Who was the first UFC champion from South Africa?

Where does the nation of South Africa stand in UFC's championship history? Find out all about it here.

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RUGBYU-WC-2023-MATCH48-NZL-RSA-FINAL / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/GettyImages
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Mixed martial arts in South Africa continues to grow and expand as the years go by, with several athletes becoming household names in the nation. Beyond that, more and more athletes have gone on to also attempt at dominating on a worldwide level.

Several South African mixed martial artists have competed in the UFC including the likes of Garreth McLellan, Ruan Potts, and JP Buys. In recent years though, there have been two stars who have taken over the UFC in a way that no other South Africans have.

Who was the first UFC champion from South Africa?

At time of writing, the UFC is yet to have a South African champion. This could change sooner rather than later though.

At present, there are two South Africans signed to the UFC who could make their way into the championship ranks in 2024. Namely, the two athletes are Dricus Du Plessis and Cameron Saaiman.

Du Plessis was born in Hatfield, Pretoria on Jan. 14, 1994. At just 29 years old, he has accomplished more than most from the African continent, getting the closest to claiming gold than anyone else.

Du Plessis is set to headline UFC 297 as he challenges Sean Strickland for the middleweight title. Should Du Plessis win in that match, he would make history by becoming the first-ever South African champion, whilst also being the only African continent's representative amongst the current UFC champions.

Also on the come-up is Saaiman, who has been labeled as 'The Future' by UFC president Dana White himself. Saaiman first joined the UFC in late 2022 following a third-round left hook in that year's Contender Series, which saw him get a UFC contract.

Saaiman competes in the UFC's bantamweight division and, although he is yet to break into the 135-pound top 15 rankings, he has already had quite the run with the promotion. Saaiman and du Plessis both train in the same gym, Team CIT, and can often be seen encouraging each other before, during and after the other's matches.

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