15 Youngest UFC Champs Ever (2024 Update)

While many mixed martial artists spend years honing their skills, there are a few extraordinary individuals who, at a remarkably young age, ascended to the pinnacle of their sport. From prodigies who were born and raised in mixed martial arts families to fighters who discovered their incredible natural talent later on, this article explores the lives and careers of the youngest UFC champs in history.

Youngest UFC champs featured image

It’s true that many people spend their early 20s figuring out the path they want to take in life. Others know what direction their compass is pointing and are on their way to achieving their goals. This makes it all the more impressive that the youngest UFC champions have already accomplished greatness and earned the glory of a UFC title before hitting 30.

To make it onto the list of the youngest UFC champions, it takes a special combination of hard work and self-belief. While their peers are enjoying the perks of being young, partying it up from sundown to sunup, these fresh-faced champions are in the gym, dedicating grueling hours to mastering the sport they love. Not only do they work incredibly hard, but they must also cultivate unwavering self-belief in the face of all adversity and doubt. To the outside world, these champions-to-be might have appeared unrealistic or even delusional, but they knew they wanted to one day hold up the UFC belt. So they took the necessary steps, put in the hard work, and made their dreams happen!

It’s also important to pay recognition to the advantages and the support systems many of these young champs had access to. Growing up in a mixed martial arts family, being encouraged to try out a combat sport, and having the resources to attend regular classes are all factors that set someone up for success in the world of mixed martial arts. However, none of this is to say that the impressive feat of fighting their way to UFC champion status is any less impressive. Younger or older, advantaged or not, an achievement is an achievement. We give a big round of applause to anyone at any age who has chased down a goal and made it a reality.

So, if you’re curious about the inspiring stories of the youngest champions in UFC history, keep reading as we take you on a thrilling exploration of their lives, their careers, and their defining moments.

15. Ronda Rousey

Ronda "Rowdy" Rousey | UFC Highlights

Age when they became champion 25 years, 10 months
Birthplace Carlifonia, USA, 1987
Fighting Record 12-2
Years Active 2010-2016

A trailblazer in the world of women’s mixed martial arts, Rhonda Rousey opened doors for female fighters at a time when their exposure and inclusion in the sport were marginal. Rousey showed it was possible for female fighters to make a name for themselves and become superstars in their divisions. Whatever UFC fans might think of her skill and approach to mixed martial arts, Rousey’s impressive credentials can’t be denied.

Rousey showed interest in martial arts from a young age, sharing in her mother’s passion for Judoka. With her mother’s support and encouragement, Rousey became the first woman from the United States to take home an Olympic medal in Judo when she competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Following her Olympic success, Rousey had an explosive start in her professional mixed martial arts career. In 2011, the Judo specialist made her Strikeforce debut and ascended to championship status after only three fights. That first title fight resulted in an impressive and dominant win for Rousey as she beat Miesha Tate with a merciless first-round submission.

As fate would have it, Rousey became the inaugural UFC bantamweight champion after the UFC bought out Strikeforce. Officially, Strikeforce was bought out in 2011 and Rousey signed with the UFC in 2012, becoming champion when she was 25 years old and 10 months. Aside from making it in the history books as one of the UFC’s youngest champions, she was also the first female fighter to be a UFC champion. That’s what we call two birds, a.k.a. smashing two records, with one stone!

In the UFC Rousey successfully defended her title 6 times before her infamous matchup against Holly Holm in 2015. Unfortunately for Rousey, she was caught by a flying left foot that ended the match, dethroning her as the then-undisputed Queen of the UFC. Rousey failed to regain her title against the Brazilian ‘lioness’, Amanda Nunes. Nunes outfought and outclassed Rousey, with a wicked TKO less than a minute into the fight.

Rousey, unaccustomed to losing yet having suffered two consecutive defeats, decided to retire from the UFC in 2016. Since then, she has entertained the WWE crowds and is now turning her sights on acting. However, despite the disappointing end to her UFC career, she will forever remain one of the UFC greats, paving the way for women in the sport and doing so at such a young age.

