Every Time A UFC Title Was Vacated (& Why)

Holding onto a UFC title is one of the most difficult tasks in all combat sports. Throughout the years, many champions have come and gone in the various weight classes of the world’s biggest MMA promotion. There have been instances where a champion has won the title and was forced to vacate the belt for a specific reason.

This has happened in the UFC several times as fighters come to terms with unexpected situations in both their professional and personal lives. Here are 10 times a UFC title was vacated and why.

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nine Bas Rutten-UFC Heavyweight Championship

Bas Rutten
via fightmedicine.net

Bas Rutten compiled a 24-7-1 record before signing with the UFC. He faced Kevin Randleman for the vacant UFC heavyweight championship at UFC 20.

Despite a closely contested affair, Rutten defeated Randleman by split decision and was crowned the new heavyweight champion. Unfortunately, he was forced to vacate the belt after suffering several serious injuries in training.

8 Frank Shamrock – UFC Light Heavyweight Championship

Frank Shamrock FCfighter

Frank Shamrock was considered the number one ranked light heavyweight in the world between 1997 and 1999. He defended his UFC title four times and compiled a 703-day title reign.

Shamrock defended his belt four times against Tito Ortiz in 1999 and subsequently retired shortly after. As a result, he was forced to vacate the belt. He returned to action several years later but never competed in the UFC again.


7 Daniel Cormier – UFC Light Heavyweight Championship

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Between 2015 and 2018, Daniel Cormier was one of the most successful UFC champions. He claimed the UFC light heavyweight championship in 2015 and defended his belt three times before moving up heavyweight to challenge Stipe Miocic.

Cormier defeated Miocic at UFC 226 and won the heavyweight championship. He elected to vacate his light heavyweight championship and instead focus on compiling a prolific heavyweight title reign.

6 Jon Jones – UFC Light Heavyweight Championship

© Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Jones has been stripped of his UFC light heavyweight champion three times throughout his career. However, he reclaimed his title in December 2018 and defended his belt three times.

After much deliberation, Jones decided to vacate the light heavyweight title and officially commit to moving up to heavyweight for the remainder of his career. He has yet to make his heavyweight debut.

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5 Georges St-Pierre – UFC Middleweight Championship

via mmafighting.com

Nobody expected St-Pierre to return to the UFC octagon after such a long layoff. The former welterweight kingpin returned to action at UFC 217 to challenge Michael Bisping for the middleweight title.

GSP defeated Bisping and was crowned the new middleweight champion. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and was forced to vacate the belt and retire from competition for good.

4 Khabib Nurmagomedov – UFC Lightweight Championship

Khabib UFC fight
© Stephen R. Sylvanie – USA Today Sports

Khabib Nurmagomedov realized his dream of becoming a UFC champion at UFC 223. After several opponent changes, he faced Al Iaquinta and defeated him by unanimous decision.

He went on to defend his belt three times against Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje. After compiling a perfect 29-0 record, Khabib retired from MMA and vacated the UFC lightweight belt.

3 Dominick Cruz – UFC Bantamweight Championship

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Dominick Cruz’s career has consistently been plagued by unfortunate injuries. He won the inaugural UFC bantamweight champion in 2010 and defended his title twice in 2011.

Unfortunately, he was forced to vacate his belt in 2013 after being kept out of competition due to injuries for almost two years. He returned to action in 2014 and successfully reclaimed the title in 2016. Cruz has recently begun competing consistently and is ranked as the #7 bantamweight in the world.

2 TJ Dillashaw – UFC Bantamweight Championship

MMA: UFC 177-Dillashaw vs Soto
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Between 2016 and 2018, TJ Dillashaw was considered by many the best bantamweight on planet earth. He eventually reclaimed his bantamweight title in 2017 by knocking out rival Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217.

Dillashaw defending his belt against Garbrandt in his first title defense and then moved down to flyweight to challenge Henry Cejudo for the flyweight title. Unfortunately, Dillashaw lost and failed a drug test in the process for a banned substance.

He was forced to vacate the bantamweight belt and was suspended from competition for two years. Dillashaw has returned to competition and is currently ranked #2 bantamweight in the world.

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one Henry Cejudo UFC Bantamweight & Flyweight Championship

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Henry Cejudo defeated Demetrious Johnson at UFC 227 to become the new flyweight champion of the world. He defended his throne against TJ Dillashaw the following year and defeated the challenger by a first-round knockout.

After Dillashaw vacated the belt over a failed drug test, Cejudo was qualified to compete for the vacant bantamweight belt against Marlon Moraes. After overcoming adversity in the early rounds, Cejudo rebounded in round three and finished Moraes by strikes to become a simultaneous multi-division champion.

His final defense would take place at UFC 249 against Dominick Cruz. Despite Cruz utilizing tricky movement, Cejudo was able to defeat the former champion by second-round knockout. In his post-fight speech, Cejudo retired from MMA and subsequently vacated both the flyweight and bantamweight titles. He remains active in the MMA community and continuously teases a future return on social media.

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