List of UFC Lightweight Champions

We’ve compiled everything you need to know about the greats of the lightweight UFC division.

Islam Makhachev holding the UFC lightweight championship belt
Luke Dalton

Written by: Luke Dalton

(Content Writer)

Fact checked by: Naim Rosinski

(Content Manager)

Last updated: 2024-04-03

5 minutes read

One of the most competitive weight classes in all Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), the UFC Lightweight Division is a guaranteed firework display of agility, technique, and raw power time and again.

Covering fighters weighing between 146 to 155 pounds (roughly 66 to 70 kg), this fast-paced and dynamic division has been a consistent battleground for some of the sport's most memorable moments and iconic fighters.

From inception to the current champion, the lightweight category has been a showstopper of skill, determination, and unparalleled athleticism, and has brought us some of the most arguably exhilarating moments in MMA history.

In this post, we'll explore the history of the UFC Lightweight Champion, spotlight the current titleholder, and take a walk down memory lane to honor all the warriors who have held this prestigious title.

A Brief Glimpse into Lightweight History

Before UFC 31 on May 4, 2001, weight classes were less defined, and this led to a lot of unfortunate mismatches and unbalanced fights.

Recognizing the need for change and the introduction of regulations to ensure fairer fights, the division was born, and the UFC gained a new platform to showcase skill levels across different weight ranges.

Initially known as the Bantamweight Championship, the division was renamed to the Lightweight Division, setting the stage for decades of high-octane competition and transformations that reflect the very evolution of MMA itself, with champions like BJ Penn, Frankie Edgar, and Khabib Nurmagomedov etching their names in the annals of UFC history.

Image Credits: TheSportster

Image Credits: TheSportster

The Champions of the Lightweight Division

Much like the Light Heavyweight division, the UFC Lightweight Championship has always been a symbol of excellence, with the title changing hands among fighters who embody only the best in MMA.

Current UFC Lightweight Champion

As of 2024, Islam Makhachev reigns as the UFC Lightweight Champion.

Makhachev, a fighter with a background in Sambo, has demonstrated exceptional grappling skills and striking precision. His victory over Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 by a triangle arm choke marked the beginning of his reign.

Since then, Makhachev has successfully defended his title against Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284 and UFC 294, showcasing his dominance in the division.

The Inaugural Champion

The first UFC Lightweight Champion was crowned in 2001, setting the stage for a lineage of legendary fighters. Jens Pulver, known as "Lil' Evil," was the first to hold the title.

The Reign of Nurmagomedov

Khabib Nurmagomedov, often regarded as the greatest lightweight of all time, dominated the division with an undefeated record of 29-0.

His grappling prowess and relentless pressure overwhelmed his opponents, leading to notable victories over Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje.

Khabib's legacy in the lightweight division is unmatched, and his retirement left a void that fighters like Islam Makhachev aim to fill.

Image Credits: YouTube (MMA Time Eng)

Image Credits: YouTube (MMA Time Eng)

All UFC Lightweight Champions

The UFC Lightweight division has seen 12 champions, each bringing their unique style and story to the octagon. From the striking finesse and showmanship of Conor McGregor to the fearsome grappling mastery of Khabib Nurmagomedov, the division is nothing short of a constant contest of champions, even when the belt isn’t on the line.

But only some of those champions battled hard enough to actually win the title and carve out their legacy. These are those warriors who have left their indelible mark on the division. 



Event Won At

Date Became Champion

Length of Reign


Method of Victory

Jens Pulver


UFC 30

Feb 23, 2001

1 year

Caol Uno

Decision (Majority)

BJ Penn


UFC 80

Jan 19, 2008

3 years, 2 months

Joe Stevenson

Submission (Rear-Naked Choke)

Frankie Edgar


UFC 112

Apr 10, 2010

1 year, 10 months

BJ Penn

Decision (Unanimous)

Benson Henderson


UFC 144

Feb 26, 2012

1 year, 7 months

Frankie Edgar

Decision (Unanimous)

Anthony Pettis


UFC 164

Aug 31, 2013

1 year, 6 months

Benson Henderson

Submission (Armbar)

Rafael dos Anjos


UFC 185

Mar 14, 2015

1 year, 4 months

Anthony Pettis

Decision (Unanimous)

Eddie Alvarez


UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos vs. Alvarez

Jul 7, 2016

4 months

Rafael dos Anjos

TKO (Punches)

Conor McGregor


UFC 205

Nov 12, 2016

11 months

Eddie Alvarez

TKO (Punches)

Khabib Nurmagomedov


UFC 223

Apr 7, 2018

2 years, 6 months

Al Iaquinta

Decision (Unanimous)

Charles Oliveira


UFC 262

May 15, 2021

1 year, 5 months

Michael Chandler

TKO (Punches)

Islam Makhachev


UFC 280

Oct 22, 2022

Current Champion

Charles Oliveira

Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke)

Legacy and Future

As the Lightweight Division moves forward, it continues to be one of the most closely watched in the UFC, with a talent pool that promises exciting matchups and potential for new legends to emerge. It remains an undisputed cornerstone of MMA, reflecting the sport's dynamic nature and its ability to captivate fans worldwide.

From the wrestling dominance of Jens Pulver and BJ Penn to the striking prowess of Conor McGregor and the grappling excellence of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev, the division has seen a wide array of fighting styles and strategies, and is sure to see more of the same in the bouts ahead.

With Islam Makhachev at the helm, we’re certainly facing an exciting phase. Stacked with talent, and full of contenders like Charles Oliveira, Justin Gaethje, and Dustin Poirier vying for a shot at the title, the future of the Lightweight Division promises thrilling matchups and infinite potential for new legends to rise.

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Luke Dalton

Luke Dalton

Luke has been a professional writer since 2016, beginning as a technical author for a POS company. He journeyed from there deeper into the world of content creation for software companies, while writing his debut fiction novel, which he self-published in early 2019.

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