14. Dominick Cruz

Dominick Cruz | Career Highlights

Age when they became champion 25 years, 9 months
Birthplace Carlifonia, USA, 1985
Fighting Record 24-4
Years Active Still active

Dominick Cruz is a fighter who shows us the value of training footwork rather than solely focusing our attention on punching and kicking the bag. His footwork is truly elite. Not to mention, Cruz is also a talented all-rounder, using his famously quick steps and fluid level changes to offload a wide variety of striking and wrestling techniques on his opponents.

Cruz’s start in professional mixed martial arts was not in the UFC, but rather the World Extreme Cagefigting Organization. Cruz made his WEC debut in 2008, besting Charlie Valencia by unanimous decision. WEC and mixed martial arts fans soon began to take notice of the quick and skillful young fighter. In fact, it wasn’t long before WEC organized a match-up between Cruz and Urijah Faber for the featherweight champion title. Unfortunately, Cruz tasted his first lick of defeat against Urijah Faber although that wasn’t the last time the two mixed martial arts athletes met in the cage.

Cruz, with fire in his veins and a thirst for revenge after his title fight loss, went on an unstoppable rampage of a 7-fight win streak. In that time, Cruz earned himself the WEC bantamweight title and successfully defended it two times.

In 2011, following UFC President Dana White’s official announcement in October of 2010, the UFC merged with the WEC. This had implications especially for the UFC’s lower weight divisions which would see a wave of fresh new talent. Cruz was among the talented fighters who entered the UFC after the UFC/WEC merger.

Knowing it would please many former WEC fans, the UFC quickly organized a rematch fight between Cruz and Urijah Faber. While Cruz was the underdog for having lost to Faber once before, that didn’t deter Cruz from training hard and stepping into the octagon with confidence. Cruz triumphed over his former nemesis with a unanimous decision win. The win earned 25-year-old Cruz the UFC bantamweight title and solidified himself a spot on this list.

Cruz went on to defend his UFC belt 4 times against the likes of Demetrious Johnson, TJ Dillashaw, and in a trilogy fight with Faber. However, Cruz’s reign over the UFC Bantamweight would come to an end when he lost to Cody Garbrandt by a landslide difference in terms of skill and performance. Today, Cruz’s hopes to regain the title are pretty much shot, especially after his most recent loss to Marlon Vera. Despite that, Cruz’s name will still go down in history as a talented fighter and one of the youngest to achieve UFC championship status.

13. Georges St-Pierre

Georges St-Pierre | UFC Greatest Hits

Age when they became champion 25 years, 6 months
Birthplace Quebec, Canada, 1981
Fighting Record 26-2
Years Active 2002-2013, 2017

Georges St-Pierre, more famously known as GSP, is probably a master at more martial arts than the average Joe can name. He is an immensely talented fighter and has trained in a wide variety of disciplines, which means his arsenal of strikes and wrestling techniques is large and deadly.

Unfortunately, GSP’s start to martial arts wasn’t all rainbows and happiness. As a child, GSP often fell victim to severe bullying leaving him with countless bruises and minor injuries. However, GSP turned to martial arts to defend himself and grow his confidence, making him a shining example of how martial arts can change one’s life for the better.

At only 7 years old, GSP began his mixed martial arts journey when he stepped into a Kyokushin Karate dojo. By his late teens, GSP had immersed himself in the world of mixed martial arts and was already a dangerous fighter in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, boxing, and of course, Karate

In 2002, when GSP was 21, he turned his passion for mixed martial arts into a professional career. GSP entered the UFC, running through opponents in a vicious 7-fight win streak. The UFC rewarded his epic performances and back-to-back victories with an ever-sought-after title shot against Matt Hughes. However, when GSP stepped into the ring an 8th time, he was about to be met with a slice of humble pie. Hughes submitted GSP in the first round with a tightly locked armbar.

