The UFC Legacy championship Belt represents a new era of UFC as it embarks with its first ever event on ESPN. It will be awarded for the first time ever on January 19th at Fight Night Brooklyn, when flyweight champion Henry Cejudo defends his belt against bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw.
After celebrating its 25th anniversary, it’s only fitting that the belt that ushers in a new era of MMA honors the fighters who made this sport unforgettable.
One way the belt is honoring those who have contributed to the sport is the collection of eight flags displayed on the front plate of the belt. Each of the eight symbols represents the first eight countries that were home to UFC champions.
Here’s a look back at the eight fights and champions immortalized on the UFC Legacy championship belt.
Just two months after his UFC 10 tournament victory, Mark Coleman defeated Julian Sanchez and Brian Johnston in the same night to take the UFC 11 tournament, and then got a five-month break before being matched up with Dan “The Beast” Severn for the first UFC heavyweight championship. Again, Coleman was too much for his opponent, a future Hall of Famer, and he won by submission in under three minutes. Six wins, six finishes, all in less than seven months. That’s a championship run to remember for the Ohio legend.
It was a close battle in the main event of UFC 20 at the Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama, with Bas Rutten defeating Kevin Randleman via split decision to take the UFC heavyweight title vacated by Randy Couture. The victory made Rutten not just the first UFC champion from the Netherlands, but the first European champion as well, a double dose of history for the future UFC Hall of Famer.
Carlos Newton and Pat Miletich waged the expected tactical battle in the UFC 31 co-main event, with Newton winning the war and the UFC welterweight title by choking out “The Croation Sensation” at 2:50 of the third round. “Somebody’s got to go for broke,” said the new champ, the first fighter to bring a UFC title home to Canada, setting the stage for future standouts from North of the Border like Georges St-Pierre. “I just waited and snuck in there.”
The UFC 35 co-feature was supposed to be a war, five rounds of attrition between two of MMA's best middleweights, but after a first round that went according to form, a single right hand from an unlikely source, Murilo Bustamante, removed the UFC crown from Dave Menne's head in the second round and gave the fighting hotbed of Brazil its first world champion. Some of the sport’s best have called the South American nation home, with Bustamante the first of 13 UFC champions to emerge from Brazil.
At UFC 51 in February, 2005, the long and frustrating wait for Belarus’ Andrei Arlovski was over, as he finally got his title shot and made the most of it, submitting former champ Tim Sylvia to earn the interim UFC heavyweight crown made available when champion Frank Mir was injured in a motorcycle accident in September of 2004. Sylvia, who was sidelined himself when Mir broke his arm in their 2004 bout, looked comfortable in the opening moments of the bout until a clean right hand by Arlovski shockingly dropped the 6-8 giant. After a frantic series of punches on his downed foe, Arlovski locked on a heel hook just as quickly and Sylvia had no option but to tap out, ending matters in stunning fashion just 47 seconds into a bout that gave Belarus its first UFC champion.
In the UFC 185 co-main event at American Airlines Center in Dallas, unbeaten Joanna Jedrzejczyk became only the third European champion in UFC history and the first from Poland, as she stopped Carla Esparza in the second round to win the women’s strawweight title. “I said I was going to do it and I did it,” said Jedrzejczyk, a native of Olsztyn, who joined Bas Rutten and Andrei Arlovski in the history books as UFC champions from Europe.
After a year of hype and buildup, Dublin, Ireland native Conor McGregor delivered on his promise in the main event of UFC 194 Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, taking just 13 seconds to end Jose Aldo’s reign as UFC featherweight champion as well as his decade-long unbeaten streak. “He’s powerful and fast, but precision beats power and timing beats speed,” McGregor said of his knockout victory, which sent the Emerald Isle into a frenzy. The finish was the fastest ever in a UFC world title fight, beating Ronda Rousey’s 14-second submission of Cat Zingano in February, and Andrei Arlovski’s 15-second knockout of Paul Buentello in 2005.
Nearly 10 years after his UFC debut, England’s Michael Bisping finally became a world champion. Despite taking his UFC 199 main event fight against Luke Rockhold on a little over two weeks’ notice, Bisping delivered when it mattered in his first world title fight, knocking Rockhold out in the first round at The Forum in Inglewood, California. “I am so happy right now,” Bisping, who replaced the injured Chris Weidman, said. “I’ve always been a fighter and it always got me in trouble, but there’s nothing I do better in this life than fighting. I’m an average guy, this is my dream. Nobody was taking this away from me." And just like that, “The Count” became King.