ByJosh Molina, writer at
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Josh Molina

The UFC will crown yet another "interim" champion at on Dec. 10, when Anthony Pettis battles Max Holloway for the interim featherweight championship.

What's an "interim" champion?

By definition, an interim championship is created when the champion of a particular weight division is temporarily unable to defend his/her championship because of an injury or other reasons that wouldn't allow him/her to compete. These instances are normally out of the champion's control, which allows two top contenders to compete for the "interim" title. When the champion is ready to compete, he faces the "interim" champion for the title of "undisputed" champion.

Get it?

The announcement of the Holloway-Pettis fight being for an interim title is a bit of a head-scratcher, considering that Jose Aldo is the current interim champion and Conor Mcgregor was recognized as the full champion. But it came as a result of the UFC stripping of the featherweight title after Daniel Cormier pulled out of his UFC 206 main event match against Anthony "Rumble" Johnson. The UFC needed to give the new Pettis-Holloway main event a little steam by turning it into a title fight, which meant that it was time to strip McGregor, who was probably going to have to give up the belt sooner or later anyway, since he is also the UFC lightweight champion.

The real UFC featherweight champion now is , whom the UFC bestowed the belt upon after stripping McGregor.

That made sense, right? Well, in many cases, that's how you get an interim championship. It's not supposed to be that way, but for political or public relations reasons, sometimes you just have to turn a good fight into a championship fight. Sometimes there's logic behind the decision, sometimes there's not.

If that interim champion battles the real champion, it becomes a natural grudge match over who is the rightful No. 1.

Let's look at the history of UFC interim championships:

Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture, UFC 43

Tito Ortiz went nearly 10 months without defending his light heavyweight championship for undisclosed reasons in 2003. So, the UFC created an interim belt between Liddell and Couture. Couture won via TKO and then went on to defeat Ortiz to become the unified champion.

Andrei Arlovski vs. Tim Sylvia, UFC 51

Arlovski found UFC championship glory by submitting Sylvia in the first round in 2005. The belt was for the interim heavyweight championship after the real champ, Frank Mir, was badly injured in a motorcycle wreck. Arlovski became the interim champ, and then the UFC crowned him the permanent champ, when Mir needed more time to recover. Arlovski would eventually lose the title to Sylvia at UFC 59.

Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Hughes, UFC 79

The champ, Matt Serra, couldn't defend his welterweight title because of a herniated disc in his back. Serra was scheduled to fight Hughes. With Serra out, the UFC called on St-Pierre to step in a fight Hughes for the interim championship. GSP submitted Hughes and became the interim champ. He then beat Serra via TKO later in 2009 to become the unified champ.

Tim Sylvia vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, UFC 81

An injury didn't lead to the interim championship in this situation -- a contract dispute did. Champ Randy Couture walked out on the UFC, leaving the championship up in the air. So the UFC matched Sylvia against the Pride Fighting Championships legend Nogueira. Nogueira choked out Sylvia to become the interim champion.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Frank Mir, UFC 92

Mir had just come off a stunning submission victory over Brock Lesnar and was matched against Nogueira in his first title defense. Mir was on a roll here, knocking out Nogueira to claim the interim heavyweight championship. Couture was still on the shelf in his contract dispute and the UFC was trying to get him back, so this fight was still just for the interim championship. Couture would eventually return and get knocked out by Brock Lesnar, which led to a unification heavyweight title fight between Lesnar and Mir at UFC 100, which Lesnar won by knockout.

Shane Carwin vs. Frank Mir, UFC 111

Mir got another crack at the interim championship after Lesnar couldn't defend the title because of his battle with diverticulitis. In Lesnar's absence, the heavy-hitting Carwin took on the submission specialist Mir. Carwin knocked Mir out and became the interim UFC heavyweight champion.

Carlos Condit vs. Nick Diaz, UFC 143

The great Georges St-Pierre suffered a torn ACL in training and could not defend his welterweight championship. Originally, GSP was supposed to fight Diaz, but the UFC pulled Diaz from the fight after he no-showed some press obligations. They replaced Diaz with Condit, but then GSP got injured, paving the way for Condit vs. Diaz. In a close fight, Condit won a decision and became the UFC interim welterweight champion.

Renan Barao vs. Urijah Faber, UFC 149

Barao won the UFC interim bantamweight championship against Faber via unanimous decision. Barao received the opportunity after champ Dominick Cruz tore his ACL and couldn't defend the belt. Barao had a record of 20-1 going into the Faber fight and had not lost since his pro debut. He defended his title twice before the UFC crowned him the official champion, after Cruz suffered a torn groin and couldn't return to defend the belt. Barao would eventually lose the title to TJ Dillashaw, who would then lose it to a returning Dominick Cruz in January of 2016.

Fabricio Werdum vs. Mark Hunt, UFC 180

Cain Velasquez was the heavyweight champion at the time, but he suffered a torn meniscus and sprained MCL and couldn't defend the championship against Werdum at UFC 180. The UFC replaced Velasquez with Hunt for the interim heavyweight championship. Werdum won the fight with a spectacular knockout to become the interim UFC heavyweight champion. He unified the belt in Mexico City at UFC 188, when he submitted Velasquez. Werdum was then knocked out by Stipe Miocic, the current UFC heavyweight champion.

Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes, UFC 189

The rising star McGregor had a date with destiny with Jose Aldo on July 11, 2015. Aldo pulled out of the fight after he suffered a rib injury in training. The UFC replaced Aldo with Mendes for the UFC interim featherweight championship. McGregor overpowered the wrestler and knocked him out in the second round to become interim champion. McGregor then KO'd Aldo in a stunning 13 seconds at UFC 194. McGregor never lost the championship; he was stripped of the belt paving the way for Holloway and Pettis to fight for the interim title at UFC 206.

Jon Jones vs. Ovince Saint Preux, UFC 197

Even though Jon Jones never lost the UFC light heavyweight championship inside the cage, he was crowned UFC interim light heavyweight champion in April of 2016. How did this happen? Jones was stripped of the light heavyweight championship in 2015 after he was arrested on suspicion of hit and run. He had been scheduled to defend the belt against Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, but in his absence, the UFC replaced him with Daniel Cormier. Since Jones was also suspended indefinitely, the fight was for the official UFC championship. Cormier won, and when Jones was re-instated he was scheduled to face Cormier at UFC 197. Cormier, however, injured his foot and was pulled from the fight. He was replaced by Saint Preux. Jones walked through him, defeating him by unanimous decision to become the interim champion. Jones was then stripped of that belt after failing an out-of-competition drug test.

Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar, UFC 200

With Conor McGregor deeply involved in a welterweight rivalry with Nate Diaz, the UFC decided to create an interim title fight at UFC 200 between former champion Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar. Aldo -- who had been hellbent on securing a rematch with McGregor -- put together one of his finest performances to date and scored a unanimous decision to earn the interim featherweight title.

  • Randy Couture (UFC 43)
  • Andrei Arlovski (UFC 51)
  • Georges St-Pierre (UFC 79)
  • Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC 81)
  • Frank Mir (UFC 92)
  • Shane Carwin (UFC 111)
  • Carlos Condit (UFC 143)
  • Renan Barao (UFC 149)
  • Fabricio Werdum (UFC 180)
  • Conor McGregor (UFC 189)
  • Jon Jones (UFC 197)
  • Jose Aldo (UFC 200)


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