Rather than wallow in his title fight defeat, GSP took the opportunity to display the strength of his character. He hit the gym, trained hard, and maintained a champion’s mindset throughout. Following his loss to Hughes, GSP racked up another impressive win streak, this time of 5 fights, and was re-awarded the title shot.

It was ideal for GSP that in his second title shot, he faced off against Hughes once again. This meant GSP had an opportunity to grab his revenge and establish himself as a dominant, unmatched fighter. Fortunately, GSP was successful in his pursuit of revenge against Hughes. He knocked out his nemesis in only the second round of the fight. The match earned GSP a championship title at only 25 years and 6 months old.

Considered a ‘hiccup’ in GSP’s run as champion, Matt Sera took the belt from GSP in a shocking first-round defeat. However, GSP quickly earned back his title and went on to defend it a record-breaking number of times.

GSP did take a hiatus from mixed martial arts at the end of 2013 but returned to the sport in 2017. His return to the octagon was marked by a middleweight title bout against Michael Bisping. GSP won the fight by submission via a rear naked choke in the 3rd round. Despite putting on such a spectacular performance, this was GSP’s last fight in the UFC. He retired at the top as a two-weight division champion.

12. Max Holloway

Top Finishes: Max Holloway

Age when they became champion 25 years, 6 months
Birthplace Honolulu, Hawaii, 1991
Fighting Record 25-7
Years Active Still active

Max “Blessed” Holloway is a fan favorite amongst UFC enthusiasts, known for his toughness in the octagon and his willingness to fight any and every opponent.

Holloway was born a fighter. Abandoned by his father at a young age and exposed to a rough upbringing, Holloway never had a choice about whether or not to be tough. At 15, Holloway started training in mixed martial arts, and his passion for the gritty and combative sport immediately took off.

In 2010, Holloway turned pro. He made his UFC debut only two years later, stepping into the ring with another fan favorite, Dustin Pourier. Unfortunately, Holloway was submitted in the opening round of his debut fight. Holloway’s following fights yielded a mixed bag of results; 3 wins and 2 losses, including one loss to Connor McGregor.

After losing to McGregor, Holloway turned his luck around… and by luck we mean he knuckled down at training and worked hard to grow his skills and repertoire! Holloway went on a 9-fight win streak, impressing both fans and UFC President Dana White alike. The UFC rewarded Holloway with a title shot against Anthony Pettis. In a happy turn of events, Holloway realized his dream of becoming a UFC champion by defeating Pettis via TKO in round 3. He was only 25 years old and 6 months old when he did so!

Holloway defended his belt 3 times before setting his sights on even greater achievements. Holloway wanted to attain the elusive champ champ status, i.e., the status of holding two belts in two weight divisions. He jumped up to lightweight, facing off against Dustin Pourier a second time. The fight was extremely competitive and lasted the full 5 rounds however it was ultimately Pourier whose hand was raised up in victory by the referee.

After failing to obtain a second belt, Holloway dropped back to the featherweight division, as it was time for the champion to defend his belt. Holloway successfully defended the featherweight belt against Frankie Edgar but he wasn’t quite so successful against Alexander Volkanovski.

Holloway put on a good performance in his title defense against Volkanovski, a fighter who is considered to be one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time. The fight was close to the point where many fans were convinced Holloway had won. However, the judges ultimately scored the fight in favor of Volkanovski. The same result occurred for Holloway’s second match with Volkanovski. However, Holloway was sadly dominated in their trilogy fight.

Today, Holloway continues to hunt down the reclamation of his title. He has a two-fight win streak to show for his progress. We are excitedly waiting to see if there will be a fourth title fight between Holloway and the current champion, Volkanovski.

11. Cody Garbrandt

Top Finishes: Cody Garbrandt

Age when they became champion 25 years, 5 months
Birthplace Ohio, USA, 1991
Fighting Record 13-5
Years Active Still active

A double threat, Cody “No Love” Garbrandt is an elite wrestling specialist but can throw some wicked punches when standing on two feet.

