Champions Have Gotten Stripped For a Wide Variety of Reasons

Published on May 7th, 2022 12:24 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

In photo: The UFC Champion Belt - How many times has a champion been stripped of his belt? Earlier today, Charles Oliveira was stripped of his Lightweight title after weighing in a half-pound heavy for his title fight against Justin Gaethje.

As a result, Oliveira is no longer eligible to win the Lightweight title. If he wins, the title will remain vacant. If Gaethje wins, Gaethje will become the new Lightweight champion.


How many times have fighters been stripped of their titles in the past?

Oliveira was the 12th instance of a reigning UFC champion being stripped of his title.

This doesn't include cases like Georges St. Pierre, who voluntarily vacated his title following his win over Hendricks.


Here are the 12 instances when a UFC fighter has been stripped of his title:

1. Randy Couture, 1998.

Couture was the newly minted Heavyweight champion. The UFC wanted him to fight Bas Rutten, but Couture had a different idea - signing with Vale Tudo Japan.

The UFC stripped Couture of the title as a result. Couture would later return to the UFC, where he would win multiple titles over the course of his illustrious career.

2. Josh Barnett, 2002.

Won the Heavyweight title from Randy Couture at UFC 36 (2nd round TKO).

For the second time in as many fights, Barnett failed a drug test. The first time resulted in a warning - the second time resulted in the UFC stripping Barnett of the title, and he would move to Japan to fight in various promotions.

3. Murilo Bustamante, 2002.

After winning the Middleweight title and defending it once, Bustamante received an offer from PRIDE and left the UFC.

The promotion would strip Bustamante of the title, and it would eventually be claimed by Evan Tanner some years later.

4. Jens Pulver, 2002.

2002 was not a good year for the UFC.

After successfully defending his title against BJ Penn at UFC 35, Pulver and the UFC were unable to come to terms on a new deal for the champion.

Pulver would leave the UFC, where he would fight for various promotions (before eventually returning to the UFC later in his career), and the promotion stripped him as a result.

5. Tim Sylvia, 2003.

After defending the Heavyweight title against Gan McGee at UFC 44, Sylvia failed a post-fight drug test and was stripped of the title.

This resulted in the Heavyweight belt being stripped twice in two years, which dramatically hurt the division. It would take years for the Heavyweight division to recover.

6. BJ Penn, 2004.

After defeating Matt Hughes at UFC 46, BJ Penn and the UFC got into a nasty dispute, and this ultimately resulted in Penn leaving for K-1. As a result, the UFC stripped BJ Penn, one of the best fighters in the world at that time, of the Welterweight title.

Penn and the UFC would eventually settle their differences, with Penn returning to the promotion in 2006,

7. Frank Mir, 2004.

Won the vacant Heavyweight title after snapping Tim Sylvia's arm.

After the fight, Mir would get into a serious motorcycle accident which would put him out of action for 2 years.

The UFC couldn't wait that long and decided to strip Mir of the title.

8. Sean Sherk, 2007.

Defended the Lightweight title against Mermes Franca at UFC 73, only to be stripped of the title a short while later after testing positive for steroids.

Sherk would return to the UFC roughly a year later, where he would lose to BJ Penn at UFC 84.

9. Jon Jones, 2015.

After defeating Daniel Cormier in one of his greatest performances ever, Jon Jones got into trouble after getting involved in a car accident and fleeing the scene.

The UFC would strip Jones of his title after they said that he had violated their Code of Conduct Policy.

10. Jon Jones, 2016.

After regaining his Light Heavyweight title against Ovince Saint Preux at UFC 197, Jones was set to fight Daniel Cormier at UFC 200.

Jones would test positive for multiple steroids before the fight, which would lead to the UFC stripping him of a title for the SECOND time.

11. Conor McGregor, 2016/2017.

After winning the Lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, Conor McGregor held both the Lightweight and Featherweight titles.

After promising to defend both belts, McGregor took time off to start a family and eventually fight Floyd Mayweather in boxing.

The UFC would strip McGregor of the Featherweight and Lightweight titles as a result.

12. Charles Oliveira, 2022.

Oliveira was stripped of the Lightweight title after failing to make weight for his fight against Justin Gaethje at UFC 274.


The UFC implemented their "Champions Clause" to prevent fighters from leaving the promotion when they hold a title, which is why we don't see champions leave for other promotions anymore.

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