The best UFC featherweight champion of all time, and the worst

First established in November 2010, the featherweight title has seen six undisputed champions.
UFC championship
UFC championship / Borja B. Hojas/GettyImages

The UFC's featherweight division is one of the most solid of the promotion and, more times than not, the 145-pound division has served as the anchor of the entire UFC. The featherweight title has seen a more stable history than most within the UFC, and some great names have held the gold.

First established in November 2010, the title has seen six undisputed champions. Four interim champions have also been crowned over the years.

The current champion is Ilia Topuria, who is heading towards celebrating his first 100 days as champion (at time of writing) following his victory at UFC 298. Topuria remains undefeated in his professional career, and he was the one to dethrone long-time champion Alexander Volkanovski.

Other significant titleholder include Max Holloway, as well as Yair Rodriguez, who served as the interim champion at some point in the title's lineage. As is the case with most titles, the featherweight gold has also seen some great champions as well as some that fight fans would rather forget about.

Best UFC featherweight champion: Jose Aldo

The best UFC featherweight champion is actually the person who started it all for the promotion. Jose Aldo was the WEC featherweight champion from November 2009 and, following that promotion's 145-pound division being absorbed into the UFC, Aldo found himself being awarded the inaugural UFC featherweight champion.

Prior to the UFC 123 event in Auburn Hills, Michigan, there was a special ceremony that saw Aldo being crowned the first featherweight champion of the UFC. What followed was a dominant reign that would go on to define and establish the 145-pound division as one to always watch.

Aldo made his first successful title defense against Mark Hominick at UFC 129 in April 2011. He followed that up with another defense against Kenny Florian at UFC 136 later that same year.

Chad Mendes attempted to dethrone Aldo at UFC 142 in January 2012 but the champion successfully retained after knees and punches in the first round. Aldo took a year off before returning in February 2013 to face Frankie Edgar at UFC 156, thus marking a successful fourth title defense.

In August of that year, Aldo would defend the gold against Jung Chan-sung at UFC 163, winning via punches in the fourth round. Aldo's sixth round would take place in February 2014 at UFC 169, as he got a unanimous decision victory against Ricardo Lamas.

His seventh defense was a rematch against Chad Mendes at UFC 179 in October 2014. Aldo would be dealing with an injury that sidelined him, making way for an eager Conor McGregor to claim the interim title.

In their title unification bout, McGregor would claim the gold, ending Aldo's dominant reign at 1,848 days. Aldo would ultimately go on to later claim the interim title before being promoted to undisputed champion but the first run with the title was a memorable one.

Aldo, as the first champion of the division, laid a solid foundation with his reign. It remains the longest reign in the title's history and, even with disposing six different opponents, he was able to elevate each of his opponents.

The featherweight title has seen some great title reigns, especially considering that Volkanovski held the division - and the promotion, to a certain extent - down with his run as champion through the pandemic era. Holloway was known for the instant classics he was able to put on during his 925-day reign.

Following his 2022 retirement, Aldo made his return to the Octagon in 2024, and he looks to continue adding to his UFC Hall-of-Fame-worthy career.

Worst UFC featherweight champion: Conor McGregor

As mentioned before, the featherweight division has seen some great title reigns. For all the great title runs, there is one that stands out amongst the rest - and it's not for a good reason.

McGregor won the interim title at UFC 189 in July 2015. He then went on to have a title unification bout against Aldo, and he won via a thunderous first-round knockout.

The knockout remains one of the most memorable one in UFC history, and it still remains the fastest knockout in a UFC title bout, but many believed that this would be the start of a great reign. Unfortunately, it would not be so, and McGregor would go on to have one of the most underwhelming title reigns.

Kicking off 2016, McGregor faced Nate Diaz in a welterweight bout. McGregor lost via a second-round submission, and it was the first loss in the Irishman's career.

The pair had a rematch, which saw McGregor pick up a majority decision, and this was the precursor to McGregor attempting to achieve a feat never conquered before. At UFC 205, McGregor challenged Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight championship, and he won via a second-round technical knockout.

With the victory, McGregor became the first person in the UFC's history that a fighter held two championships simultaneously. The problem is that, whilst McGregor was making moves in all of these other promotions, the featherweight title was left in limbo.

During this time, Aldo fought Frankie Edgar for the interim title. In November of 2016, McGregor found himself stripped of the featherweight title due to inactivity.

This promoted Aldo to undisputed champion, and McGregor's reign ended just like that. For many, it felt like a really unnecessary stalling of the 145-pound division and its title.

With the divisional champion being inactive, the whole division hit a point of being stagnant. The beginning of McGregor's run with the featherweight title was filled with such promise but it all ultimately fell flat.

That was the last time that McGregor held the featherweight title, and it truly left a sour taste in fight fans' mouths. Without even a single defense of the featherweight title over his 350-day reign, McGregor's run had a feeling of redundancy to it.

Compared to the five other featherweight title reigns, this is certainly the most unmemorable. McGregor made massive moves in different aspects of MMA throughout his career but seemed to be unable to make an impact at the apex of the the featherweight division.


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