Garbrandt is another young UFC champion who entered the world of mixed martial arts at an early age. While starting in childhood is not a necessity to make it on the list, it certainly helps to get a head start! Garbrandt and his older brother Zach started training in boxing under the supervision of their uncle. Their mother, however, had concerns for her boys’ health if they continued to train in boxing and told them they must switch to wrestling.

Training in wrestling turned out to be an excellent decision for Garbrandt, who immediately excelled at the sport. By the time Garbrandt finished his freshman year of high school, he was already a wrestling state champion. While Garbrandt’s athletic prowess caught the attention of multiple university scouts, Garbrandt chose to turn down acceptance offers in pursuit of boxing. What a way to circle back to his childhood sport! Unfortunately, boxing did not turn out to be a fruitful career path for Garbrandt, so he instead focused on mixed martial arts.

Garbrandt’s start in the UFC was as bright as lighting and had crowds cheering thunderously every time he stepped into the octagon. After only 6 fights in the UFC, Garbrandt earned himself a title shot against Dominick Cruz. Always the flashy showman, Garbrandt out-classed Cruz with evasive head movements and beautiful techniques, even putting on a dance performance mid-fight. It was an impressive performance that not only showcased Garbrandt’s theatrical fighting style and comedic personality, but it also won Garbrandt UFC champion status at only 25 years and 5 months old.

Garbrandt’s reign as division champion did not last long as he lost his first title defense against TJ Dillashaw. An immediate rematch was booked but it ended similarly to their first fight; another knockout in favor of Dillashaw. Garbrandt has since had mixed results in terms of fight outcomes but continues to remain optimistic and hopeful that he will get another title shot.

10. Rose Namajunas

Top Finishes: Rose Namajunas

Age when they became champion 25 years, 4 months
Birthplace Wisconsin, USA, 1992
Fighting Record 11-6
Years Active Still active

Rose Namajunas, or “Thug” Rose as her fans call her, has lived and breathed combat sports for most of her life. Namajunas started training in Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at 9 years old. She moved on to mixed martial arts in high school, using her technical skills in 3 martial arts to her advantage.

Namajunas turned pro in 2013. She was signed by the UFC to join the 20th season of the Ultimate Fighter series, a broadcasted competition that would crown the first-ever UFC women’s strawweight champion. Namajunas got her first title shot against Carla Esparza when she made it to the final bout of the Ultimate Fighter series. Unfortunately for Namajunas, she fell short of becoming the first-ever UFC women’s strawweight champion. By “fell short,” we mean Namajunas was trapped in a rear naked choke by Esparza and was ultimately submitted in the third round of their fight.

Namajunas moved past the disappointment of her defeat, managing to string together enough wins to make a claim at the title once more. For her second title attempt, Namajunas entered the octagon with the popular Polish fighter, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Crowds were rooting for Jedrzejczyk, who at the time, was considered the greatest female strawweight mixed martial artist of all time. However, in a shocking turn of events, Namajunas stunned Jedrzejczyk in the first round, putting a stop to their fight. This meant Namajunas became the 10th youngest UFC champ of all time at 25 years old and 4 months.

A rematch fight was booked between Namajunas and Jedrzejczyk as the Polish fighter sought to avenge her loss. Namajunas seized the opportunity to prove herself the better fighter, dominating Jedrzejczyk and winning the match by unanimous decision.

Following her duology fights with Jedrzejczyk, Namajunas had a hot and cold relationship with the UFC women’s strawweight belt. She lost the belt to Jessica Andrade, won it back against Zhang Weili, and lost it again in a lackluster fight against her old foe, Carla Esparza. “Thug” Rose has made it clear she still has title ambitions so we’re excited to see what’s in store for her.

9. Tito Ortiz

On This Day: Tito Ortiz vs Ken Shamrock | UFC 40, 2002

Age when they became champion 25 years, 2 months
Birthplace Carlifonia, USA, 1975
Fighting Record 21-12
Years Active Still Active

Tito Ortiz is a fighter that came out of nowhere and asserted himself in the UFC. However, there are no complaints from us or his other fans as he is a helluva athlete and is a personality we love to watch!

