After celebrating 25 years in existence in 2018, this year UFC is entering into a new era. With a new TV deals moving from Fox to ESPN, UFC’s president Dana White announces a new belt design for its champion.

On Saturday night 19 Jan in UFC’s first event in 2019, we witness this new design belt named the Legacy Belt being awarded to Henry Cejudo as the winner of UFC233. Henry retain his Flyweight title defeating challenger Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw whom attempt a double by going down to Flyweight to challenge for Henry’s belt.

Henry won by emphatic fashion by knocking out Dillashaw in 32 seconds into round 1.  

The new belt wore by Henry Cejudo is called Legacy Belt because UFC will not be giving new belt to champion that defended their titles anymore. The same belt which the champion first won it will be used, a precious stone on the UFC emblem on the right side of the belt will represent the championship win, more wins more stones. And champion will have their name and country’s flag placed on the belt too.

Much has been said about the new championship belt design. Many joked that it sort of look like Power Ranger belt. The new belt design is cleaner and have that corporate look. Perhaps continuing the journey when in 2015, UFC signed the deal with Reebok to have exclusive official apparel design for their fighters. The official gear design by Reebok, is cleaner and more business like. Moving UFC away from the common design of MMA apparel sponsors which is influenced by the Baroque art movement.

Left: Reebok official UFC apparel. Right: The common MMA apparel design style before Reebok.

Although some say the new design does take cue from WWF/WWE., but personally for me, I like the new design. UFC as market leader is doing its best to bring MMA to the mainstream. Signing a deal with Fox and now ESPN is moving towards that direction, which is away from associating MMA with underground unregulated fights. I felt the old UFC belt does not go with the corporate look UFC is trying to build.

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UFC only started to give out championship belt in 1995: UFC 5. Pic above – Dan Severn with UFC’s championship belt from the early days when the company was still own by SEG.

In 2001, Zuffa lead by the Fertittas brothers and business partners Dana White bought UFC. This Zuffa era also see a new belt design being introduce from UFC 31 onwards. The Zuffa era belt design was great and many other promotions followed this design route too but as pioneer, UFC need to lead in changes, and this is what it’s doing with the new belt in the new era, especially so that UFC has a new owner (WME-IMG) since 2016.

UFC championship belt, Zuffa’s era 2001 -2018
WWE current championship belt
You can see the design similarities of UFC new Legacy’s belt with the design WWF uses back in the 80s/90s
Uncanny design similarities of UFC Legacy Belt’s design with NXT & IMPACT. NXT is a pro wrestling promotions own by WWE & act as a feeder of talent to WWE main roster. IMPACT Wresting is a WWE rival pro wresting promotions based in Toronto Canada


Some history on championship belts.

From the 1960s many boxing association was formed such as WBA,WBC, WBO, IBO, WBF and each association gave out it’s own championship belt according to weight class.

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Championship belts from various boxing organisation

Pro wrestling caught on to this trend and they created a strong association with championship belts, with WWE leading the way. Although we all know WWE is entertainment and the fights are not real, the belts won by champion is basically an award for best staged & choreographed fights. But being a marketing genius WWE are, when we think of championship belt, we think of pro wrestling.

The fact is, championship belt in combat sports started with boxing. The first belt on record awarded to a boxer was in 1810, King George III presented it to bare-knuckle boxer Tom Cribb, when he won his fight vs Tom Molineaux.

The Lonsdale Challenge belt is the first championship belt in UK awarded to boxer. It’s The first one was awarded in 1909. It was introduced by Hugh Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale, England

Combat sports such as karate, kickboxing, Taekwon-do in the early days used to award winners with trophies. They still do these days and is usually for amateur level. Championship belts are more for Pro level fights. But since technology has improved and producing belts are easier & cheaper, they are more and more promotions now giving out belts for champions even for amateur level.

