The featherweight division had existed long before the UFC decided to bring the 145 pounders into the fold back in September 2010. But since the Octagon began hosting fights in the division, it has quickly become one of the premier weight classes in the sport.
Some of the most notable men and most notable fights in the UFC over the past decade have happened at 145 pounds. That’s something that will be true once again on July 27 when champ Max Holloway puts his belt on the line against UFC great Frankie Edgar.
So, who are the men who defined the UFC’s 145-pound division?
Urijah Faber’s time as featherweight champ came prior to the division making its debut in the UFC, but his place in history is no less important. Faber defeated Cole Escovedo in March 2006 to become the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champion. In December 2006, Zuffa LLC, the parent company of the UFC, purchased WEC and continued running the promotion as a separate entity from the UFC until 2010.
During the time of Zuffa ownership, the WEC focus became on divisions between 135 and 155. Initially, Faber served as the promotion’s top star, successfully defending his featherweight belt five times. That included defeating UFC veteran Jens Pulver and future UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
Faber’s charisma and fighting style was a perfect mix to bring attention and validity to a weight class previously thought to be “too small” to capture public attention. This despite men like Oscar De La Hoya being top drawing fight sport stars below 155 pounds at the same time.
Since losing the featherweight title in November 2008, Faber has fought in six title fights between featherweight and bantamweight, with an 0-6 record. But his contributions were important enough to land him in the UFC Hall of Fame in 2017 after his retirement from the sport.
Retirements don’t last long in MMA, however. Faber recently returned to the Octagon scoring a crushing TKO of up and comer Ricky Simon.
Mike Brown was the man who knocked Faber off the featherweight pedistal, but it was Jose Aldo who redefined the division for more than half a decade.
The Brazilian striker ripped into the WEC featherweight division, scoring five consecutive knockouts to land a championship opportunity in November 2009 against Brown. Less than two minutes into the second round, Brown was down and out and Aldo had claimed the title.
Aldo would defeat Faber and then Manny Gamburyan in the WEC. That was before the division was absorbed into the UFC, and where Aldo would be crowned undisputed champion by the promotion.
Aldo would make nine successful defenses of his title between the WEC and UFC from November 2009 until he lost the title to Conor McGregor at UFC 194 in December 2015.
He would also defeat Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 to win the interim featherweight title. That was before he was promoted again to undisputed champion. He lost that title to Max Holloway at UFC 212.
If you’re even passingly familiar with the UFC or boxing … or, really, pop culture in general, you know Conor McGregor.
The brash Irishman can talk almost as well as he can fight — and he can fight really damn well.
McGregor rebounded from some early career stumbles to win eight straight fights and earn a UFC contract. Once in the Octagon, his winning ways didn’t stop and his swagger got more outlandish.
After five straight UFC wins (four by knockout), McGregor was expected to face Aldo for the championship at UFC 189 only to see the champ suffer a rib injury and have to pull out. McGregor instead fought Chad Mendes, a dangerous wrestler, for the interim belt.
McGregor scored the TKO to become interim champion and set up an even bigger fight with Aldo, which took place at UFC 194.
Aldo vs. McGregor had a wild build up and was massively anticipated. And it only took McGregor 13 seconds to put Aldo to sleep and end a six year championship reign.
McGregor would never defend his championship. Instead he was stripped of the belt after moving up to lightweight and becoming champ at 155 pounds.
Max Holloway is the current UFC featherweight champion and could stay atop the division a very long time.
Holloway lost his UFC debut and was only 3-3 after his first six fights in the Octagon. He was young, however, and would rattle off night consecutive victories to land himself in an interim featherweight title fight against former lightweight champ Anthony Pettis.
Pettis missed weight for the bout, but that didn’t stop Holloway from handling his larger foe and scoring a third round TKO to become interim champ.
He then unified the title by taking out undisputed champ Aldo at UFC 212 in June 2017. He would defeat Aldo in a rematch and then stop Brian Ortega in his next title defense to establish himself as the clear cut king of the featherweights. All four of his featherweight title fights have ended with Holloway the victor by knockout.
In his most recent fight, Holloway attempted to jump to lightweight and become interim champion at 155 pounds. But he came up short in a valliant effort against the much larger Dustin Poirier.
Now back at featherweight, Holloway is looking to once again prove his place as the now and future king of the 145ers.