Ortiz honed his wrestling skills in college before taking steps to turn pro in 1997. Ortiz was loved by fans even early on in his professional career, but he was loathed by opponents… Perhaps understandably so as he used to wear T-shirts with quotes mocking his opponents, especially after his victories.

It didn’t take long for Ortiz to be noticed by and invited to join the UFC. Moreover, his second-ever UFC fight was a title shot! Unfortunately for Ortiz, his title fight against Guy Mezger turned out to be a humbling experience. Losing a fight is never an easy pill to swallow, but to be submitted in the first round by a guillotine choke as Ortiz was is a tough reality to accept.

With the backing of his loyal fans, it only took Ortiz a two-fight win streak to earn another title shot, this time against Frank Shamrock. Ortiz fell short of becoming champion yet again when Shamrock put an end to their fight in the fourth round. It’s likely that any other fighter would have had to build up a significant win streak to be awarded a third title fight but Ortiz was booked for one straight away. This shows the power of fan support in the UFC as the potential for greater ticket and pay-per-view sales can arguably influence who gets a title shot. Ortiz’s third title fight was against Wanderlei Silva and this time, the fight would last all 5 rounds, ending in a win by unanimous decision for Ortiz. At 25 years old and months, Ortiz became the 9th youngest UFC champion of all time.

Despite his struggle in laying claim to the title, Ortiz proved to be a competent and dominant middleweight champion. He defended his belt 5 times before losing it to Randy Couture. This time around, Ortiz had to work for another title fight, racking up a 5 fight-win streak before facing Chuck Lidell for the belt. Unfortunately, Ortiz lost the match against Lidell and went on to have a disappointing series of fights. Today, Ortiz is trying out his hand at boxing.

8. B.J. Penn

Every BJ Penn Finish Ever!

Age when they became champion 25 years, 1 month
Birthplace Kailua, Hawaii, 1978
Fighting Record 16-14
Years Active 2001-2014, 2017-2019

Hawaiian-born BJ Penn grew up in a wealthy part of the archipelago state. He was introduced to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by a neighbor and from then you can say that he soared. Penn earned himself the fighting moniker “The Prodigy” through his early achievements in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He received his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt in only three years under the tutelage of the Gracie family, and he was the first ever non-Brazilian to win the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships in 2000.

Penn joined the UFC shortly after the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships. What set Penn apart from other Jiu-Jitsu athletes in the UFC was his lighting quick hands almost matched his skill on the floor, making him a lethal double threat. He is easily one of the best BJJ fighters of all time.

Penn had his first title shot early on in his UFC career. He stepped into the octagon with Jens Pulver to fight for the UFC lightweight title. While Penn lost to Pulver via majority decision, it only took two consecutive wins before Penn was awarded a second title shot. This time, he faced Caol Uno and lost by split decision.

As the lightweight title was seemingly elusive to Penn, he packed on the muscle and moved up to the welterweight division. Penn was immediately given a title shot in the welterweight division. He faced fellow welterweight, Matt Hughes at UFC 46, and the Hawiann mixed martial artist did everything he could to ensure the fight was not left up to the judges adjudication. Penn’s determination paid off as he caught Hughes in a rear-naked choke, ending the fight in round one. This secured Penn the UFC welterweight belt at only 25 years and 1 month old.

Eventually, Penn dropped back to the lightweight division to chase the belt that had evaded him. At UFC 80, Penn was successful in his pursuit of the lightweight belt, submitting the then-champion, Joe Stevenson. Despite announcing his retirement, BJ Penn will forever remain a popular fighter in the world of mixed martial arts, known for his willingness to fight anyone, anywhere, anytime.

7. Ricco Rodriguez

Episode 15: Ricco Rodriguez Nearly Dismantles the UFC | These Things Happen In MMA

Age when they became champion 25 years, 1 month
Birthplace California, USA, 1997
Fighting Record 54-27
Years Active Still active

Ricco Rodriguez puts on a clinical performance, especially when a fight is taken to the ground. As a wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist, he is deadly in a grappling match.

