Age, fitness, agility, all are the crucial factors that have helped the youngest UFC champions to solidify their stronghold in the octagon. These trained athletes have sweated, bled, and suffered injuries only to hold that gold and stand at the top of the world.
The younger you start throwing punches inside the ring, the higher chances you have at tasting the pinnacle of success. However, scores of fighters have struggled to gain entry into the UFC as young as 21.
The days of the aged Randy Couture parading around with his heavyweight title are a thing of past. Young guns like Jon Jones and Jose Aldo took over the arena and dominated through their prime.
Today we will be evaluating some of the youngest UFC champions who have gone down in the books of history.
#10. Josh Bartnett
The key to a successful career inside the octagon is starting at the earliest. Josh Bartnett started his MMA career at the early age of nineteen.
Bartnett had the chance to walk down that aisle when he was just 23 years old, going on to win 3 of his first 4 matches. The next match that Bartnett was awarded was a chance at the UFC title, the grandest prize in the business.
Despite not passing a doping test, Bartnett was still allowed to go ahead and compete for the title. He defeated the great Randy Couture at just 24 years and 4 months of age, becoming one of the youngest UFC champions ever.
Although, it was later discovered that Bartnett had taken drugs before the title fight. Given the lax measures of the early days of UFC, he was only stripped of his championship.
He, however, retained his win against Couture as well as the pride of being the youngest champion of UFC exceeding 8 years.
#9. Carlos Newton
Newton started his journey in the Mixed Martial Arts when he had not even crossed into the 20s. After learning from several independent circuits and UFC 17, Newton had the chance at the welterweight title at UFC 31.
He faced one of the oldest UFC champions Pat “Croatian Sensation” Miletich whom he made to submit with a rather unseen bulldog choke. Just like that, Newton was the welterweight champion at 24 years 8 months.
In Newton’s title defense against Legend Matt Hughes, six months after, he had almost solidified his victory with a triangle hold. However, Hughes smashed and put to sleep his opponent, snatching the title away.
That was the end of his title reign, but his achievement as one of the youngest UFC champions cannot be denied.
#8. Jens Pulver
Pulver was one of those rare talents who shot straight towards success. Starting from his debut into MMA at 23, “Li’l Evil” had won 12 victories and his next bout was against Caol Uno for the first-ever lightweight championship.
Pulver was declared victorious in the fight by a U-Dec. at 25 years 2 months, Evil was the holder of the first-ever lightweight title.
His next fights were against Dennis Hallman and BJ Penn, he had the better of them defending his title.
Pulver’s choice of relinquishing the title following the issues in his contract was not a very smart move. This made his career take a hit.
#7. Ricco Rodriguez
Rodriguez did stints in independent circuits and the Pride FC, starting his career at MMA at just 21 years of age. His inauguration in the UFC happened a couple of years after his MMA debut.
Following 4 matches in the octagon, Rodriguez was handed the chance to take on the previously mentioned great, Randy Couture. He was successful at scoring a victory and became one of the youngest UFC champions at 25 years and 1 month.
Although, upon failing a doping test, the heavyweight title was taken away from Rodriguez only two months after victory. The way he had secured his victory against Couture was remarkable, though.
Despite losing every other fight after this victory and then leaving UFC for good, he was 10 days younger than BJ Penn to hold the title.
#6. BJ Penn
The lightweight division was taken by storm by the young athlete’s arrival at just 22 years of age. His debut in MMA was so spectacular, it did not take him long to be recognized as a talent.
Four battles later, BJ “Prodigy” Penn had the opportunity to face the L’il Evil Pulver for a title opportunity. If it were not for a U-DEc, he would have been the youngest UFC champion at just 23.
Three more fights after that, he was facing off Caol Uno for the same title that Evil had left behind. This ended in a draw and he could not grasp the gold, yet again.
It was 11 long, grueling months since his defeat to Uno, that he made Matt Hughes tap out to a submission hold. Prodigy was finally the holder of welterweight title at 25 years and 1 month.
