Current UFC Bantamweight Champion: Aljamain Sterling

Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling won the UFC Bantamweight Championship on March 6, 2021. He was awarded the title by disqualification after former champion, Petr Yan, illegally kneed Sterling in the head when he was a “grounded opponent” at UFC 259.

UFC Bantamweight Rankings

UFC Bantamweight Rankings

Fighter Pro Record Last 5 Next fight
C Aljamain "Funk Master" Sterling 20-3
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1 Petr "No Mercy" Yan 15-2
Cory Sandhagen (2021-10-30)
2 T.J. Dillashaw 17-4
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3 Cory "The Sandman" Sandhagen 14-3
Petr Yan (2021-10-30)
4 Rob Font 19-4
José Aldo (2021-12-04)
5 José Aldo "Junior" 30-7
Rob Font (2021-12-04)
6 Merab "The Machine" Dvalishvili 14-4
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7 Cody "No Love" Garbrandt 12-4
Kai Kara-France (2021-12-11)
8 Frankie "The Answer" Edgar 24-9-1
Marlon Vera (2021-11-06)
9 Pedro "The Young Punisher" Munhoz 19-6-1 NC
Dominick Cruz (2021-12-11)
10 "Magic" Marlon Moraes 23-9-1
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11 Dominick "The Dominator" Cruz 23-3
Pedro Munhoz (2021-12-11)
12 Raphael Assunção 27-8
Ricky Simón (2021-12-18)
13 Marlon "Chito" Vera 19-7-1
Frankie Edgar (2021-11-06)
14 Cody "Spartan" Stamann 19-4-1
Said Nurmagomedov (2022-01-22)
15 Yadong "Kung Fu Monkey" Song 17-5-1-1 NC
Julio Arce (2021-11-13)

History of the UFC Bantamweight Division

The UFC Bantamweight division has served up some of the promotion’s most memorable title fights since its inception in 2010. From TJ Dillashaw’s stunning victory over 32-fight-unbeaten Renan Barao, to Cody Garbrandt’s masterful dethroning of two-time champ Dominick Cruz, 135-pound title fights have rarely failed to deliver. 

The 135-pound division came into being with the WEC-UFC merger. However, the Bantamweight division wouldn’t be integrated into the UFC until December 2010. The inaugural UFC Bantamweight title bout – Dominick Cruz vs Scott Jorgensen. 

Cruz won the fight by unanimous decision to become the first UFC Bantamweight champ. He went on to defend his title against the likes of Urijah Faber and Demetrious Johnson. However, mounting injuries eventually led the UFC to strip Cruz in January 2014, over two years after his last defence.

An Interim Champ

With Cruz sidelined indefinitely, an interim title bout was set up in July 2012. Renan Barao, riding an unprecedented 29-fight winning streak, fought Urijah Faber, who had lost his title shot to Cruz just a year earlier. Barao secured the victory and reigned as a dominant champion for the next two years, stopping all three challengers to his throne. 

A similar outcome was expected when a young, relatively untested TJ Dillashaw (28 years old, 11-2) challenged for the belt in May 2014. Instead, Dillashaw provided one of the biggest shocks in UFC history when he dominated Barao and secured a TKO in the 5th round.

The Return of Cruz 

After defending his title twice, Dillashaw faced a returning Dominick Cruz in 2016, whose career had been blighted by injuries over the past 5 years. Many questioned whether Cruz still had it after all the injury problems. He did, beating Dillashaw by split-decision and cementing perhaps the most inspiring comeback story in the sport’s history. 

Cruz’s first title defence of his second reign came against Cody Garbrandt. Just 25 years old, Garbrandt was 10-0 and coming off three consecutive first-round KO’s. In a precocious performance, Garbrandt outmaneuvered Cruz, even toying with him at times, and won a dominant decision.

Dillashaw’s Second Coming

Garbrandt faced TJ Dillashaw in his first title defence almost a year after his victory over Cruz. The two were set to meet in May 2017 after coaching on The Ultimate Fighter Season 25, but a back injury to Garbrandt delayed the fight until November. Former teammates at Team Alpha Male, animosity between the two was high.

Despite getting dropped in the first round, Dillashaw rattled his opponent with a head kick just before the buzzer and secured a KO in the second round. Dillashaw vs Garbrandt 2 took place in August 2018, with Dillashaw knocking Garbrandt out in the first round this time.

The Rise of Triple C

Hoping to emulate the success of double-champs Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier and Amanda Nunes, Dillashaw dropped down to Flyweight for a superfight with 125-champ Henry Cejudo. However, he lost the fight in just 32 seconds, despite his protests of an early stoppage. 

Things got worse for TJ when one of his drug samples came back positive for performance-enhancer EPO. He was immediately stripped of the title and a new title fight was arranged – Henry Cejudo vs Marlon Moraes. 

Cejudo, coming up a weight class, struggled in the early rounds with the ferocious striking power of Moraes. However, his cardio and resilience soon shone through as he wore an exhausted Moraes down and finished him by ground-and-pound. Cejudo became the 4th double-champ in UFC history, immortalizing himself as ‘Triple C.’

The Title Changes Hands

Cejudo defended his title against veteran Dominick Cruz at UFC 249, winning by knockout in Round 2. Cejudo announced his retirement in the Octagon, thus vacating the belt. The UFC set up a title fight just two months later – surging Russian contender, Petr Yan, would fight legendary ex-featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, at UFC 251.

Yan grew as the fight wore on, eventually finishing Aldo brutally in the 5th. Up next for Yan was creative grappler Aljamain Sterling, who had recently choked out highly-touted contender Cory Sandhagen in just one minute. 

In one of the Bantamweight division’s most ignominious moments, Yan threw a knee at a grounded Sterling in the 4th, leading to his disqualification and Aljamain crowned the new 135 champ. 

Another Interim Belt

An immediate rematch between Yan and Sterling was on the agenda. However, with Aljamain facing a lengthy injury layoff after neck surgery, the UFC put another interim belt on the line. Former champ Yan would face Cory Sandhagen at UFC 268 in Abu Dhabi.

Michael is a lifelong fight fan and martial artist. He has been in the MMA world for over a decade as an athlete and analyst. A consummate student of the game, Michael lives and breathes fight sports.