Rodriguez’s gateway to the world of combat sports was wrestling and later on, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After winning several tournaments, Rodriguez expanded his focus and his arsenal of combat techniques by switching to mixed martial arts. Early in his mixed martial arts career, Rodriguez traveled from the USA to Asia. While he gained experience and began making a name for himself, Rodriguez decided fighter pay in Asia was not enough, so he moved back to the USA.

Not long after he returned home, Rodriguez was invited to fight in the UFC. Starting his UFC career off on a high note, Rodriguez won his debut fight against Andrei Arlovski, which marked the start of a four-fight win streak. Moreover, none of those fights made it to the final round!

Undoubtedly, Rodriguez had earned his title shot. He faced Randy Couture in a highly anticipated match for the UFC heavyweight title. Rodriguez, the rising star, did not disappoint. Landing several devastating elbows on Coutre, Rodriguez got his finish after 5 grueling rounds. This fight outcome made Rodriguez a UFC champion at 25 years and 1 month old.

Unfortunately, staying at the top seemed harder than making it to the top for Rodriguez as he immediately failed to defend his championship title. When defending against Tim Sylvia, he was knocked out in the first round. This loss was the beginning of the end for Rodriguez as he only fought once more in the UFC, a fight which resulted in another loss. Despite moving on to a different fighting organization, Rodriguez has been relatively unsuccessful.

6. Frank Mir

3 Minutes of Frank Mir Getting Spectacular Finishes & Getting Finished Spectacularly

Age when they became champion 25 years
Birthplace Las Vegas, USA, 1979
Fighting Record 19-13
Years Active Still active

Among UFC fans, ‘Frank Mir’ is synonymous with ‘legendary’ or ‘record-smasher.’ In fact, Mir holds records in the UFC heavyweight division for the highest number of fights, the highest number of submissions, and the highest number of victories. He is also considered to be one of the fighters who helped elevate mixed martial arts onto a bigger and more mainstream stage. In short, he put it on the map!

Mir entered the UFC with a strong background in wrestling. He became an up-and-coming sensation, winning five of his first six fights, all via finishes. When Mir was awarded a title shot against Tim Sylvia, Mir put on a dominant and brutal performance that no one will forget, albeit even though the fight only lasted fifty seconds. Mir caught Sylvia in a devastating armbar, breaking his opponent’s arm. In those fifty seconds, Mir became the 6th youngest UFC champ at 25 years old.

In what some people might call a twist of fate, Mir was unable to defend his title because he got into an accident that left him with a broken femur and torn knee ligaments. Once he was declared fit enough to return to the octagon, Mir’s fights ended with mixed results. However, he did manage to put on decent enough performances to earn another title shot.

Mir’s title shot against Antonio Rodrigo brought out one of the best performances we’ve ever seen from the Las Vegas-born fighter. Mir TKOed Rodrigo in the second, becoming a two-time heavyweight champion. Once again, Mir had climbed to the pinnacle of the sport; UFC championship status, but he didn’t manage to stay there. Mir lost the belt to Brock Lesnar and never made it to UFC championship status again.

5. Frank Shamrock

Frank Shamrock: The Forgotten Legend

Age when they became champion 25 years
Birthplace California, USA, 1972
Fighting Record 23-10
Years Active 1994-2000, 2003, 2006-2010

Another pioneer in the world of mixed martial arts and in the UFC, Frank Shamrock is a name in the history books. Shamrock was the first ever person to hold the UFC middleweight title, which was later renamed the light heavyweight title.

Shamrock displayed his strong will and determination to make something of himself from an early age. Growing up in several foster homes couldn’t have been easy for Shamrock, but like the warrior he is, Shamrock never let his difficult childhood hold him back from achieving greatness.

Shamrock’s debut fight in the UFC was a title shot straight off the bat. He stepped into the octagon with his opponent, Kevin Jackson, and within the first few seconds of when the referee started the fight, Shamrock had Jackson locked in a nasty armbar. Shamrock won via first-round submission, securing himself the lightweight title and 5th position on our list of the youngest ever UFC champions.