#5. Tito Ortiz
The Huntington Beach Bad-Boy debuted in UFC 13 only at 22. His start was a little shaky losing to Guy Mezger at the finals for the light heavyweight tournament.
However, Ortiz did redeem himself 3 fights later when he beat the previous opponent he had the shot at the title. He was to face Frank Shamrock, the next in line for our list of youngest UFC champions.
Although Shamrock halted Ortiz’s shooting towards the championship in the fourth frame, Shamrock quit after that victory. Bad-Boy was left to square off against Anderlei Silva for the newly formed light heavyweight title.
Ortiz picked up a victory against Silva at 25 years and 2 months of age, one of the youngest UFC light heavyweight champions. It was him on whose shoulders the 205-pound title rode through some turbulent waters.
#4. Frank Shamrock
The aforementioned opponent of Hungtington Beach Bad-Boy, Frank Shamrock had collected more than 20 wins in MMA. It was only then, in December of ’97 that he decided to arrive into the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Given his stellar experience outside the octagon, Shamrock’s first match was a title opportunity where he fought Kevin Jackson. However, the bout for the light heavyweight title was a quick one.
Shamrock won through an armbar in less than a minute. He was 25 years at the time of claiming the championship title and put his title on line 4 times more, and then took time off from the sport.
An athlete as talented and passionate as Shamrock, had he stayed in the sport for a while longer, there is no telling the feats he would have achieved. The athlete ranks so high up in the list given his incredible both on and off the octagon that awarded him a direct title opportunity.
#3. Frank Mir
Best known for putting down the beast, Brock Lesnar in his first match in UFC but lost in the following hyped rematch at UFC 100. Frank mir had begun his career at 22. He had engaged in only two fights in Mixed Martial Arts before he got into UFC.
Picking up 5 victories of the 6 matches he was in, Mir had a title shot he deserved. He was to face Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title.
Similar to his namesake Shamrock, Mir broke the arm of his opponent by an armbar. It took him less than a minute to get the job done and he was the heavyweight champion of UFC at 25 years.
However, fate had disrupted Mir’s plan when he suffered a terrible accident in motorbiking. His injury did not let him put the title up for defense and the company had to take it away from the deserving champion.
Mir, one of the youngest UFC champions in history could have reached bigger heights only if the accident had not happened. Even so, the credibility that awarded him the title shot and his 1-minute win is not something easily forgettable.
#2. Jose Aldo
A featherweight from Brazil Jose Aldo had been fighting professionally even before he became 18. At the age of when people receive their drinking license, Aldo had his contract signed with WEC.
WEC at that time was the top-notch place for featherweight fighters and he already had a spot in there. After destroying the five opponents he faced first by knockouts, the Brazilian had a shot at the 145-pound featherweight title.
He defeated Mike Brown for the title and became the featherweight champion, before coming into UFC. However, Aldo waited an entire year and won a couple more bouts to become the champion.
At 24 years and 2 months, he is one the youngest UFC champion, to ever walk down the aisle to the eight-sided ring. He was the possessor of the title for a while though, but it lasted only for a very short period.
#1. Jon Jones
Whenever the topic of the youngest of the UFC champions is brought up, the number 1 spot holder is Jon Jones. Despite a comparative latecomer into the world of MMA, JJ did significant improvements in his sport.
He was soon one of the biggest names to reckon with and his jump towards the division of light heavyweight championship was remarkable.
JJ started his MMA career shortly before turning 21 and 6 fights later, UFC talent hunters had already picked him up. He signed the contract and 6 more fights are all that it took for him to compete for the 205-pound title.
Only at 23 years and 8 months. JJ beat Mauricio Rua to become the youngest athlete in the sport to ever achieve this feat. Several years past his victory, the title of the youngest champion is still his.
So, who do you think deserves to be called the most prominent youngest UFC player? Leave your thoughts in our comment section.