Sat 11 September 2021 | 13:30

UFC fighters who retired as champions

Some UFC fighters have walked away when they were in the prime heyday of their career, leaving their fans who adored them as true legend in utter disbelief. So we would take you through those UFC fighters who retired as champions, to find out the reason behind their retirements.

There are many true legends in the sport of MMA that even the popularity of the sport was heavily depended on them but they had to finally hang up their gloves since every athlete has a career lifespan.

If you are an old school fan of this exciting sport, then probably a feeling of melancholy might have been descended on you when you could no longer see your legend in the competitions.

Yet, some are more ready than the others to become retired in terms of financially securing their life with businesses and media careers for their descend to fame era.

When it comes to UFC, fighters try their utmost not to become retired until they have to do so. Since when they become champions, they would gain an awful lot of money and popularity, so why they should have to refuse to achieve more.

But aside from those who are forced to be retired because of successive losses which is the indicator of their failure to came back to their career peak, some have become retired while they were at the prime heyday of their career.

Just for example consider heroes like Brock Lesnar, Anderson Silva and Daniel Cormier who became retired when they coped with a series of losses at the tail end of their UFC careers.

But those few UFC fighters who have reached the peak of their careers just to let it all go, have made their fans quite dumbfounded with the reasons like crippling injuries and sentimental reasons as the main cause of their retirement.

UFC fighters who retired as champions

Here we have taken a glance at UFC fighters who retired as champions.

Frank Shamrock

  • Nationality

    : American

  • Division

    : Middleweight, Light Heavyweight

  • Years Active

    : 1994–2000, 2003, 2006-2010

  • Career Record

    : 23 wins- 10 losses- 2 draws

Being widely revered as one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time, and one of the first complete mixed martial artists, he was also the first titleholder of the UFC Middleweight Championship as it was later recalled as the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.

When he was in his reign as the UFC Middleweight Champion, he earned the spot No. 1 in the pound for pound UFC fight ranking of the world and even finally he was honoured to retire as a four-time defending undefeated champion.

His game was adapted from a grounded style of fighting to a more impeccable, well-rounded, and multifaceted style which was indispensable with boosting his striking coupled with his skilled ground game.

His UFC debut appearance occurred in 1997 in a bout against an Olympic undefeated champion called Kevin Jackson.

Notwithstanding his being considered as an underdog in the match, he managed to beat Kevin Jackson via armbar in 16 seconds of the first round. Afterwards, he succeeded to defend his title four times in the UFC, the last of which was against Tito Ortiz.

According to Shamrock, Ortiz was considered to be his physically toughest challenge owing to his weight advantage and style of fighting.

He grabbed this triumph following that his brutal elbows, punches, and hammer blows led Ortiz to tap out at the end of round 4, while this bout was assumed to be one of the greatest fights in UFC history.

As one of

The Best UFC Fighters

, with this victory, he cemented his place as the greatest UFC champion in history back then as he grabbed the approbation of UFC owner Bob Meyrowitz and announcer Jeff Blatnick calling him the greatest competitor in the promotion's history.

As one of the 5 Great Retired UFC Champions, after going 5–0 in title fights decisively, he relinquished his title to become retired from the UFC in 1999 and then worked as a consultant and commentator for the company.

Being considered as one of the top 5 retired MMA fighters, afterwards, he came back to MMA and competed for promotions like K-1, WEC, Strikeforce and EliteXC.

He went on to compete in those promotions, until his retirement from fighting was announced on June 26, 2010, at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum.

Bas Rutten

  • Nickname

    : El Guapo ("The Handsome One")

  • Nationality

    : Dutch, American

  • Division

    : Heavyweight, Light heavyweight, Openweight

  • Years Active

    : 1993–1999, 2006 (MMA)

  • Career Record

    : 28 wins- 4 losses- 1 draw

As a Dutch–American actor, former mixed martial artist, kickboxer and professional wrestler, he was honoured to be a UFC Heavyweight Champion and a three-time King of Pancrase world champion as he ended up his career on a 22 fight unbeaten streak (21 wins, 1 draw).

In his professional fighting, the liver shot (both punch and kick) was considered to be among his favourite tactics as he made its use popular in MMA.

Although he was praised by the Pancrase organization as the "world's greatest martial artist, he joined the UFC with a great deal of hype and got contracted with them in 1998.

Therefore, as one of the

top 5 retired MMA fighters

, after his illustrious career in Pancrase, he came off a 19-match winning streak and made his UFC debut appearance in 1999 as he fought against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka.

