A UFC fighter receives a belt after winning a championship fight. Every weight class in the revamped Ultimate Fighting Championship has one belt. So, what happens when a reigning champion loses the title to a contending UFC fighter? Do UFC fighters get to keep their belts?

UFC fighters get to keep their belts according to the classic and legacy championship systems. However, reigning champions don’t get a new belt every time they successfully defend and retain their respective titles. Notably, this is unlike the classic championship rule.

Many fans may find a few UFC rules confusing, such as the classic and legacy championship belts. This post addresses all such doubts you may have. Read on to know how UFC fighters get to keep their belts as their careers progress, and even after retirement.

Why Are UFC Fighters Allowed To Keep Their Belts?

UFC fighters are allowed to keep their belts because these are the trophies for their victories. Therefore, a defending UFC champion in any weight class may lose the title but still keep the belt. However, only current UFC title holders or champions can display their belts in public. 

Every weight category has a title fight, and the winner receives a championship belt. However, the belt is not the same as the title. Thus, a UFC champion doesn’t have to give the belt away despite losing the title in a fight. The contender winning the UFC championship gets a new belt. 

This general rule about the belts applies to both classic and legacy championship systems. Thus, there are twelve belts for the eight male and four female weight classes. However, any defending champion no longer gets a new belt after defeating a contender and retaining the title. 

Classic Championship Belts

In the classic championship system, a UFC fighter got a new belt for each successful title defense. Or, the new champion got a new belt. The former champions kept their belts, as many as they won until losing the title. 

These UFC rules changed with the introduction of the legacy championship belt in 2019. 

Legacy Championship Belts

The legacy championship belt changes the old practice. Now, any UFC fighter can get only one belt per weight category after winning the title. Subsequently, each successful title defense against a contender adds a ruby to the belt, replacing a white stone. 

Thus, a UFC fighter does not get two belts in the legacy championship system in the same weight class. In the classic championship system, a UFC fighter got a new belt for each successful title defense. 

Also, the legacy championship disassociates the current title holder from the belts of former UFC fighters. Besides, the customization of legacy championship belts makes them non-transferable to new title holders. Naturally, UFC fighters keep their belts. 

A UFC champion giving away a customized belt featuring unique identifiable information to a new title holder makes no sense. A new champion and title holder needs a different belt with customizable sections featuring unique details.

How the Legacy Championship Belt Works

Here’s how the new legacy championship belt works:

  • UFC fighter ‘SM’ wins a championship in a weight class and gets a legacy belt. 
  • The UFC engraves SM’s name and weight class on the belt’s left plate. Also, the legacy belt will sport SM’s national flag. 
  • SM successfully defends the title against a contender. Hence, UFC will replace the first of the eight white stones on the left plate with a red one. 
  • Also, the UFC will engrave the location and date of this win next to the newly added red stone. This process shall go on for every successful title defense. 
  • Suppose SM wins more than eight title fights as the defending champion. In such a scenario, the UFC will replace one of the white stones on the legacy belt’s right plate. 
  • Like the left plate, the right plate also has eight white stones, replaceable with red ones. 

How Many Belts Can UFC Fighters Win?

The legacy championship system applies to all the twelve belts for as many weight classes, for every new UFC champion. Also, the same process will play out for a UFC fighter winning the title in a different weight class. This second belt does not necessitate giving up the first one. 

However, a UFC fighter changing the weight class will forfeit the title unless someone has already won that championship. UFC fighters cannot hold the world championship titles for two or more weight classes at the same time. However, they can keep a belt they have already won.  

Male UFC fighters can win up to eight legacy belts, in theory. Female champions can win four in as many weight classes. However, a UFC fighter straddling all the weight classes in one lifetime and emerging victorious in each is unprecedented.

UFC Fighters Lose Their Championship Titles, Not the Belts

The 1993 edition of the Ultimate Fighting Championship didn’t have too many rules. However, all UFC fighters must abide by the stringent laws in effect today. A UFC fighter may lose a fight or championship title for several violations, such as fouls or doping. Now, the championship title and belt relate in only one context – when the UFC disqualifies a fighter’s winning bout.  

In such a scenario, the UFC fighter does not receive the belt in the first place. Or, the UFC may take the belt away because the winning fight is in dispute. A reigning champion doesn’t forfeit the belt if a subsequent fight to defend the title is in question. Champions lose only the titles if UFC strips them or disqualifies the fighters for reasons unrelated to the original wins. 

What Happens If UFC Fighters Retire With the Belt?

If UFC fighters retire with the belt, they keep it. However, retired fighters will lose the title of a reigning champion as the top two ranked contenders stake a claim. The UFC will give a new customizable legacy championship belt to the winner of the title fight.  

Fans must segregate the current title or championship from the belts of former UFC fighters. The belts of yesteryears are trophies, albeit still valuable for material reasons, nostalgia, and sheer achievement. 

However, only the current belt representing the title is in contention. When we have a new champion, it’s this fighter’s belt that represents the title in the particular weight class. This representation continues until the defending champion loses, retires, or forfeits the title. 

Do UFC Interim Champions Get To Keep Their Belts?

Yes, but UFC interim champions do not get the same belts as the title holders. The interim championship belt is more like a placeholder. Besides, the interim champion achieves the top rank in a weight class, which is below the world champion pedestal.  

There is an intense debate about the relevance and actual value of the interim championship. UFC fighters have different opinions about the practice. While the fans have no consensus, most UFC fighters do not bestow much accomplishment value upon the interim champion belt. 

Do UFC Fighters Get a New Belt for Every Title Defense?

UFC fighters do not get a new belt for every successful title defense per the classic championship system. While this used to be the case, the current legacy championship belt neither has nor requires such a practice. The customizable legacy championship belt notes every new win. 

There is an exception, though. A UFC fighter winning a second title in a different weight class gets a new belt. This belt has no connection to the first one, its title defense, number of such wins, or an eventual loss. Also, forfeiture has no effect on the legacy championship belt. Once a UFC fighter wins a championship, and the title isn’t in dispute, the belt is theirs to keep forever. 

UFC Belt Records of Yore

UFC champion Jonathan Dwight Jones or Jon Jones has about a dozen belts, so do George St-Pierre and Demetrious Johnson. Anderson Silva, Randy Couture, and Matt Huges collectively have more than two dozen belts. These tales are now lore from the past. 

Since 2019, UFC fighters cannot have more than one belt without winning the championship title in another weight class. However, a fighter who has won a title before keeps that belt and gets a new one. The UFC doesn’t add pre-2019 records to the legacy championship belt. 

The novelty aside, the new legacy championship belt is a financially prudent decision. The UFC spent around $300,000 to make each classic belt. And one fighter could win several. Now, the UFC has to make only one per champion’s career in every weight class.   

Final Thoughts

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is a young adult compared to the world championships for baseball or soccer and the Olympics. Thus, the rules continue to be relatively dynamic. While the legacy championship belt appears futuristic, no fan can predict what will happen a few years from now. Currently, UFC fighters keep their belts, but only one for their selected weight class.