“World champion” is a phrase thrown around at a whim in combat sports.
Logically speaking, a world champion is just that: the champion of the world. By that definition, there can only be one. A solitary figure raising of his or her hand in celebration of their dominance over the entire planet, not just the promotion or sanctioning body they’re competing under.
It’s become one of the more defining issues crippling the sport of boxing in 2016. Take the sport’s middleweight division for example. A weight class harboring fighters at 160 pounds, middleweight features five fighters who can lay claim to the “world” champion designation. Gennady Golovkin is the WBC and IBF world champion. Billy Joe Saunders is the WBO world champion. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is The Ring and lineal middleweight champion.
To complicate matters further, the WBA world championship is held by Golovkin (recognized as — and no I’m not making this up — the “super” champion), Danny Jacobs and interim titleholder Alfonso Blanco.
Many will argue, despite Alvarez’s claim to the lineal crown, Golovkin is the man to beat at 160. Some purists may look at the lineal designation, though, and place “Canelo” on that pedestal. There is no concrete answer; only an argument. All an unfortunate reality stemming from the sanctioning bodies greedy enough to create titles in hopes of generating ticket sales and pay-per-view buys.
While not as pronounced as it is in boxing, MMA also has to deal with definitional dilemma of multiple world champions.
Of course, there isn’t just one. Hell, we’d be lucky if the 16 flyweight champions on The Ultimate Fighter 24 were the only ones in existence. But every corner of the world and every stop in between seems to harbor a champion whose dominance, by the label of the crown on their head, extends beyond the bounds of the cage they’ve succeeded in.
- Tim Elliot (Titan FC flyweight champion)
- Charlie Alaniz (Hex Fight Series flyweight champion)
- Alexandre Pantoja (Resurrection Fighting Alliance flyweight)
- Brandon Moreno (World Fight Federation flyweight champion)
- Damacio Page (Legacy FC flyweight champion)
- Adam Antolin (Tachi Palace Fights flyweight champion)
- Yoni Sherbatov (Xcessive Force FC flyweight champion)
- Eric Shelton (Caged Aggression MMA flyweight champion)
- Ronaldo Candido (Shooto South America flyweight champion)
- Matt Schnell (Legacy FC interim flyweight champion)
- Matt Rizzo (Ring of Combat flyweight champion)
- Hiromasa Ogikubo (Shooto Japan flyweight champion)
- Nkazimulo Zulu (Extreme FC flyweight champion)
- Kai Kara-France (Bragging Rights Fight Series flyweight champion)
- Terrence Mitchell (Alaska FC flyweight champion)
Fortunately for us, the latest Ultimate Fighter tournament was put in place to dwindle that number down a bit. Global champions from across the globe fighting against one another, all hoping to be the last man standing when all is said and done.
Unfortunately for them, the last man standing has a date with the clear-cut best 125-pound fighter the planet has ever seen: Demetrious Johnson.
An undefeated 11-0-1 as a flyweight, “Mighty Mouse” isn’t just the best 125-pound fighter in the UFC, he’s pound-for-pound No. 1. As great a reward and daunting a punishment as any Ultimate Fighter winner has ever been gifted upon succeeding immediately after TUF, this season’s winner will be fighting for the undisputed world championship crown at 125 pounds.
Undisputed in a relative sense, anyway. World Series of Fighting, BAMMA, ONE Championship and countless others also harbor 125-pound titleholders who may have a say in the matter.
All sass aside, we’ve seen enough from Johnson to decide that, no matter how many other rulers may exist in this War of Infinite Kings, he is the best at what he does in the weight class he does it at. No matter the amount of voices in the crowd all claiming superiority over “Mighty Mouse,” not a single one of those fighters has accomplished what feats Johnson has.
Come Saturday, Dec. 3, the planet will once again be reminded of how consistently the true world champions reside inside the Octagon. The rest of them, walking about the world with crowns plated in a thin layer of gold, are merely imposters.
There can only be one. Until somebody manages to remove him from his post, his name is Demetrious Johnson.