The Ultimate Fighting Championship Heavyweight Championship follows the weight guidelines set forth in the Uniform Rules of Mixed Martial Arts (maximum 265 lbs.).

After running through the tournaments UFC 10 The Tournament and UFC 11 The Proving Ground, the belt was first awarded to Mark Coleman at UFC 12 Judgement Day after defeating Dan Severn by submission. In what was considered one of, if not the, biggest upset in UFC history at that time, Coleman dropped the strap in his first title defense losing to Maurice Smith at UFC 14 Showdown.

Smith went on to defend the title on one occasion, defeating David Abbot before losing the belt in a tough majority decision to Randy Couture at UFC Japan Ultimate Japan 1.

Couture didn’t keep the belt for long. Soon after, he was stripped of the title when he could not come to contractual terms with the UFC and its parent company at the time, Semaphore Entertainment Group.

Bas Rutten faced Kevin Randleman for the vacant championship at UFC 20 Battle for the Gold in May 1999. This fight went into overtime, with Rutten taking a close decision victory to become the Heavyweight Champion. Rutten vacated the title later in the year, in order to drop down to middleweight (his natural weight class), and try to become the first person to hold a UFC title in two weight classes (unfortunately a training injury led to Rutten’s retirement).

Randleman achieved his goal to become the Heavyweight Champion in November 1999, beating Pete Williams at UFC 23 Ultimate Japan 2 for the title , and successfully defended it against Pedro Rizzo at UFC 26 Ultimate Field Of Dreams. However, after a year as champion, he lost the title to a returning Couture at UFC 28 High Stakes.

Couture went on to defend his title two times in 2001 against Rizzo before dropping the belt to Josh Barnett at UFC 36 Worlds Collide. Barnett was later stripped of the title after testing positive for banned substances.

Ricco Rodriguez went on to beat Couture in September 2002 for the vacant championship after a Rodriguez elbow broke Couture’s orbital bone and he was forced to submit in the fifth round. Rodriguez dropped the strap to Tim Sylvia in his first title defense at UFC 41 Onslaught.

Sylvia successfully defended the belt seven months later beating Gan McGee by first round technical knockout. Sylvia tested positive for a banned substance following the fight and voluntarily forfeited the championship.

Sylvia was granted the next chance to win back the vacant title facing Frank Mir at UFC 48 Payback. Mir took the title by technical submission due to an armbar that snapped Sylvia’s right forearm. Mir was never able to defend the title, as injuries from a motorcycle accident caused the UFC to strip him of the title in August 2005, and Andrei Arlovski who had won the interim title in February 2005, was promoted to the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion.

In October 2005, Arlovski defended his title at UFC 55 Fury against the King of the Cage Heavyweight Champion Paul Buentello. Arlovski knocked out Buentello in 15 seconds of the opening round.

Arlovski dropped the strap in a rematch with Sylvia at UFC 59 Reality Check on April 15, 2006, via technical knockout in the first round. Soon after the match, Sylvia requested, and was given, a rematch with Arlovski. Their third match took place at UFC 61 Bitter Rivals, with Sylvia remaining champion by unanimous decision.

Sylvia next fought Jeff Monson at UFC 65 Bad Intentions and Sylvia won again by unanimous decision.

At the age of 43, and a brief retirement from the sport, Couture defeated Champion Sylvia at UFC 68 The Uprising by unanimous decision in March 2007 to claim his third UFC heavyweight title. Couture’s first punch, at eight seconds of the first round, sent Sylvia reeling to the mat. Couture controlled the pace of the fight for five rounds, smothering Sylvia with effective striking and numerous takedowns. All three judges’ scored the bout 50â€Â“45 for Couture.

Couture broke his arm during a successful title defense at UFC 74 Respect in August 2007 and two months later he severed all of his ties to the UFC. Instead of vacating the title, the UFC decided to put the interim strap on the line at UFC 81 Breaking Point in February 2008. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira defeated former two-time Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia to become the interim champion.

Couture came out of retirement to defend his championship against Brock Lesnar at UFC 91 Couture vs Lesnar in November 2008. Lesnar won the title in the second round due to a technical knockout.

Prior to Couture coming out of retirement, Nogueira had agreed to participate as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 8 Team Nogueira vs Team Mir. After the season Nogueira would face opposing coach Mir for the Interim Championship. At UFC 92 The Ultimate 2008, Mir took the title via technical knockout in a very one-sided bout setting up a rematch with Lesnar to unify the Heavyweight Championship.

The unification was originally scheduled for UFC 98 Evans vs Machida in May 2009, however a knee injury to Mir forced the bout to be delayed for two months until UFC 100. Lesnar was able to avenge the sole loss on his record as he won via technical knockout in the second round.

Lesnar was scheduled to have his second title defense against Shane Carwin at UFC 106 Ortiz vs Griffin II in November 2009. That fight was postponed when it was first revealed that Lesnar was suffering from mononucleosis and later from a severe case of diverticulitis. Lesnar’s unknown future forced the UFC to once again schedule an Interim Championship bout between Carwin and Mir at [[UFC 111 St. Pierre vs Hardy]] in March 2010.