Left: tall trophy common in combat sports. Right top: Alistair Overeem with his kickboxing trophy. Left bottom: American kickboxing legend Bill Wallace and Elvis Prestley with a championship trophy
Muaythai is among the early adaptor of using championship belts for it’s champion. Pic here Muaythai sensation Buakaw with his belts


Let’s take a look at some championship belt by a few well known and popular MMA / combat sports promotions.

World Extreme Cagefighting. Founded in 2001, but bought by UFC in 2006 and eventually merge with UFC. In the west WEC was well known for having the best fighters in the lighter weight, such as Bantam, Feather & Lightweight.
Strikeforce. Founded as a Kickboxing organisations in 1985 by Scott Coker but in the mid 2000s became well known for it’s MMA fights. It quickly became the No.2 MMA promotions in the western hemisphere . 2011 Zuffa bought Strikeforce and shut it down eventually
Founded in 2008 by Bjorn Rebney. Bellator means warrior in latin. In the early days it was well known to have 8 / 4 man tournament. Scott Coker took over as president in 2014 and has been steadily building it into a credible rival to UFC in the west.
BAMMA is a MMA promotions founded in 2009 in U.K.
A very succesful British MMA promotion. Started in 2001 it has produced big MMA stars such as  Conor McGregorMichael BispingGegard MousasiBigfoot SilvaJeff MonsonMartin KampmannDan Hardy
Elite XC was founded in 2006 in US. It also join forces with other MMA organizations such as Cage Rage, Dream, Affliction.
King of the Cage. A US based promotions that is now defunct
KSW based in Poland has a strong European following 
Pro Fighters League was established in 2018. Originally it was formed as WSOF (World Series of Fighting) with the aim of creating a MMA tournament pitting fighters country vs country. But it didn’t receive good following outside US. PFL uses a tournament format and award champion with USD 1 million prize money.
Brave Combat Federation , one of the most successful and well put together MMA promotions founded by Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa in Bahrain. It is at the forefront of MMA in the middle east and has held events in Brazil, Jordon, India and Philipines among others.
M1 Global is a Russian based MMA promotions formed in late 90s. It is a ‘factory’ that unearth many Russian talent that eventually progressed to bigger MMA organizations in other parts of the world


Let’s head to Asia.

One of the earliest MMA organisation in the world was Pancrase. Founded in 1993 in Japan. It was named based on Pankration, an ancient Greek wrestling. In the early days of Pancrase, hybrid rules of catch wrestling & striking were used.
Asian MMA glory days was with PRIDE. Founded in 1997 in Japan it features rules that were deemed more violent than the Unified Rules UFC were using, such as pile driver & kicking a down opponent, stomping were allowed. UFC bought it in 2007
When Pride was bought over by UFC in 2007, many of it’s management staff left to formed DREAM, it lasted till 2012
Pride FC’s president eventually formed Rizin Fighting Federation in 2015. Of late Rizin gain lots of interest with it’s exhibition match up of undefeated boxing champ Floyd Mayweather and Rizin’s hot rising Kickboxing talent Tenshin Nasukawa.
A very successful MMA promotions founded in 2010 in South Korea. It also has a amateur competition system that builds & develop new young talent into their pro category.
Founded by Filipino BJJ Black belt, Alvin Aguilar in 2002, it is very active and produces a lot of Filipino MMA champion
MIMMA (Malaysian Invasion MMA), the most sought after amateur level MMA championship belt in the region
ONE Championship belt, currently the most prestigious MMA belt in Asia
Local Malaysian ganiser has stepped up its game and offer great looking belt design, this is from ISKA BMAEX. for it’s Kickboxing champions.


Let’s have a look at some unique design.

This is a cool looking Championship belt for the Sengoku Raiden Championship organised by the now defunct Japanese MMA promotion World Victory Road.
K1 World Championship belt design is looking like it belong in the fantasy world of Dungeon & Dragons
One of the most unique championship award is by FMD. A MMA promotions founded by Jon Nutt, based in Bangkok. FMD events are held inside night clubs / bars and championship winners are awarded a Katana.
Finally this big ass trophy is the Mohammad Ali Trophy. Given to the winners of the best of the best series organises by World Boxing Super Series.