Since the inception of the UFC in 1993, there has been a total of 21 interim champions. This ranges from Randy Couture at UFC 43 to Petr Yan at UFC 267. For such a common occurrence, interim championships are generally frowned upon by fans. But, why is this?
Before we delve deeper, first, we have to understand all there is to know about interim titles.
What is an interim title?
An interim title is a version of the belt that is fought for by two contenders or an existing champion. If someone in a division has an interim title, the champion of the division loses their “undisputed” status. This is because there now two belt-holders in the division
What’s the point of an interim title?
If the champion of a division is injured, inactive or cannot fight for any reason, the promotion may decide to create an interim title. This means that the person who wins the interim title – the interim champion – is treated as a champion until the champion can return. Sometimes, this includes defending their interim belt.
When the champion does return, they will most likely fight the interim champion in a title unification match. The winner of the fight will be known as the undisputed champion. Should the champion not return, the interim champion is usually promoted to official/undisputed champion.
Who can fight for an interim title?
Generally, two top contenders are chosen to be interim title challengers. If the champion is scheduled to fight but has to withdraw, the challenger may take on another opponent for an interim title. If the promotion is aware that the champion may is inactive or cannot fight, an interim championship fight can be booked in advance, with two top contenders.
With all this in mind, we need to ask ourselves – why are interim champions hated so much?
There are plenty of different answers that you will hear from fans. Here are some of the most common answers, with explainations and some examples to go along with them.
“There can’t be two champions in a division”
A recurring sentiment amongst fans is that having two titlists in a division is a bad idea. The entire concept of interim championships are frowned upon by these fans. They often feel that the interim champion’s claim to a title is illegitimate. The term “glorified number-one contender” is brought up a lot when talking about interim champions. Though I could name plenty of examples, this point is brought up with almost every single interim title fight.
“There are too many interim champions”
This criticism tends to be directed moreso at the UFC than the concept of interim titles. These fans feel like interim championships should only be introduced when absolutely necessary. When interim titles are constantly on the line, the value of titles drop, they usually believe. In 2016, the UFC saw three interim title fights, which faced backlash from fans.
“Unworthy challengers fight for belts”
Though the idea is to have top contenders fight for an interim title, there has been times where the UFC has put questionable competition into these fights. A famous example of this was the 2016 fight between Jon Jones and Ovince Saint Preux.
After champion Daniel Cormier was forced out of his UFC 197 bout with Jones, the UFC searched for a replacement. The promotion ultimately went with #6th ranked Saint Preux, who was 1-1 in his last two. The overmatched Saint Preux lost a lopsided decision in a lackluster bout. The fight raised doubts over whether or not someone of his caliber should be fighting for titles.
“They’re used to make money”
One major accusation the UFC gets from fans is that interim titles are merely a money-making strategy. The general idea around this is that the promotion attaches interim titles to fights to try buzz up interest among fans. This complaint is usually coupled with the argument that the UFC has a tendency to turn a bout into an interim title fight on short notice if the original main event falls out.
When UFC 206’s original main event was cancelled, the UFC decided to boost Max Holloway vs Anthony Pettis to the marque spot. Instead of the bout proceeding as it was originally booked, an interim title was added on. Jose Aldo, who was already interim champion at 145lbs, was promoted to official champion. That meant that Conor McGregor, who was official champion, was stripped of his title.
This caused massive outrage at the time, as it seemed the only reason for the decision was to have a title fight in the main event of UFC 206.
Despite the general atmosphere around interim titles in MMA being negative, this isn’t the case for all of them. At UFC 267, Petr Yan won the interim bantamweight championship, and is seen as a ‘true champion’ by a large amount of fans.
Another interim bantamweight champion who received a lot of support is Renan Barao. During his reign as an interim titleholder, he defended the belt twice, making him the only person in UFC history to do so.
What are your thoughts on interim champions? Do you agree with the complaints about them? Let us know in the comment section below!
