From its inception in 1997, the UFC’s heavyweight division was marked in its early years by a dizzying series of twists and turns, including three different champions in its first year, multiple champs abandoning the title to fight elsewhere and two men losing their belts in the lab rather than the Octagon. The UFC’s heavyweight title was also a clear second fiddle to its Pride Fighting Championships counterpart for most of that first decade. With the 2007 absorption of Pride and, a few years later, the acquisition of Strikeforce -- including Cormier, incidentally, fresh from winning the heavyweight grand prix -- the UFC’s heavyweight division eventually gained the preeminent status it still enjoys. Today, the fighter wearing UFC heavyweight gold can lay a claim to “Baddest Man on the Planet” status that is hard to dispute.
Here is a graphic representation of the 21-year history of the undisputed UFC heavyweight title and the times it was won, lost or defended. Interim title fights are omitted, with the exception of Andrei Arlovski-Tim Sylvia 1, since the winner of that fight ended up inheriting the undisputed title without a unification bout. From 6-foot-10 giants to 5-foot-9 monsters, from larger-than-life pro wrestlers to humble firefighters, from drug scandals to grisly injuries in and out of the cage, the picture tells a story as strange and amazing as the sport itself.
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