With 2020 almost behind us, the UFC is already trying to finalise some of its main events for early 2021. A significant announcement confirmed that UFC 259 would see the main event between UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz and UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
The fight will allow Adesanya to become a UFC champion simultaneously in two weight classes – something that only a handful of UFC fighters have managed previously.
Discounting interim champions, there have only been a few champion vs champion fights in UFC history, period.
Here’s a look at the UFC’s previous fights between champions in different weight classes, and what happened.
Georges St. Pierre vs. BJ Penn – UFC 94
The UFC’s first champion vs champion fight came back in 2009, as UFC lightweight champ BJ Penn stepped up to 170lbs to take on UFC welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre. The battle was criticised by some, who felt Penn hadn’t cleaned out his own weight class.
However, despite only having one title defense to his name, the step up for ‘The Prodigy’ made sense as he’d come out on the wrong end of a tight decision against St-Pierre almost three years prior.
The UFC dedicated a lot of build to the fight, including its own ‘Prime Time’ series on Spike TV, and UFC 94 quickly became one of the biggest shows in the promotion’s history to that point.
In the end, St-Pierre came out on top, winning the fight via TKO after Penn’s corner threw in the towel after the fourth round.
‘GSP’ was too big and too strong for the Hawaiian, and after wearing him down with his clinch game in the first round, he then used his wrestling to take him to the ground and systematically beat the fight out of him.
The loss was just the second time that Penn had been stopped in his career to that point, and represented St. Pierre’s greatest victory.
However, Penn wasn’t affected too badly by the loss. He dropped back down to 155lbs later in 2009 and recorded what many believe to be his best two title defenses, over Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez.
St. Pierre meanwhile continued to defend his UFC welterweight title, and eventually retired in 2013 after nine successful defenses, cementing his legacy as the greatest 170lbs fighter of all time.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Conor McGregor – UFC 205
It would be another seven years before the UFC’s next champion vs champion fight, but it was a big one when it came around. November 2016 saw the UFC debut in New York’s Madison Square Garden with a fight that pitted UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez against the biggest star in the sport, UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor.
Like Penn’s clash with St. Pierre, this fight had some controversy around it, as McGregor had never fought at 155lbs in the UFC before his title challenge. In fact, he’d never even defended his UFC featherweight title.
Meanwhile, Alvarez had won his title from Rafael Dos Anjos four months prior and hoped to become a UFC superstar in his own right with a win.
Unfortunately for ‘The Underground King’, this was McGregor’s night. He used his reach, timing and striking skill to land crushing counterpunches on Alvarez, downing him on multiple occasions before the ref stopped the fight in the second round.
The win made McGregor the first UFC fighter to simultaneously hold UFC titles in different weight classes – although ‘The Notorious One’ was not presented with two belts after the fight, causing him to be furious.
At any rate, McGregor failed to defend either title instead of being stripped of them as he pursued a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather instead. He returned to the UFC two years later, only to fail in an attempt to regain his title, losing to new champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Alvarez meanwhile never came close to regaining his crown and left the UFC in late 2018 to join ONE Fighting Championship.
Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier – UFC 226
The UFC's next champion vs champion fight saw UFC heavyweight kingpin Stipe Miocic defend his title against UFC light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier. This time, the fight was largely justified. Both men had made multiple title defenses, and Cormier was already a highly accomplished fighter in the heavyweight division.
The promotion built the fight up hugely, dedicating a season of The Ultimate Fighter to the rivalry. However, due to both men's affable personalities, the interest level for the clash was surprisingly low.
Despite many fans favouring Miocic, Cormier came out on top, using his superior speed and clinch work to surprise the champ en route to a first-round knockout.
The win made 'DC' the UFC's second fighter to hold UFC titles in two weight classes simultaneously, but like McGregor before him, he didn't defend both. Instead, he relinquished his light heavyweight crown to continue to defend his heavyweight title.
'DC' successfully defended against Derrick Lewis – but a prospective fight with Brock Lesnar never materialised, and 2019 saw him lose his title back to Miocic in a rematch. A trilogy fight between the two took place in 2020, and when Miocic again came out on top, Cormier hung up his gloves for good.
Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes – UFC 232
Like Miocic vs Cormier, the champion vs champion fight between UFC featherweight queen Cris Cyborg and her bantamweight equivalent Amanda Nunes was fully justified. Both women had cleaned out their respective divisions, leaving them with no clear-cut contenders.
Cyborg had won her UFC title in 2017 by stopping Tonya Evinger, and she had already made two successful defenses. Nunes had won her crown in 2016 and had made three defenses, including a win over one of the UFC’s biggest stars, Ronda Rousey.
The fight appeared to favour Cyborg due to her size advantage and apparently superior punching power, but incredibly, things didn’t go down that way at all.
Nunes instead proved to be the faster and more accurate striker, and when Cyborg attempted to go berserker on her, she simply landed cleaner, harder counterpunches and knocked her fellow Brazilian out in under a minute.
It was the first time Cyborg had lost since 2005, and the dramatic way it happened immediately transformed Nunes into a UFC superstar.
In the two years that have followed, ‘The Lioness’ has become even more of a legend. Unlike Cormier and McGregor, she’s kept both of her titles and continues to defend them simultaneously, most recently defeating Felicia Spencer to retain the UFC featherweight title.
Cyborg, meanwhile, departed the UFC in 2019 and now fights in Bellator MMA.
Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw – UFC Fight Night 143
The UFC’s most recent champion vs champion clash was also a unique one. The first time a reigning UFC champion moved down to challenge for another UFC title, as UFC bantamweight kingpin TJ Dillashaw dropped to 125lbs to face off with UFC flyweight champ Henry Cejudo.
Unfortunately for Dillashaw, the move turned out to be a colossal error in judgment. He made the 125lbs weight limit but looked massively depleted and unwell by the time the fight came around.
And incredibly, the fight lasted just over 30 seconds, as Cejudo blitzed Dillashaw with strikes, finishing him off via TKO in what was a huge upset.
Things got even worse for Dillashaw when he tested positive for the banned substance EPO in the aftermath of the fight, forcing the UFC to strip him of his bantamweight crown and suspend him for two years.
Cejudo, on the other hand, saw his star rise like never before following his win. He actually took on Marlon Moraes for the title vacated by Dillashaw a few months later, and came out on top, joining McGregor, Cormier and Nunes as one of the UFC’s only simultaneous double champions.
‘The Messenger’ vacated his flyweight crown shortly after, and then made one successful defense at Bantamweight against Dominick Cruz before retiring from MMA in May 2020. He’s now recognised as one of the UFC’s all-time most accomplished fighters.Published 01 Jan 2021, 01:47 IST