UFC London | 5 Fighters Who Have To Be On The Card
Immediately after UFC London earlier in the year, the ball started rolling towards a second UK event in 2022 after Dana White made it clear he wanted to come back soon. Whilst the year’s first event at the O2 Arena delivered one of the best non-PPV events in recent history, there’s still more ground to cover. Aspinall vs Volkov was stacked with home fighters but there are still a handful that missed out on fighting in front of the UK.
Here are five UK fighters that deserve a chance to fight at the O2 Arena after missing out the first time. Not that we’re complaining if the likes of Paddy Pimblett and Jai Herbert show up on this card also.
5. Dom Wooding
Yes it is true, we will never stop banging this drum. After defending his Cage Warriors bantamweight title in December of last year, we had our fingers crossed that London would come around in time for Dom Wooding. The ‘Black Panther’ didn’t get the call up on that occasion but absence has only made the heart grow fonder. This is the time for Dom Wooding to fight in the UFC and if you don’t believe us, maybe ‘The Last Stylebender’ can change your mind.
4. Mason Jones
Mason ‘The Dragon’ Jones has had quite a stop and start UFC career since joining the promotion as a double champion in Cage Warriors. The Welshman is 1-1-1 in the UFC so far and would have picked up some decent momentum if his fight with Alan Patrick hadn’t been stopped due to an accidental eye poke in a fight he was winning comfortably. A win over late notice replacement David Onama, who recently picked up a first UFC win of his own, has got Jones back on the right path after a tough introduction to the UFC against Mike Davis. Jones always delivers great fights due to his high pressure and output style and a win in London could be exactly the kind of moment he needs to really put the past behind him and push on in the UFC.
3. Lerone Murphy
For the vast majority of UK fight fans, Lerone Murphy came out of nowhere when he debuted in the UFC. Now on a 3-fight win streak after his debut resulted in a draw at UFC 242, Murphy has been putting on increasingly impressive performances every time he has stepped foot in the Octagon. Still yet to fight in front of UK fans, ‘The Miracle’ will have a huge fight on his hands in his next outing as he looks to step foot in the rankings of the stacked featherweight division.
2. Davey Grant
Davey Grant has really made a name for himself in recent times as a must watch fighter who will steal a main card. After chaining back-to-back finishes, Grant may have lost two of his last three fights but his stock in the UFC has risen massively. His fights with Marlon Vera and Adrian Yanez put Grant on the map when it comes to value for money fighters. Now back in the win column after his 3rd round finish over Louis Smolka at the weekend, Grant said in his post fight interview about making a quick turn around and potentially fighting in London. We know we are asking for a lot with the card already being incredibly busy but Davey Grant opening the main card with a barnburner is sure to blow the roof off of the O2 just like the last time the UFC came calling.
1. Nathaniel Wood
Luck has not been on Nathaniel Wood’s side as of late. Three cancelled fights in a row meant he missed out on the first London card even after he was found a replacement opponent. An illness forced Vince Morales out of their bout which seemed to be opening the event and setting the tone for the evening with the return of ‘The Prospect’ in front of his people. After going 4-2 as a bantamweight in the UFC but losing to two top fighters in John Dodson and Casey Kenney, Wood has announced he is moving up a weight class since his fight in London fell off. Nathaniel Wood deserves this chance to fight in London after losing out at such short notice last time around and we can’t wait to see how he stacks up amongst the rest of the 145 pound division.
Jake’s Takes – the career of Kamaru Usman could be over soon
Since his title win in 2019, Kamaru Usman has climbed his way to the UFC’s top pound-for-pound spot. The legacy of ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ is already set in stone, but he is still defending his welterweight title. Could the end be nigh for Usman?
This is my two cents on it all – this is Jake’s Takes!
For the years during his ascent, Nigeria’s Kamaru Usman was dubbed the dark horse of the welterweight division. After his TUF win, Usman put a six-fight win-streak together but was not rising the ranks as others would. The wins may have come against a lower level of competition that wanted, the performances showed that Usman was absolutely a force to be reckoned with.