Notwithstanding his being on the receiving end of Kohsaka's insane ground and pound, he eventually succeeded to score a dramatic KO in the last minute of the bout. Thereby this victory against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka led him to earn a title fight against Kevin Randleman at UFC 20.

As one of The Best UFC Fighters, he fought with Kevin Randleman for the UFC Heavyweight Championship at UFC 20 on 7 May 1999.

Although in the first four minutes of the fight, he took unanswered punishment from his opponent and his face got bloody; after the hiatus to check his cut, he threw a hard kick to Randleman's liver so as to decrease his speed for the remainder of the fight.

Afterwards, they exchanged strikes in Bas's guard, as he opened a cut in Randleman via elbow strikes on top of his head, until the end of the overtime.

Thus in such a hard-fought battle, he was granted the victory over Randleman with the unanimous decision which controversial as it was, made Rutten the UFC heavyweight champion.

But he vacated the title later in the year, so as to drop down to middleweight (which is currently called light-heavyweight) a weight closer to his natural weight, in an attempt to be the first person who holds a UFC title in two divisions.

Yet, this resulted in never continuing his career, since when he was training for his next UFC fight in 1999 he underwent several crippling injuries, like blowing out his knee (a long-running injury), tearing his biceps, and a neck injury.

Therefore he had to become retired from the MMA competition as per the doctor's orders for the sake of being included in our list of top 5 retired MMA fighters.

Henry Cejudo

  • Nickname

    : The Messenger

  • Nationality

    : American

  • Division

    : Flyweight (2014–2019), Bantamweight (2013–2014, 2019–2020), 55 kg (freestyle wrestling)

  • Years Active

    : 2013–2020 (MMA)M, 2005–2008, 2011–2012 (freestyle wrestling)

  • Career Record

    : 16 wins-2 losses

As an American former professional mixed martial artist and freestyle wrestler, he is among the UFC fighters who retired as champions in the divisions of Flyweight and Bantamweight.

He is honoured to be the fourth UFC fighter who is the title holder in two various divisions at the same time and also succeeded to be the second one who defends titles in two different weight categories.

Not to mention that he is the only fighter to ever earn an Olympic gold medal and a UFC title. Being considered as one of the Best UFC Fighters, he is also included in the list of greatest combat sportsmen of all time in the light of his achievements in MMA and freestyle wrestling. In receiving the gold medal for the 2008 Summer Olympics, he was also honoured to be the youngest American gold medal winner in the sport of wrestling.

As he got contracted with the UFC on July 25, 2014, his debut appearance for them took place on December 13, 2014, when he coped with Dustin Kimura in the bantamweight division and won the bout by unanimous decision.

Then after two years of struggling to win the Flyweight title, he eventually competed with Demetrious Johnson in a rematch for the UFC Flyweight Championship title in the co-main event at UFC 227 on August 4, 2018.

He hopefully managed to win the back-and-forth bout via split decision to the end of becoming the UFC's second Flyweight champion and amazingly the first Olympic gold medal winner to ever grab UFC gold as well while the bout resulted in his earning the Fight of the Night award.

Then after he defended the title against TJ Dillashaw five months later, he vacated it so as to move back into the bantamweight category.

Later he fought with Marlon Moraes at UFC 238 and won the gold as he beat him via TKO in the third round so as to be champion in the bantamweight division as well while it saw him earn his second Performance of the Night bonus award.

Being included in our list of 5 Great Retired UFC Champions, afterwards, he became inactive in the face of a shoulder injury until 2020 when he defended his UFC bantamweight title by TKO over Dominick Cruz in the second round.

As one of the

5 UFC fighters who retired as champions

, just immediately after that, he announced his retirement, yet some speculated that it was not permanent.

Georges St-Pierre

  • Nickname

    : Rush

  • Nationality

    : Canadian

  • Division

    : Welterweight (2002–2013), Middleweight (2017)

  • Years Active

    : 2002–2013, 2017 (MMA)

  • Career Record

    : 26 wins- 2 losses

As a Canadian retired professional mixed martial artist and actor, he is widely revered as one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, let's see who else is included on the list of

The Greatest MMA Fighters of All Time


He was honoured to be a two-division champion in the UFC as he won titles in the welterweight and middleweight categories. Considering him as one of the

UFC fighters who retired as champions

, he is a three-time former UFC welterweight champion and a former UFC middleweight champion.

He has anchored the records of the second-most wins (13) of title fights in UFC history to his name while defended his title nine times successively and has

the second-longest combined title streak in UFC history (2,204 days).

