Jiri Prochazka, Conor McGregor and more: 5 UFC champions who were forced to vacate their titles before making a single defense
UFC fans were rocked this week by the news that current light-heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka has suffered a major shoulder injury. This not only ruled him out of his booked rematch with Glover Teixeira, but also forced him to vacate his title.
Jiri Prochazka isn’t the first fighter in UFC history to have to vacate their title before even making a single defense, as a number of past champions were equally unfortunate. On a couple of occasions, the fighter forced to vacate was able to regain their title later down the line, but for others, that sadly wasn’t the case.
Here are five UFC champions who were forced to vacate their title before even making a single defense.
#5. Jiri Prochazka – former UFC light-heavyweight champion
The latest entry to this list is the previously mentioned Jiri Prochazka. He captured the UFC light-heavyweight title five months ago by beating former champion Glover Teixeira in a Fight of the Year contender. The Czech was set to rematch Teixeira at UFC 282, but that all changed when a shocking announcement was made earlier this week.
While the reasons weren’t officially confirmed at first, it was announced that Prochazka was out of the bout with Teixeira. Additionally, he’d also be vacating his title, setting off all kinds of wild rumors on social media.
It quickly emerged that no foul play had occurred, though. Instead, ‘Denisa’ explained on Instagram that he’d suffered a serious shoulder injury. The injury was later described by Dana White as one of the worst that any fighter has suffered in UFC history.
Doctors have suspected that Prochazka could spend more than six months on the shelf. So, his decision to vacate his title in order to move the division on was remarkably selfless. However, that doesn’t make the whole situation any less unfortunate.
Prochazka, who had knocked out both Volkan Oezdemir and Dominick Reyes prior to his title win, was widely considered one of the most exciting talents in the promotion. A large portion of the MMA fanbase looked forward to his title reign playing out.
Now, though, ‘Denisa’ will have to climb the mountain all over again, even if h e’s likely to be handed an instant title shot upon his return. Whether he’ll be able to regain his crown remains to be seen.
#4. Frank Mir – former UFC heavyweight champion
It’s probably fair to say that fans recall Frank Mir’s second reign as UFC heavyweight champion – technically holding an interim crown in 2008 – more than they do his first, which began in 2004. Mir’s reign began with a truly nasty finish, but ended before he’d even made his first defense.
Very few fans expected him to claim the vacant title in the first place as he faced former champion Tim Sylvia, who was, at the time, unbeaten in MMA. However, in one of the craziest finishes in octagon history, Mir caught ‘The Maine-Iac’ in an armbar and literally snapped the limb, forcing Herb Dean to step in.
He was just 25 years old at the time and was widely seen as the division’s brightest prospect and fans were excited to see what he could do as champion.
However, before Mir could face top contender Andrei Arlovski, he was involved in a terrible motorcycle accident. He suffered two breaks in his femur as well as a badly damaged knee. Despite intending to return in 2005, it quickly became clear that wasn’t going to happen – and so he was forced to vacate without ever defending.
Arlovski instead went onto claim the vacant title, and when Mir did return in 2006, he promptly looked awful in a loss to the largely unheralded Marcio Cruz. It would be well over 18 months before he looked like his old self again, and over two years before he reclaimed at least part of the title he never actually lost in the octagon.
#3. Georges St-Pierre – former UFC middleweight champion
Georges St-Pierre is not only widely considered the greatest UFC fighter of all time, but he’s also considered one of the promotion’s greatest champions, too. ‘GSP’ held the welterweight title from April 2008 to December 2013. He made nine successful defenses and voluntarily vacated the belt rather than losing it in the octagon in order to take some time away.
He became a double champion when he returned in late 2017 to defeat Michael Bisping for the middleweight title. However, it’s fair to say that his reign as a 185lbs kingpin couldn’t have been further from his time as welterweight champ if he’d tried.
After dethroning ‘The Count,’ Dana White was absolutely certain that the Canadian legend would defend his title against interim champion Robert Whittaker in a unification bout – but St-Pierre had other ideas.
Apparently, his body had reacted so badly to bulking up to 185lbs that he’d contracted ulcerative colitis. Rather than attempt to defend his title, ‘GSP’ simply announced his retirement again and vacated it instead.
White was hardly impressed, and a number of fans suspected St-Pierre never intended to defend his title and was only looking to win it to enhance his legacy in the first place. Still, it was definitely frustrating to see the legend have to vacate his newly-won crown without fighting again.
#2. Nicco Montano – former UFC flyweight champion
UFC decided to introduce the women’s flyweight title in 2017 via a tournament on the 26th season of The Ultimate Fighter. But few fans expected Nicco Montano – who had a middling MMA record of 3-2 – to come out on top.
However, after overcoming tournament favorite Lauren Murphy, as well as Montana De La Rose, Barb Honchak, and Roxanne Modafferi, Montano found herself the new titleholder as 2017 came to an end.
Unfortunately, despite the UFC finding the perfect first challenger for her in the form of former bantamweight title challenger Valentina Shevchenko, the champion’s title reign was instead to come to an anticlimactic end.
While preparing to fight Shevchenko in September 2018, Montano found herself hospitalized. She badly botched her weight cut, and the bout was subsequently called off. More importantly, though, the UFC were so unimpressed with her that they also forced her to vacate her title, ending her reign before a single title defense.
Shevchenko went onto claim the vacant title a couple of months later, and to say Montano has not come close to regaining it would be an understatement. In the years that have followed, she’s fought just once more – losing to Julianna Pena in a bantamweight bout in the summer of 2019.
#1. Conor McGregor – former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion
Conor McGregor is a highly unique case even amongst the UFC’s champions who vacated their titles before they were able to make a single defense.
The likes of Frank Mir and Jiri Prochazka were forced to give up their crowns before they could even attempt to defend them. However, McGregor instead fought three times as the reigning featherweight champion without making a single defense.
‘The Notorious’ famously claimed the 145lbs title by knocking out Jose Aldo in December 2015. Rather than defend it against top contender Frankie Edgar, he instead signed for a clash with lightweight kingpin Rafael Dos Anjos in an attempt to claim a second title.
The fight fell through when 'RDA' broke his foot. Instead, McGregor embarked on a two-fight series with Nate Diaz – at 170lbs – while the featherweight division was essentially left on hold.
Nothing changed when McGregor finished with Diaz, either, as he chose to fight Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title rather than defend his 145lbs crown. He ended up becoming the UFC’s first simultaneous double champion when he knocked out ‘The Underground King.’
Just two weeks later, the Irishman’s reign as a featherweight champion ended when he came to an agreement with the UFC to vacate his title. But remarkably, he didn’t end up defending his lightweight title either – instead basically abandoning it to pursue a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather.
Essentially, then, McGregor stands as the only champion in promotional history to never make a single attempt at defending either of his titles – something that stands largely as a black mark on his legacy.