Carwin cemented his status as the number one contender by defeating Mir in the first round by knockout to become the Interim UFC Heavyweight Champion. The long-awaited Lesnar/Carwin matchup took place at UFC 116 Lesnar vs Carwin in July 2010. After being thoroughly dominated and almost stopped in the first round due to the relentless ground and pound of Carwin, Lesnar fought back in the second round and submitted Carwin via an arm triangle choke.

Lesnar’s third title defense took place in October 2010 against undefeated fighter Cain Velasquez. Once again Lesnar was dominated from the beginning, but this time there was no recovery and Velasquez took the strap via technical knockout in the first round.

Velasquez tore his right rotator cuff in the victory effectively cancelling a rumored title defense against Junior Dos Santos. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Dos Santos agreed to coach against Lesnar on The Ultimate Fighter 13 Team Lesnar vs Team Dos Santos with the coaches agreeing to a number one contender bout following the season. Unfortunately Lesnar once again became ill with diverticulitis and Dos Santos beat Carwin to officially earn his title shot.

The Velasquez and Dos Santos were originally scheduled to compete at UFC 139 Shogun vs Henderson on November 19, 2011, however, when the UFC struck a broadcast deal with FOX, the contest was moved up one week to air live on national network television on UFC on Fox 1 Velasquez vs Dos Santos.

Dos Santos took the title in just 64 seconds after he connected with a brutal overhand right behind Velasquez’s ear, followed him to the mat, and finished him with punches on the ground.

Dos Santos was scheduled to face Alistair Overeem on at [UFC 146: Dos Santos vs Mir]]. On April 4, 2012, the Nevada State Athletic Commission announced Overeem had failed a pre-fight drug test. Frank Mir replaced Overeem. Dos Santos was able to keep the fight standing, showing his superior boxing skills, resulting in a second round knockout.

==UFC Heavyweight Title History==

Champion Defeated for Title Event Defenses Notes
”’Cain Velasquez”’ Junior Dos Santos UFC 155 Dos Santos vs Velasquez 2 (December 29, 2012)

*Antonio Silva at UFC 160 Velasquez vs Bigfoot 2 (May 25, 2013)

”’Junior Dos Santos”’ Cain Velasquez UFC on Fox 1 Velasquez vs Dos Santos (November 12, 2011)

*Frank Mir at UFC 146 Dos Santos vs Mir (May 26, 2012)

”’Cain Velasquez”’ Brock Lesnar UFC 121 Lesnar vs Velasquez (October 23, 2010)
”’Brock Lesnar”’ Randy Couture UFC 91 Couture vs Lesnar (November 15, 2008)

*Shane Carwin (Interim Champion) at UFC 116 Lesnar vs Carwin (July 2, 2010)

*Frank Mir (Interim Champion) at UFC 100 (July 11, 2009)

”’Randy Couture”’ Tim Sylvia UFC 68 The Uprising (June 3, 2007)

*Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74 Respect (August 25, 2007)

”’Tim Sylvia”’ Andrei Arlovski UFC 59 Reality Check (April 15, 2006)

*Jeff Monson at UFC 65 Bad Intentions (November 18, 2006)

*Andrei Arlovski at UFC 61 Bitter Rivals (July 8, 2006)

”’Andrei Arlovski”’ (August 12, 2005)

*Paul Buentello at UFC 55 Fury (November 5, 2005)

Arlovski was Interim UFC Heavyweight Champion; Promoted to UFC Heavyweight Champion when Frank Mir was stripped of the belt due to injuries
”’Frank Mir”’ Tim Sylvia UFC 48 Payback (June 19, 2004) Mir won vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship
”’Tim Sylvia”’ Ricco Rodriguez UFC 41 Onslaught (February 23, 2003)

*Gan McGee at UFC 44 Undisputed (September 26, 2003)

Sylvia forfeited title after positive steroid test
”’Ricco Rodriguez”’ Randy Couture UFC 39 The Warriors Return (September 27, 2002) Rodriguez won vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship
”’Josh Barnett”’ Randy Couture UFC 36 Worlds Collide (March 22, 2002) Barnett stripped of title for positive steroid test
”’Randy Couture”’ Kevin Randleman UFC 28 High Stakes (November 17, 2000)

*Pedro Rizzo at UFC 34 High Voltage (November 2, 2001)

*Pedro Rizzo at [[UFC 31 Locked & Loaded]] (May 4, 2001)

”’Kevin Randleman”’ Pete Williams UFC 23 Ultimate Japan 2 (November 19, 1999)

*Pedro Rizzo at UFC 26 Ultimate Field of Dreams (June 9, 2000)

Randleman won vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship
”’Bas Rutten”’ Kevin Randleman UFC 20 Battle for the Gold (May 7, 1999) Rutten won vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship
”’Randy Couture”’ Maurice Smith UFC Japan Ultimate Japan 1 (December 27, 1997)
”’Maurice Smith”’ Mark Coleman UFC 14 Showdown (July 27, 1997)

*David Abbott at UFC 15 Collision Course (October 17, 1997)

”’Mark Coleman”’ Dan Severn UFC 12 Judgement Day (February 7, 1997) Coleman won first-ever Heavyweight Championship