The fighter’s mind is a complicated one, but one of the simplest ideas is the motivation of why they are fighting. Some fighters begin their journey to gain fame, some fight for money, but a great fighter is led by this one motivation: wearing a gold strap that solidifies that they are the best fighter in their division. In the fighting realm, injuries are a common occurrence, and when a champion is sidelined for an extended period of time due to an injury, an interim champion is crowned. This list counts down the top five greatest interim champs in UFC history.
#5- Renan Barao
With a record of 31-1, and wins over bantamweight perennial contenders Urijah Faber, Scott Jorgensen- and Brad “One Punch” Pickett, Barao is undoubtedly one of the most dominant UFC Interim Champs of all time. The Brazilian native’s only defeat was his professional debut back in 2005, since then Barao has made it a mission to not lose inside the cage. The jiu-jitsu black belt who trains alongside current featherweight champ Jose Aldo, has sleek submission skills and devastating Muay Thai, and is a force to be reckoned with. Next up for Barao is fight- finisher Michael “Mayday” McDonald. If Barao can get past the challenge that McDonald presents, he will be in position to unify the belt against bantamweight king and top ten ranked pound- for- pound great Dominick Cruz. Simply put, Barao is a winning machine, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
#4- Carlos Condit
“The Natural Born Killer” earned his interim strap back in February of 2012 after winning a controversial unanimous decision over longtime Strikeforce champion and punching machine Nick Diaz. Although Condit lost a bloody, hard- fought war against welterweight superstar Georges St. Pierre and failed to unify the belts, he was potentially seconds away from finishing the fight after a brutal head- kick landed to the temple of St. Pierre. Besides possessing knockout power and submission skills, Condit is best known for his adaptability inside the cage – regardless of where the fight goes, he seems to always inflict damage and is always looking for the finish. With wins over Jake Ellenberger, Rory Macdonald, Dong- Hyun Kim, Diaz, Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy, Condit undoubtedly earns the right to bear his nickname, and earns a position among the greatest UFC interim champs.
#3- Frank Mir
Frank Mir is a two- time UFC Heavyweight Champion, and holds the record for most submission victories in the UFC heavyweight division. Mir is a true student of the game, and his fight IQ and fighting analyst skills are second to none. The intelligent, well- spoken Brazilian Jiu- Jitsu black belt never seems to wander completely out of title contention, even after career setbacks. Mir seemed to be the next great, young talent and dominant heavyweight champion when he was severely injured in an almost- career-ending motorcycle accident. Since then, Mir has had ups and downs but has still managed to earn victories over such talents as Brock Lesnar, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Cheick Kongo, Mirko Cro Crop- and Roy Nelson.
#2- Randy Couture
Couture is a former Interim UFC Light- Heavyweight Champion, a two-time UFC Light- Heavyweight Champion, and a three-time UFC Heavyweight Champion. Couture is best known for defying age, and for putting opponents against the cage using his Greco Roman wrestling, and pounding their face with his dirty boxing skills. He is a beloved fan favorite and MMA legend. He still helps prepare and train fighters in his gym, Xtreme Couture. Best known for his epic trilogy fights with the “Iceman” Chuck Liddell, “Captain America” also holds victories over Vitor Belfort, Jeremy Horn, Kevin Randleman, Pedro Rizzo, Tim Sylvia, Brandon Vera, Mark Coleman- and even pro boxer James Toney.
#1- Georges St. Pierre
Long-time welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre, has taken the sport of MMA to an entirely new level, and has redefined the word dominance. With a record of 23-2, and having avenged his losses by finishing the only two fighters to ever defeat him, “Rush” is a true champion. Known for his explosiveness and natural athleticism, the Canadian uses crisp technical striking, overpowering top control and wrestling skills to dominate opponents. GSP might not be the most talented fighter at every single discipline, but he is truly the most intelligent fighter inside the cage, using all his tools to consistently earn victories. Owning current UFC records in takedowns landed, takedown accuracy, significant strikes landed, and total strikes landed, St. Pierre also owns victories over legitimate contenders such as, Condit, Jake Shields, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, Dan Hardy, Thiago Alves, Penn, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra and Sean Sherk. When all is said and done- and the Tri-Star warrior has hung up his gloves, St. Pierre will go down as one of greatest MMA fighters of all time.