5 youngest champions in UFC history
UFC fighters who ascend to championship status are typically in their athletic prime. They're far closer to being younger than they are to being older. Yet it is still hard for fighters to reach such a level of greatness early on in their careers. Being young is beneficial, but being too young directly correlates to inexperience. Thus, there's always a necessary balance.
A fighter's skills must reach a certain level that coincides with their athletic prime. That isn't always the case, however, when it does happen, legends are often forged. With Raul Rosas Jr. set to make his promotional debut at UFC 282 when he faces Jay Perrin, he will officially become the youngest fighter in the promotion's history.
At only 18 years of age with an undefeated record, some wonder if he could one day become the promotion's youngest-ever champion. While such expectations are premature, they do beg the question. Who are the youngest champions in UFC history? This list compiles five of them.
#5. Frank Shamrock, 25 years old at the time of his UFC title win
It's not often that a sibling pair achieve profound levels of success in MMA. Oftentimes, one sibling reaches great heights while the other sibling lurks in obscurity. Such is the case with reigning flyweight champion Deiveison Figueiredo and his younger brother Francisco.
Frank Shamrock, however, was an exception. As the younger brother of MMA icon Ken Shamrock, he carried the weight of a well-known family name on his shoulders. Fortunately, the youngest Shamrock brother earned his place in MMA history by defeating wrestling great and Olympic gold medalist Kevin Jackson.
At UFC Japan, Shamrock—then only 25 years old—handed Jackson his first professional loss within 16 seconds of the first round. Not only did the former King of Pancrase snap his foe's undefeated streak, but he also captured the promotion's inaugural light heavyweight title.
#4. Carlos Newton, 24 years old at the time of his UFC title win
A precursor to fellow Canadian Georges St-Pierre in terms of welterweight titleholders, Carlos Newton was an exciting fighter during his prime. While most casual fans regard grappling with disdain, 'The Ronin' earned the admiration of spectators around the world for his submission game.
At UFC 31, the Canadian grappler's skills on the mat proved instrumental. He faced Pat Miletich for the promotion's welterweight championship. Come the third round, a scramble ensued against the fence. As the two men fought for position, Carlos Newton secured an airtight bulldog choke.
Within seconds, it was clear that his foe had no hope of escaping the hold. Miletich tapped out, and 'The Ronin' was declared the winner and new 170 lbs champion at just 24 years old.
#3. Josh Barnett, 24 years old at the time of his UFC title win
A heavyweight MMA legend, Josh Barnett has fought nearly everywhere there is to fight. A skilled catch wrestler, his grappling was a force of nature that enabled him to suffer only one loss in the first seven years of his MMA career. On that impressive run, he defeated a range of legendary opponents.
Among these foes was all-time great heavyweight kickboxer Semmy Schilt and MMA icon Dan Severn. Perhaps the most famous opponent he defeated during the early phase of his career was Randy Couture. A fresh-faced 24-year-old at the time, 'The Warmaster' stunned the world by TKO'ing 'The Natural' in two rounds.
Unfortunately, a positive PED test in the wake of his win tarnished his performance. While the bout's result was not ruled a no-contest, Barnett was ultimately stripped of his status as a champion. He left the UFC thereafter, returning 11 years later to mixed success.
#2. José Aldo, 24 years old at the time of his UFC title win
Unfortunately, José Aldo's first reign as the UFC featherweight champion ended in quick fashion. Within 13 seconds, he was knocked out cold by a surging Conor McGregor. However, long before the Brazilian great's first stumble down his divisional throne, he seemed unbeatable.
Except for a lone loss on the regional circuit in Brazil, 'Scarface' was untouched. At the time, he was on a 10-fight win streak, with devastating victories over the likes of Urijah Faber and Cub Swanson. His run of consecutive wins extended to 11 when he TKO'd Manny Gamburyan at WEC 51.
In doing so, Aldo captured the promotion's featherweight title at just 24 years old. Following Zuffa's acquisition of the WEC, its featherweight division was incorporated into Dana White's organization. José Aldo, the then WEC 145 lbs champion, was promoted to the UFC's featherweight king.
#1. Jon Jones, 23 years old at the time of his UFC title win
It's difficult to imagine anyone breaking Jon Jones' record as the youngest champion in UFC history. According to many figures in the sport, 'Bones' reigns supreme as the greatest-ever fighter in MMA. With the exception of a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill, his record has been spotless.
Despite the effortless domination of all his wins at the time, few could have predicted the brutality of his win against Maurício 'Shogun' Rua. At the time, the Brazilian striker had just dealt Lyoto Machida his first-ever loss to capture the light heavyweight title.
Unfortunately, he wouldn't mount a successful title defense. His next opponent, Jon Jones, dealt him a merciless beating that left 'Shogun' so swollen and battered he tapped to strikes. In a five-round bout, the Brazilian surrendered in three, and 'Bones' was declared the 205 lbs champion at a tender 23 years old.