Usman’s breakout performance came against Demian Maia over the course of five rounds, in Santiago, Chile. Fans critized the slow pace of the bout, but it proved that Nigeria’s finest could control the fight against the best in the world. Another impressive showing against former champion Rafael dos Anjos cemented Usman’s status as a title threat.
The title opportunity finally came for Usman in early 2019. Champion Tyron Woodley was riding three successful title defenses coming into the bout, including a recent finish over Darren Till. The hype meant nothing to Usman, who dominated and battered Woodley for five rounds, en route to a 50-44 decision. To the surprise of many, Kamaru Usman had become the new welterweight champion, and had done so in emphatic fashion.
The next three years told the story of Usman’s dominance. A switch in camp saw ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ improve his boxing skills and develop his punching power. Five title defenses later, Usman now sits atop discussions of being the greatest welterweight of all-time. The consensus remains that the distinction of greatest remains with Georges St. Pierre, but if Usman continues his reign, he could overtake the great GSP.
With his next title defense set to be a summer rematch with Leon Edwards, it got me thinking about Usman’s long-term future in MMA. It’s a topic that has seemed to spring up with the masses in the past few months, regarding Usman’s comments on retirement.
The champion understands that his fighting career will not always be viable, and that he will have to hang the gloves up at some point. Speaking to Damon Martin after his KO win over Jorge Masvidal, he said, “Being a realist and I’m honest with myself and I know that I can’t do this forever, and I don’t want to do this forever.”
“I’m just so far ahead of these guys that I’m coming back around and I’m lapping them now,” he continued. “So, talking to some of my mentors, and some of the greatest that have done this, what they’re telling me at some point it’s going to start, that waking up in the morning and going to the gym to put in a day’s work is going to start to get heavier and heavier when nothing really motivates me like that anymore.”
Before his rematch with Colby Covington at UFC 268, Usman had a similar point to make to media asking him about potential future fights. “I’ve been nine weeks now away from my daughter, and FaceTime does help, but it doesn’t do it justice, as far as being there each and every day. So, obviously, I don’t know how much longer I’m willing to do this. They have to make sense for me now.”
To me, those are the words of a man who does have a way out on his mind. Fans of Usman know that he is a family man who is prioritising his external needs right now. The end of Usman’s career could be sooner rather than later, if we are to believe his comments.
What further pushes this idea for me is the recent interactions with Conor McGregor for the champion. Should McGregor pull his trump card out and score himself a 170lb title shot, I don’t think Usman will say no to a payday of that magnitude. By the UFC’s standards, he has earned himself a ‘superfight’. It’s that superfight we speak of that could see Usman bow out of the sport on a high-note.
Despite those callouts from McGregor, Usman has yet to confirm or deny that he is interested in the fight. He is confident that, if the fight does happen, that he will “retire [McGregor]”.
One fight that has been on the champion’s tongue is a boxing match with undisputed super-middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez. Usman and his team are confident that they can bring the fight to the Mexican boxer. The UFC, however, have shut down any possibility of this happening.
“I think that [Usman] serious about it; he shouldn’t be serious about it,” Dana White told Sky Sports. “I don’t like that fight at all. Everything about it is horrible. Usman is not a boxer. Canelo is probably the best guy out there right now. It’s a stupid fight that makes no sense.”
If the callout from Usman is anything more than a media stunt, this is fairly conclusive proof that the champ is looking for challenges outside of the routine contenders in his division. Is it a fair assumption to make that Usman could retire if he doesn’t get a lucrative superfight in the near future?
Of course, there are still other challenges at 170lbs that are looking to earn their chances at gold. Vicente Luque and Belal Muhammad are set to throw down in a title eliminator, and Khamzat Chimaev has enough fan support to get a title shot with another win. For fans, those matchups may be intruiging but Usman isn’t overly-eager to fight those challengers until they make a solid case. As mentioned in his earlier quote, Usman is taking fights that “make sense for [him].”
