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The 5 Most Popular UFC Champions of All Time

Paul Benson
ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
Timeless

Conor McGregor - Hugely popular with the UFC'S fan-base
Conor McGregor - Hugely popular with the UFC'S fan-base

UFC is not WWE as most martial arts fans would loudly tell you. UFC is a legitimate fighting competition and wins and losses matter as the more victories you earn, the quicker up the rankings you ascend until you secure a title shot and hopefully a Championship win.

While in WWE, the focus for a performer is getting over with the crowd to earn creative attention from the booking squad and conceivably earn more money, in UFC you have to win; popularity counts for little.

However, despite popularity contests not being a pre-requisite for success; see Brock Lesnar or Quinton Jackson for proof, it certainly helps a performer's marketability and drawing power.

Back in the early days of the UFC, two men stood out from the crowd. One of those fighters was serial, unflashy winner, Royce Gracie who won three of the first five UFC tournaments and the other was the charismatic, muscular and dynamic, Ken Shamrock.

UFC fans would often boo the incredible talents of Gracie and cheer the less successful exploits of bigger personality, Shamrock.

When Shamrock finally got the better of Gracie in their much-anticipated singles clash at UFC 5 (despite the match being ruled a draw, in the absence of judges, the consensus was Shamrock was the clear victor), it was he who was given the keys to the kingdom as the UFC's top star, not Gracie, despite the fact Shamrock had and would never win a UFC tournament in his entire career.


Ken Shamrock: More popular than Royce Gracie
Ken Shamrock: More popular than Royce Gracie

Gracie would not compete again in MMA until the Pride Grand Prix in January 2000 in Japan.

Shamrock meanwhile would become the organisation's first Superfight Champion and would be the company's number one fighter until he left to compete in the World Wrestling Federation and achieve even greater fame and fortune.

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That demonstrates that in some cases, popularity in UFC can be equally if not more important than wins or losses in some cases.

In the following slideshow, SK looks at the five most popular Champions in UFC history.



#5 Chuck Liddell (Light-Heavyweight Champion, 2005-07)

Chuck Liddell - Fans loved his highlight reel knockouts
Chuck Liddell - Fans loved his highlight reel knockouts

Chuck Liddell was box office dynamite in the mid 2000's and had dynamite in his fists as well.

13 of Liddell's MMA wins came via Knockout as his UFC career was a highlight reel of devastating Knockouts.

His reign as Light-Heavyweight Champion is still revered to this day. 

Liddell's Light-Heavyweight Championship win finally came at UFC 52 versus the man who defeated him for the Interim belt two years earlier at UFC 43, Randy Couture.

Having pursued that title for four years, the MMA audience was desperate to see "The Iceman" finally claim gold. He did and a huge audience of 280,000 paid to see him do it via pay per view. 

Numbers talk and those figures demonstrate the immense popularity of the man. His main events at UFC 57 and UFC 62 both surpassed 400,000 buys and his UFC 66 title defence versus Tito Ortiz was the first MMA show to break 1 million pay per view orders.

Liddell was one of the most popular UFC Champions in history.

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