In his glorious career, he was only beaten twice against Matt Hughes and Matt Serra as he took avenge of these losses later in his career, so he is utterly deserved to be included in our list of UFC fighters who retired as champions.

In his debut appearance at UFC 46 which occurred in 2004, he managed to beat the highly ranked Karo Parisyan by unanimous decision while in his next fight at the UFC 48 he toppled Jay Hieron via technical knockout in only 1:42 of the first round.

As one of the 5 UFC fighters who retired as champions, following a raft of fights, in 2013, he succeeded to win his ninth welterweight title defence against Johny Hendricks in a controversial decision. Notwithstanding his being thrashed for most of the fight, he managed to win the fight via unanimous decision.

Then as one of the

5 Great Retired UFC Champions

, he claimed that he was stepping away from fighting "for a little bit" at the UFC 167 post-fight conference. Therefore after a month, he vacated his title and became retired as the reigning welterweight champion.

Of course, this was not at the end of the day as he came back to UFC to make his career, even more, illustrious, after all, he is considered to be among one of the top 5 retired MMA fighters.

That is to say, in his return to the Octagon, he took on middleweight champion Michael Bisping in November 2017 and at UFC 217, he beat him via rear-naked choke so as to anchor the title of middleweight championship to his name and become the fourth fighter in the history of the UFC to be a multi-division champion. But, following 34 days he vacated the title in the face of a medical condition called ulcerative colitis.

Although on December 13, 2018, he revealed on the La Sueur podcast that he had gained his complete recovery from ulcerative colitis, he has not made his mind whether or not he would come back to the octagon.

Unfortunately, much to the consternation of his fans, even his official retirement was announced on February 21, 2019, at a press conference at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Yet hopefully on May 9, 2020, UFC announced that St-Pierre would be inducted into the Modern Wing of the UFC Hall of Fame.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

  • Nickname

    : The Eagle

  • Nationality

    : Russian

  • Division

    : Lightweight (2008–2010, 2012–2020), Welterweight (2009–2011)

  • Years Active

    : 2008–2020

  • Career Record

    : 29 wins- 0 losses

As one of the

UFC fighters who retired as champions

, he fought in in the lightweight division of the Championship as he was the longest-reigning UFC Lightweight Champion holding the title from April 2018 to March 2021.

Most amazingly, with his compiling 29 wins without any losses, he is undoubtedly an indispensable member of the 5 UFC fighters who retired as champions.

While in late 2011, he got contracted with UFC to compete in six fights of their lightweight category, his debut UFC appearance occurred on 20 January 2012 at UFC on FX 1 as he toppled Kamal Shalorus via submission in the third round.

Among his chunk of victories in UFC, his bout against Edson Barboza at UFC 219 which occurred on 30 December 2017 at UFC 219 is especially noticeable.

That is to say, he dominated all three rounds, took Barboza down several times and established dominance in the fight with ground and pound so as to win the fight by unanimous decision and earn his first Performance of the Night bonus for this victory.

Likewise in his bout against Al Iaquinta in 2018, he succeeded to dominate the fight and grab triumph via unanimous decision to the end of becoming the UFC Lightweight Champion.

Not to mention that in one of the most popular fights on the planet at UFC 229 on 6 October in Las Vegas, he made his first defence of his lightweight title against Conor McGregor.

Precisely as saying, although he won the first two rounds, he failed to defeat McGregor in the third round as it was the first time he lost a round in his UFC career.

But hopefully, he eventually succeeded to beat McGregor in the fourth round via submission. This bout drew 2.4 million pay-per-view buys, which turned out to be the most ever for an MMA event.

Aside from this title defence, he also defended it two more times against Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje. Following his victory over Gaethje at UFC 254, he announced his retirement in the cope of the heartwrenching fact of his father and mentor, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov death.

Although UFC president Dana White made his efforts to persuade him to make a comeback, his endeavours turned out to be futile.

As in March 2021, it came the official announcement of  Khabib Nurmagomedov retirement while his being an undefeated champion in the UFC lightweight division landed him a place on the list of the

UFC fighters who retired as champions


Finally, it is also pertinent to suggest that he is widely revered as one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time while he earned the first spot in the UFC men's pound-for-pound rankings at the time of his retirement and until his removal after his title vacation in March 2021.

Besides, it is to be said that after his retirement, he purchased the Gorilla Fighting Championship (GFC), which is a Russian-based MMA promotion, for $1 million and renamed it the Eagle Fighting Championship (EFC).


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