Why the UFC’s ‘double champ’ trend is overdone
Josh Werle, Sports Editor
The first ever Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event was held on Nov. 12, 1993. It wasn’t until exactly 23 years later, on Nov. 12, 2016, that a ‘double champ’ was crowned in the organization. Since that day in 2016, there have officially been four fighters to simultaneously hold titles in two weight divisions, with seven having attempted to be crowned as a double champion. This influx of fighters being granted the opportunity to try their hand at being champion in two weight classes simultaneously has skyrocketed in recent years after Conor McGregor first achieved the status in 2016, defeating Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title. After it was announced that the UFC plans to have reigning featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski attempt to add Islam Makhachev’s newly minted lightweight title to his waist in February, this trend is clearly played out.
Some of the greatest fighters of all time are the fighters who displayed years of dominance over their respective weight divisions, and reigned as champion for many years. Fighters like Demetrious Johnson, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones — all who are commonly brought up in discussions about the greatest fighter of all time — have never had the opportunity to fight for a second title simultaneously while they were champion. Yet, it seems as though becoming double champ is a priority for current UFC champions. Instead of attempting to fight every rising contender in their respective divisions, today’s crop of UFC champions consistently bring up the option of moving up or down in weight and attempt to capture a second title simultaneously.
Before McGregor achieved the feat in 2016, BJ Penn and Randy Couture were the only two fighters who had won a title in multiple weight classes, but neither had done so simultaneously. In fact, McGregor was the first fighter who received the opportunity to do so. Twenty three years is not a short time frame, and it was expected that McGregor’s opportunity would not be easily repeated.
Less than two years later, Daniel Cormier received the opportunity to become double champ by taking on reigning heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic, whom he defeated via first-round knockout. Amanda Nunes and Henry Cejudo followed suit in the subsequent months, and the UFC found themselves with three fighters who held two titles simultaneously.
What was once a highly regarded accolade, reserved only for the UFC’s specific and elite fighters, has now become an inevitable opportunity for current-day champions. Although there have been champions who were unsuccessful in their double champ bid — Israel Adesanya, TJ Dillashaw and Max Holloway (interim title) — the fact remains that almost every champion in the organization mentions that they would like the opportunity to become double champ. With every fighter who gets the chance to cement themselves amongst UFC royalty, comes the unfortunate reality of saturation, tarnishing the legacy of the fighters who are able to achieve this.
UFC 284 will take place on Feb. 12, 2023, and although the fight isn’t official yet, it’s all but inevitable that reigning featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski will take on current lightweight champion Islam Makhachev in an attempt to become a reigning two-division champion. Some might argue that Volkanovski has cleared out his division, and although it is evident that he is leaps and bounds above his competition, he has yet to face top-contenders Josh Emmet, Arnold Allen and Yair Rodríguez.
Although the opportunity to become double champ is still a special and incredibly difficult designation to receive, champions may be better off securing their legacy by defending their championship against every contender who comes their way.