The UFC’s Modern Era formally began on November 17, 2000, when the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts were adopted by promotions and jurisdictions worldwide.
Since then, we’ve seen the best of MMA, with new contenders and champions introducing exciting and dynamic elements to the Octagon.
In this article we will discuss the Modern Era heavyweight champions who excelled under the bright lights and highlight their title reigns, defenses, and the fights that made them UFC legends.
Reigning Modern Era Heavyweight Champions
The moniker “Baddest Man on the Planet” belongs to the UFC’s heavyweight champion – and for good reason.
Here’s the complete list of heavyweight champions that have sat upon the throne in the UFC’s Modern Era:
Randy Couture (2000-2002)
Randy Couture defeated Kevin Randleman at UFC 28 to kick off UFC’s Modern Era and he would go on to successfully defend his title twice versus Pedro Rizzo.
Josh Barnett (2002)
Josh Barnett defeated Randy Couture at UFC 36. He was stripped of the title after testing positive for steroids.
Ricco Rodriguez (2002-2003)
Ricco Rodriguez defeats Randy Couture at UFC 39 to claim the UFC heavyweight title.
Tim Sylvia (2003)
Tim Sylvia stops Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 41 to become the new heavyweight champ. Sylvia defended his title against Gan McGee before testing positive for steroids.
Frank Mir (2004-2005)
Frank Mir defeats Tim Sylvia at UFC 48 to claim the vacant title. Mir was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and gave up his belt while he rehabilitated his injuries.
Andrei Arlovski (2005-2006)
Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski defeats Tim Sylvia in the first round of UFC 61 to claim the interim title, which is later upgraded to the full championship. Arlovski successfully defended his title twice, once against Justin Eilers and once against Paul Buentello.
Tim Sylvia (2006-2007)
Tim Sylvia knocks out Andrei Arlovski at UFC 59 and becomes the second man to regain the UFC heavyweight championship. Sylvia successfully defended his title against Arlovski and Jeff Monson.
Randy Couture (2007-2008)
Randy Couture defeats Tim Sylvia by unanimous decision to win the heavyweight title, in doing so he becomes the first man to win the heavyweight belt three times. Couture successfully defends the title against Gabriel Gonzaga.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (2008)
After a period of inactivity by Randy Couture, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira defeats Tim Sylvia to become the interim UFC heavyweight champion at UFC 81.
Frank Mir (2008-2009)
Frank Mir wins the interim UFC heavyweight title with a knockout victory over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 92.
Brock Lesnar (2008-2010)
Brock Lesnar defeats Randy Couture at UFC 91 to win the UFC heavyweight title. Lesnar then defeats Frank Mir at UFC 100 by TKO to unify the heavyweight title. Lesnar successfully defended his belt versus Shane Carwin by submission at UFC 116.
Cain Velasquez (2010-2011)
Cain Velasquez defeats Brock Lesnar by first round TKO at UFC 121 to win the UFC heavyweight title.
Junior Dos Santos (2011-2012)
Junior Dos Santos defeats Cain Velasquez by first round KO at UFC on FOX 1 to win the heavyweight title. He later successfully defended the belt versus Frank Mir.
Cain Velasquez (2012-2015)
Cain Velasquez defeats Junior Dos Santos by decision at UFC 155 to reclaim the UFC heavyweight title. He successfully defends his title two more times, once against Antonio Silva and once against Junior Dos Santos.
Fabricio Werdum (2014-2016)
Fabricio Werdum defeats Mark Hunt at UFC 180 to win the interim title, then submits Cain Velasquez at UFC 188 to win the UFC heavyweight undisputed title.
Stipe Miocic (2016-2018)
Stipe Miocic defeats Fabricio Wedrum by first-round knockout at UFC 198. Miocic becomes the most decorated heavyweight champion of all-time by successfully defending his title versus Alistair Overeem, Junior Dos Santos, and Francis Ngannou.
Daniel Cormier (2018-2019)
Daniel Cormier Inducted Into UFC Hall of Fame
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Daniel Cormier Inducted Into UFC Hall of Fame
Daniel Cormier completed the move up from light heavyweight to heavyweight, becoming simultaneous champion of both divisions by beating Stipe Miocic at UFC 226. “DC” successfully defended his title at UFC 230 against Derrick Lewis.
Stipe Miocic (2019-2022)
Stipe Miocic beats Daniel Cormier by fourth-round knockout to regain the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 241. Miocic defended his title in the trilogy fight with Cormier, beating him by decision at UFC 252.
Francis Ngannou (2021-2023)
Jon Jones defeats Ciryl Gane by first round submission at UFC 285.
Heavyweight Division History
The UFC heavyweight division is the oldest weight class in the UFC. The weight class is iconic for its epic bouts and incredible champions such as Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez, and Stipe Miocic.
Although we focused on the UFC Modern Era champions, the heavyweight title lineage began with UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman back in 1997.
In January 2023 title holder Francis Ngannou left the UFC and, in doing so, vacated the heavyweight title.
Former UFC light heavyweight Jon Jones defeated Ciryl Gane to claim the heavyweight title vacated by Ngannou on March 4th, 2023.
UFC 285: Jones vs Gane took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 4, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!