one of the most storied weight classes in the entire sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
The lightweight division also saw storied champions such as Eddie Alvarez, Frankie Edgar, and Charles Oliveria pave their way into the hearts of fight fans worldwide. However, these guys were all champions after the UFC started to gain some traction thanks to the now-famous reality series The Ultimate Fighter.
Let’s travel all the way back to 2001 to a time when the UFC was still hemorrhaging money, and Dana White had just been installed as UFC president after the Fertitta brothers purchased the UFC. This was still the time when weight classes were still a fairly new thing to the formerly more barbaric style in comparison to what we have today. A month after the Fertittas purchased the UFC, we saw the first lightweight champion get crowned.
That Champion? A man named Jens Pulver.
The first UFC lightweight championship fight was between Jens Pulver and Caol Uno at UFC 30, which took place on February 23, 2001, at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States. Jens Pulver won the fight by unanimous decision after five rounds, becoming the first-ever UFC lightweight champion.
Pulver later successfully defended his UFC lightweight title against Dennis Hallman. The title defense took place at UFC 33 on September 28, 2001, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States. Pulver won the fight by majority decision after five rounds, retaining his championship belt.
Pulver went on to fight BJ Penn for the UFC lightweight title at UFC 35 on Jan. 11, 2002, at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. Pulver would win that fight via majority decision, however soon after, he would vacate his title to go fight in Pride. When he returned to the UFC for two fights, he ended up getting knocked out by Joe Lauzon and submitted by BJ Penn in a very hyped-up rematch.
After Pulver vacated the title, there was no lightweight champion for almost five years, until Sean Sherk became the first UFC champion since 2002 after defeating Kenny Florian at UFC 64 when the division was becoming re-introduced as once again a commonality in the UFC.
Pulver was recently announced to be an inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame 2023 class.