The UFC/Pride Heavyweight Championship is one of the most prestigious titles in mixed martial arts. It has been held by some of the greatest in history, and its lineage dates back to the early days of the UFC.
Some even include Royce Gracie on the list considering there were no weight classes when UFC started out, therefor making Gracie the inaugural champion. For the sake of this article, we’ll pick up from Mark Coleman who was the first undisputed heavwyweight champion.
Mark Coleman – The First Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion
Mark Coleman won the first undisputed Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion title by defeating Dan Severn on February 7, 1997, at UFC 12. Coleman won by Scarf-hold submission. The win made him the first-ever Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Maurice Smith – The Second Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion
Maurice Smith won the Lineal UFC Heavyweight Championship title at UFC 14 on July 27, 1997, by Decision. He defeated Mark Coleman to become the second Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Randy Couture – The Third Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion
Randy Couture won the title by defeating Maurice Smith at UFC Japan on December 21, 1997, by Decision. He became the third Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Enson Inoue – The Fourth Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion
Enson Inoue won the title by defeating Randy Couture via armbar in Vale Tudo Japan. This was not part of the UFC, but Inoue was still considered the fourth Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Mark Kerr – The Fifth Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion
Mark Kerr defeated Enson Inoue by Decision at Pride Grand Prix on January 30, 2000, becoming the fifth Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Kazayuki Fujita – The Sixth Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion
Kazayuki Fujita defeated Mark Kerr by Decision on May 1, 2000, at Pride. This win made him the sixth Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Mirko Crocop – The Seventh Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion
Mirko Crocop defeated Kazayuki Fujita by TKO on August 19, 2001, at Pride. This win made him the seventh Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira – The Eighth Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira defeated Mirko Crocop via submission (armbar) on November 9, 2003, becoming the eighth Lineal UFC Heavyweight Champion. He also won the Pride Heavyweight Championship, unifying the Lineal UFC Heavyweight title with the Pride Heavyweight title.
Fedor Emelianenko – The Ninth Lineal UFC/Pride Heavyweight Champion
Fedor Emelianenko defeated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on March 16, 2003, at Pride 25 by Decision, becoming the ninth undisputed Lineal UFC/Pride Heavyweight Champion.
Fabricio Werdum – The Tenth Lineal UFC/Pride Heavyweight Champion
Fabricio Werdum defeated Fedor Emelianenko on June 26, 2010, at Strikeforce by Submission (triangle), becoming the tenth Lineal UFC/Pride Heavyweight Champion.
Alistair Overeem – The Eleventh Lineal UFC/Pride Heavyweight Champion
Alistair Overeem defeated Fabricio Werdum on June 18, 2011, at Strikeforce by Decision, becoming the eleventh Lineal UFC/Pride Heavyweight Champion. He also unified the Strikeforce, EliteXC, and DREAM Heavyweight titles with the Lineal UFC and Pride HW titles.
Antonio Bigfoot Silva – The 12th Lineal Champion
On February 2, 2013, Antonio Bigfoot Silva beat Overeem via KO at UFC 156, becoming the 12th Lineal Champion.
Cain Valasquez – The 13th Lineal Champion
On May 25, 2013, Cain Valasquez defeated Bigfoot via TKO at UFC 160. This win reunified the Lineal UFC and Pride Heavyweight championship with the current UFC championship, and he became the 13th Lineal Champion.
Fabricio Werdum – The 14th Lineal Champion
Fabricio Werdum won the title again from Valasquez on June 13, 2015, at UFC 188 via submission (guillotine), becoming the 14th Lineal Champion.
Stipe Miocic – The 15th Lineal Champion
On May 14, 2016, Stipe Miocic defeated Werdum at UFC 198 via KO, becoming the 15th Lineal Champion.
Daniel Cormier – The 16th Lineal Champion
On July 7, 2018, Daniel Cormier won the title at UFC 226 via KO, becoming the 16th Lineal Champion.
Stipe Miocic – The 17th Lineal UFC/Pride Champion
On August 17, 2019, Miocic won the title back by TKO at UFC 241, becoming the 17th Lineal UFC/Pride Champion.
Francis Ngannou – The 18th Undisputed Lineal UFC/Pride Heavyweight Champion
Finally, on March 27, 2021, at UFC 260, Francis Ngannou defeated Miocic via KO and became the current reigning UFC champion. But more importantly, he became the 18th undisputed Lineal UFC and Pride Heavyweight Champion in an unbroken lineage that began with Mark Coleman’s inaugural HW
With Ngannou’s decision to become a free agent comes the discarding of an old and important tradition. Whoever wins at UFC 285, Jon Jones or Cyril Gane, this victory will mark the pivotal moment in the promotions actual claim to the ‘undisputed’ verbiage.
It’s also important to note that Ngannou made it clear that he plans to return to MMA after an outing in boxing, therefor the new lineal line likely won’t be with the UFC. Ngannou told Schmo:
“I would definitely go back into MMA. But not, before the boxing I prefer to go to boxing first ”
“obviously there’s MMA promotions, that are trying they’re reaching out to see how we can structure how we can get in a business together how we can do become a partner. ”
Ngannou also cast a shadow of doubt over continuing with the UFC:
“I think my situation is different than than others. You know. It’s not like, it’s not like I got cut or something. I left, you know, and I think (it would) take a lot in order for me to come back. And I doubt that,”