Now that Shamrock’s name was in the spotlight, he was determined to make sure things stayed that way. He moved up a weight class, hoping and training hard to become a two-weight division champion. Shamrock’s first opponent in the middle-weight division, Igor Zinoviev, didn’t know what hit him. Shamrock quickly got a hold of Zinoviev, slamming him on the canvas like a bag of bricks and knocking him out. This fight ended in only 22 seconds, but it earned Shamrock the middleweight title and double champ status.

In Shamrock’s first title defense against Jeremy Horn, the fight lasted a little longer than Shamrock was used to. By a little longer, we mean Shamrock spent a full 1 minute and 28 seconds in the octagon before trapping his opponent in an inescapable kneebar. Shamrock went on to successfully defend the belt 3 more times before retiring from the UFC as an undefeated champion. What a legend!

4. Carlos Newton

Carlos "The Ronin" Newton - Highlight MMA Legend

Age when they became champion 24 years, 8 months
Birthplace The Valley, Anguilla, 1976
Fighting Record 16-14
Years Active 1996-2010

Carlos Newton is a technical Jiu-Jitsu specialist, ensnaring his opponents in deadly positions like a cobra wrapping itself tightly around its prey.

During his teenage years, Newton entered numerous Jiu-Jitsu competitions, winning them with ease. He entered the world of mixed martial arts, turning pro at 19 years old. His free-flowing style intertwined with his lethal Jiu-Jitsu techniques made him a fan favorite on the mixed martial arts scene.

Newton had an on-and-off relationship with the UFC, switching between fighting for the UFC and its competitor organization, PRIDE, several times. However, despite his inconsistency in the UFC, Newton was relatively successful there. His debut fight ended when he caught his opponent in a triangle choke within 52 seconds. Newton was immediately rewarded with a title fight after his impressive debut. Newton’s match-up for the title shot was Dan Henderson. Unfortunately for Newton, he was not able to replicate his debut performance. The fight lasted the distance and Newton lost by split decision.

After losing to Henderson, Newton switched over to fighting for PRIDE. He had several good performances under PRIDE before doubling back to the UFC. Upon Newton’s UFC return, his first was a title shot for the welterweight belt against Pat Miletich. Newton wasn’t going to pass up a second opportunity to be crowned UFC champion. Newton fought Miletich with everything he had, securing a bulldog choke in the third round that ended the fight. This meant Carlos Newton was a UFC champion at 24 years and 8 months old.

Newton’s first UFC title defense against Matt Hughes proved to be too much for the young champ to handle. Newton suffered defeat to Hughes after being slammed into the canvas in round two and TKOed.

Newton went on to have mixed results fighting under both the UFC and Pride. He had the opportunity to fight for the UFC welterweight belt once more but failed to win.

3. Josh Barnett

Josh "The Warmaster" Barnett Highlights

Age when they became champion 24 years, 4 months
Birthplace Seattle, USA, 1977
Fighting Record 35-8
Years Active Still active

If you’ve ever been told to channel your anger in a positive direction, Josh Barnett’s story is a prime example of how doing so can help you achieve great things.

As a troubled youth, Barnett got himself into plenty of fights and street brawls. Barnett fought so often that he had to be enrolled in an anger management program. However, the anger management program turned out to be a bright new beginning for the angsty youth. He had the opportunity to participate in athletics, wrestling, and other sports, all of which he excelled at. In high school, he watched UFC 2 which alongside his newfound appreciation for sports, prompted him to realise that mixed martial arts was his calling.

By the year 2000, Barnett had made his dreams a reality, debuting at UFC 28. Barnett won his debut fight against Gan McGee, TKOing McGee in an impressive fashion in round 2. By Barnett’s fourth fight in the UFC, he’d had enough stellar performances that this fight was a title shot.

