5 of the longest spells of inactivity from a UFC champion
One of the most frustrating parts of being a UFC fan in recent years has been the constant creation of Interim titles to replace the real, “undisputed” thing when a champion faces a spell on the sidelines. Quite often, the original champion isn’t even out for that long – in 2010 for instance, Shane Carwin won an Interim Heavyweight title in March and only held it for 4 months before he faced the original champion Brock Lesnar in a unification match.
Sometimes though, UFC champions have been sidelined for far longer. Fans have criticised Conor McGregor for his current layoff, but in reality, he only just makes the top five in terms of lengthy periods of inactivity. So here are the five longest spells of inactivity from a UFC champion in promotional history.
#5 Conor McGregor & Randy Couture – 1 year and 3 months
While Conor McGregor still officially holds the UFC Lightweight title – meaning he’ll probably move up this list unless he’s stripped in April when Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson fight – right now he’s only joint-fifth on the list of UFC champs with lengthy inactive spells.
Conor’s reasoning was a bit frustrating for MMA fans – he went into boxing to fight Floyd Mayweather and is currently in contract negotiations – but wasn’t quite as interesting as the man who he shares the spot with.
Randy Couture won the UFC Heavyweight title in March 2007, defeating champion Tim Sylvia to begin his third title reign in the division. He quickly made a defense against Gabriel Gonzaga in August 2007, but two months later he decided to “resign” from the UFC citing problems with Zuffa’s management.
Reading between the lines, Couture wanted to fight Fedor Emelianenko – who refused to sign with the UFC – and felt that he should be able to book the fight outside of the promotional umbrella.
The UFC, of course, held fast and a legal battle ensued, meaning the UFC couldn’t strip Couture, and so an Interim title was of course created and won by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. When it became clear that Couture had no chance of winning a legal fight, he went back to the UFC and defended his title a year and three months after the Gonzaga fight, losing not to Interim champ Nogueira, but Brock Lesnar in a hastily booked fight.
Couture stands as one of the only examples of an active UFC champion who tried to lock horns with the promotion’s management.