Aljamain Sterling and 4 other former UFC champions who changed divisions after losing their title

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Aljamain Sterling (top center) had a successful featherweight debut against Calvin Kattar (bottom center) at UFC 300 [Image Courtesy: @ufc via X/Twitter]

UFC champions are, more often than not, the most dominant fighters in their respective divisions. However, no one sits on the throne forever for one reason or another. Champions are inevitably dethroned by either a younger, hungrier challenger or an equally skilled contemporary.

In most cases, former champions either try to work their way back into title contention or call for an immediate rematch depending on how many title defenses they've had. Unfortunately, the latter is more commonly requested but rarely given by the promotion.

For that reason or others, champions sometimes commit to moving to a different division, whether up or down, in pursuit of title glory elsewhere. Unfortunately, it isn't always successful.


#5. B.J. Penn, former UFC lightweight/welterweight

B.J. Penn is the first two-division UFC champion in the promotion's history, albeit not simultaneously, having captured lightweight and welterweight gold at different points. When he last held the 155-pound strap, 'The Prodigy' lost the title to Frankie Edgar, before losing for a second time in an immediate rematch.

This prompted Penn to move back up to welterweight, where he faced legendary 170-pounder Matt Hughes, knocking him out within 21 seconds of round one. Unfortunately, it was not the start of a title reign for the Hawaiian icon, as he tumbled down the sport's hierarchy.

He found himself on an eight-fight winless streak, consisting of a draw and seven-fight losing streak, which is tied with Tony Ferguson's losing streak for the longest in the promotion's history.


#4. Frankie Edgar, former UFC lightweight/featherweight/bantamweight

As one of the gutsiest fighters in UFC history, Frankie Edgar is believed to have spent most of his career punching above his weight. Despite being just 5 feet 6 inches tall, Edgar once reigned over the lightweight division as its champion, having legendary wars with several foes.

However, his stint as a titleholder ended in the form of Benson Henderson, who dethroned him and then beat him in an immediate rematch. Outsized and outgunned by the new champion, 'The Answer' sought a solution to his dilemma by moving down to featherweight.

There, he challenged all-time great featherweight José Aldo for the divisional crown, but was beaten in a gritty war. Edgar spent the next seven years at featherweight, failing to capture interim and undisputed gold on other occasions before eventually retiring at bantamweight.


#3. Rose Namajunas, UFC women's strawweight/flyweight

Rose Namajunas is a two-time UFC women's strawweight champion. She has averaged one title defense per championship reign, only the last time she lost her belt, she didn't pursue a rematch.

'Thug Rose' had a tedious clash with Carla Esparza, which is widely regarded as one of the worst title fights of all time. Namajunas cut a fearful figure, losing the strawweight belt for having less activity than a fairly inactive Esparza. After contemplating retirement, Namajunas returned over a year later.

Check out Manon Fiorot getting her hand raised against Rose Namajunas:

Only this time, she did not fight at strawweight, instead debuting against Manon Fiorot at women's flyweight. Despite losing, 'Thug Rose' was more competitive than expected and has remained at 125 pounds.


#2. Deiveson Figueiredo, UFC flyweight/bantamweight

At one point, Deveison Figueiredo was the UFC flyweight champion, and after his brutal domination of Joseph Benavidez, seemed unstoppable. However, in the immediate aftermath, he found his kryptonite in the form of Brandon Moreno, with whom he had the promotion's first-ever quadrilogy.

After losing to Moreno a final time, dropping the flyweight belt to him in an anticlimactic finish, Figueiredo made the decision to ply his trade elsewhere. Specifically, he moved to the bantamweight division, where he would not be held back by as debilitating a weight cut.

Check out Deiveson Figueiredo's bantamweight debut against Rob Font:

Figueiredo had a successful debut, beating Rob Font via unanimous decision, before submitting the division's former champion with a rear-naked choke at UFC 300.


#1. Aljamain Sterling, UFC bantamweight/featherweight

There is no former bantamweight champion more peculiar than Aljamain Sterling. He captured the 135-pound strap under dubious circumstances and proceeded to have only questionable title defenses. None of it was his fault, as he was a mere victim of probability, but it took away from his title reign.

Moreover, his fighting style did not endear him to the fans. So, when Sean O'Malley TKO'd him to capture bantamweight gold, it was clear that the promotion would be in no hurry to grant him an immediate title rematch, despite his claim to the most bantamweight title defenses in the division's history.

Check out Aljamain Sterling slamming Calvin Kattar:

Instead, Sterling spent his time embarking on a fruitless campaign for a rematch, before wisely giving up on that dream and pursuing a featherweight fight. At UFC 300, he took on well-known 145-pound striker Calvin Kattar, using his wrestling and grappling to win in convincing fashion for a successful 145-pound debut.

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Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh
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