Still, before any of that can hypothetically happen, Usman has to get through the challenge that is Leon Edwards. Even if retirement is on his mind, the champ has made it clear to the media that he is taking this fight very seriously. “If Leon wants the smoke in July, I’ll put him to sleep too.”
If everything goes according to plan, this year could be the year that ‘The Nigerian Nightmare‘ leaves his historic legacy behind.
Jake’s Takes – UFC London was a star-making event
What a night it was in the 02 Arena just gone by. For the first time in 3 years, the UFC touched down in London. With it came a night of explosive action, star-making performance and the emergence of serious title contenders. I’m here to break down my favourite moments from the card, as well as their implications.
This is my two cents on it all – this is Jake’s Takes!
Britain’s bunch of title threats
As many expected, England’s Tom Aspinall now sits on the brink of title contention at heavyweight. Aspinall’s dispatching of the experienced Alexander Volkov showed that he was simply levels above his opponent. This has been a theme in the Wigan native’s fight thus far. Now, it’s time to put Aspinall against someone of his own caliber. He has called for a fight with Aussie brawler Tai Tuivasa, which nobody will say no to. It’s safe to say that a Tuivasa vs Aspinall showdown would be a title eliminator at heavyweight.
In the co-main event slot, it was a short night for ‘Almighty‘ Arnold Allen. Suffolk’s finest ended matters in the first with a vicious barrage that took out the venerable Dan Hooker. This win extended Allen’s run to nine-straight wins, only second to champion Alexander Volkanovski. This provided Allen’s streak with the top-tier name it needed, and the future is looking bright for him. He mentioned a potential fight with Calvin Kattar. That could be vital to the future of the 145lb division.
Someone else who reaffirmed their title hopes in London was Paul Craig. The Scotsman faced early adversity, but locked up his signature triangle choke on Nikita Krylov to walk away with the win. This win puts Craig on a six-fight unbeaten streak, as well as being firmly in the top ten. Holding wins over highly touted prospects like Magomed Ankalaev and Jamahal Hill, Craig’s resume is becoming stronger with time. ‘Bearjew”s callout of Anthony Smith makes all the sense in the world.
Rising stars continue to shine under London lights
A large number of the fans that filled up 02 Arena were there to see Paddy Pimblett. The Scouser has become one of the UFC’s most recognisable athletes and recieved massive crowd support. ‘The Baddy‘ picked up another first-round finish in his return to British soil, tapping out Kazula Vargas. Even if he’s in no rush to fight top competition on his current contract, every Paddy Pimblett fight will be a sight to see from hereon out.
One man that had Pimblett in mind on Saturday was Georgia’s Ilia Topuria. A difficult first round saw Topuria dropped and hurt by the heavy-handed Jai Herbert. In the second, however, Topuria delivered a lethal overhand right that sparked Herbert. As far as making a mark in your divisional debut goes, Topuria certainly made a statement. ‘El Matador‘ wants to share the octagon with Pimblett following their scuffle, and the fans are all here for it.
Wales’ best chance at a UFC title, Abertillery’s Jack Shore, was finally pushed to his limits. Shore was given a tough outing against the rising Timur Valiev, but showed his heart throughout. ‘Tank’ ultimately proved that his cardio was superior, picking up a hard-fought unanimous decision after three rounds. Shore wants a June return, and has Raphael Assuncao or Ricky Simon in mind. Both of those would be fantastic fights for the Welshman.
A new force at flyweight
Muhammad Mokaev is a name that is more than familiar with fans of the amateur MMA circuit. The Dagestani-Brit had only ammassed five professional wins before his UFC career, but was expected to make a big splash. ‘The Punisher’ certainly lived up to those expectations, finishing Cody Durden in only 58 seconds. The 21 year old has buckets of potential and could very well be a name in the flyweight elite in years to come.
What was your favourite moment from the card? Where else in the UK do you want to see the UFC venture to? Make sure to let us know in the comments!
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