In the days preceding his title fight, Barnett failed a standardized drug test and was issued a warning by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Barnett was still allowed to fight so he determinedly entered the ring, ready to face off his opponent who was the defending champion, Randy Couture. Barnett continued his run of impressive performances, dropping his opponent in the second round. As a result, he won the UFC heavyweight champion title at only 24 years and 4 months old.

Unfortunately for Barnett as well as the fans who watched his ascent to the championship, Barnett tested positive again for the use of banned substances. Consequently, he was stripped of his heavyweight title. Barnett never had another opportunity to fight for a UFC belt. However, despite his personal hurdles and substance abuse, he still had a relatively successful career fighting under the UFC banner and other organizations.

2. Jose Aldo

Top Finishes: Jose Aldo

Age when they became champion 24 years, 2 months
Birthplace Amazonas, Brazil, 1986
Fighting Record 31-8
Years Active 2004-2022

Viewed as one of the GOATs (greatest of all time) of the UFC featherweight division, it’s fitting that Jose Aldo makes it onto this list.

As an infant, Aldo suffered from being accidentally dropped in a barbeque and was left with a distinctive facial scar. This earned Aldo the nickname “Scarface”. Growing up, Aldo fostered dreams of becoming a professional football player. However, his facial scar and the mean comments from bullies meant that Aldo wound up in several street fights and was instead motivated to learn Capoeria for self-defense.

Capoeira turned out to be Aldo’s gateway into the world of mixed martial arts. Aldo joined the World Extreme Cagefighters (WEC) and quickly rose up through the ranks of their featherweight division. Aldo defeated Mike brown for the WEC featherweight belt, and successfully defended it twice against Urijah Faber and once against Manvel Gamburyan. When the WEC merged with the UFC in 2011, Aldo became the inaugural UFC featherweight champion at 24 years and 2 months old.

Aldo’s UFC debut was also his first title defense. At UFC 129, Aldo debuted against Mark Hominick at UFC, winning by unanimous decision and successfully retaining his title.

Aldo went on to have a stellar career. He defended his title six more times against the likes of Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar before suffering a shocking first-round defeat to Connor McGregor at UFC 194. In a spectacular fashion, Aldo won back his title in a fight against Frankie Edgar. Unfortunately, Aldo failed to defend his title to the end, losing it to Max Holloway during his second title run.

1. Jon Jones

One Moment From Every Jon Jones Fight

Age when they became champion 23 years, 8 months
Birthplace New York, USA, 1987
Fighting Record 27-1
Years Active Still active

With a near-perfect fighting record and a reputation that strikes fear into the hearts of his opponents, the final fighter on this list is Jon “Bones” Jones.

Jones was a wrestling prodigy in high school and he turned pro at the age of 21. During his early days in the UFC, Jones was an exciting up-and-coming prospect. He won 6 of his first 7 fights in a spectacular style, losing only 1 fight due to disqualification for repeated elbows thrown.

Jone’s 8th fight in the UFC was a title shot against Brazilian knockout specialist, Shogun Rua. Rua proved no match for Jones who dominated throughout the fight. As a result, Jones took home the light heavyweight title becoming a UFC champion at only 23 years and 8 months old.

There are two opponents that really stand out in Jones’s career: Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier. Jones faced Gustafsson at UFC 165. The two put on an epic performance and while Jones ultimately emerged victorious, their fight was immortalized and inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. On the other hand, Jones’s fights against Cormier will be remembered for a different reason; their absolute animosity toward one another. This resulted in vicious and bloodthirsty fights, both of which Jones won.

Jones voluntarily vacated his title in 2020, citing that he wanted to take time off to put on muscle and move up a weight division. In 2023, Jones made his debut in the UFC heavyweight division against the French fighter Cyril Gane. Jones made quick work of Cyril Gane, winning the fight and becoming a two-weight division champion.

Fans are now waiting excitedly for Jones’s approaching match against Stipe Miocic which is scheduled for later this year at UFC 295. The fight is a clash of two GOATs and is sure to be entertaining to watch!

Leave a Comment