Muhammad Ali famously once said, “There’s nothing wrong with getting knocked down, as long as you get back up”. How a fighter bounces back from a loss is revealing. How a fighter bounces back from losing their Championship is even more revealing. At UFC 270, Deiveson Figueiredo defeated Brandon Moreno to reclaim the UFC Flyweight title. Figueiredo joined a small list of fighters that reclaimed a UFC title after losing it. Let’s take a look at 10 other fighters that did what Figueiredo did.
When Georges St-Pierre defeated Matt Hughes at UFC 65 to become the Welterweight Champion, it seemed as if we entering a new era in the sport. He was a well-rounded fighter and a legitimate athlete. His first title defense was against Matt Serra who had just won “The Comeback” season of the Ultimate Fighter. This season featured former UFC fighters that had been previously cut from the promotion. The winner of the season would receive a title shot. When Matt Serra defeated Chris Lytle by split decision to win the Ultimate Fighter, it seemed like he would get steamrolled by GSP. He could barely defeat Chris Lytle, how could he defeat GSP? At UFC 69, Serra shocked the world when he finished GSP by knockout in the 1st round. Serra was an 11-1 underdog going into a fight which is still widely considered the greatest upset in UFC history. This ended up being the turning point of GSP’s career. He reinvented himself as a fighter and earned a rematch against Serra for the title 1 year after losing it. The rematch at UFC 83 went how many expected the first fight to go. GSP dominated Serra and finished him by TKO in the 2nd round to reclaim his Welterweight title in his hometown of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. GSP never lost a fight again.
TJ Dillashaw surprised a lot of people when he finished Renan Barao to become the UFC Bantamweight Champion in May of 2014. He went on to successfully defend his title twice including defeating Barao in a rematch. In January of 2016, he would battle former Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. Cruz defeated Dillashaw and took his title. It was a close split decision that Dillashaw believed he won. He was determined to win his title back and he worked through the ranks. When Dillashaw earned a title shot, his former training partner Cody Garbrandt was the Champion. Garbrandt was undefeated and the favorite heading into their fight. At UFC 217, Dillashaw finished Garbrandt by knockout to reclaim his title. Dillashaw is now looking to win the Bantamweight title for the 3rd time in 2022.
When Cain Velasquez defeated Brock Lesnar to become the Heavyweight Champion at UFC 121, it seemed like no one was going to stop him. He was undefeated and had dominated everyone he had fought. His 1st title defense was scheduled in the UFC’s debut on FOX against Junior dos Santos. It was a quick night, as dos Santos finished Velasquez by knockout in 61 seconds and took his title. This lit a fire under Cain Velasquez who still believed he was the best Heavyweight in the world. He bounced back by brutalizing Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 146. Bigfoot didn’t even land a punch. It was a bloody massacre and Velasquez looked stoic after the referee stopped the fight. He still knew he had work to do. His performance against Bigfoot earned him a rematch against dos Santos 13 months after their first fight. The rematch went much different as Velasquez battered dos Santos for 25 minutes and reclaimed his Heavyweight title.
Randy Couture is one of the most underappreciated fighters in MMA history. He holds the record for the most Championships fights in UFC history, the most main events in UFC history, and was the first fighter in UFC history to win two titles from two weight classes. Couture became the Heavyweight Champion in his 4th professional fight against Maurice Smith at “UFC Japan”. He vacated the title and left the UFC due to contract disputes. After competing for various promotions in Japan, Couture returned to the UFC and reclaimed his Heavyweight title in his first fight back at UFC 28 against Kevin Randleman. After competing as a Heavyweight for a few years and losing his title, Couture moved down to the Light Heavyweight division. Couture defeated Tito Ortiz at UFC 44 to become the Undisputed UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. After retiring from the sport in 2006, Couture announced that he would be returning to the sport to challenge the younger, taller, and heavier Tim Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. 43-year-old Couture defeated Sylvia becoming the oldest fighter in UFC history to win a Championship. Couture’s first title win was in 1997 and his final title win was in 2007.
Dominick Cruz competed in the only fight in history where a UFC Championship was contested for outside the UFC. Cruz defeated Scott Jorgensen at WEC 53 to become the inaugural UFC Bantamweight Champion. After 3 successful title defenses in the Octagon, Cruz began to get plagued by injuries and was forced to relinquish his Bantamweight title in February of 2014. It seemed as if Cruz would never return to the Octagon, but he kept determined. In January of 2016, Cruz challenged Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw for the title he never lost. Cruz had only competed for 61 seconds inside the Octagon in the 5 years prior to this fight. Just like he battled back from several injuries, Cruz battled back in the fight and defeated TJ Dillashaw to reclaim his Bantamweight Championship.
Tim Sylvia became the UFC Heavyweight Champion in his 2nd fight with the promotion at UFC 41 when he defeated Ricco Rodriguez. After one defense, Sylvia was stripped of the title for failing a post-fight drug test. Sylvia then challenged Frank Mir for the vacant title in a fight where Mir broke his forearm with an armbar. He continued to compete in the Heavyweight division and reclaimed the title at UFC 59 when he defeated Andrei Arlovski. Sylvia won the title for the 2nd time 3 years after winning his first title.
Jon Jones never lost his titles inside the Octagon. He lost them all outside the Octagon. He defended his Light Heavyweight title 8x before being stripped after failing the UFC's Athlete Code of Conduct policy for a hit and run incident prior to a scheduled title fight against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson in April of 2015. Two years later, Jones returned to action to challenge Daniel Cormier for the Light Heavyweight title at UFC 214. Jones defeated Cormier to reclaim the title but then failed a PED test leading to him being stripped of the title again. After serving his suspension, Jones challenged Alexander Gustafsson in a rematch for the vacant Light Heavyweight title. Jones reclaimed the title and defended it 3x before relinquishing the title for a possible move to the Heavyweight division.
After Matt Hughes lost his Welterweight title to BJ Penn at UFC 46, he was determined to get his belt back. However, BJ Penn left the UFC after their fight leaving the Welterweight title vacant. After Hughes defeated Renato Verissimo at UFC 48, a vacant title fight was scheduled between Hughes and an undefeated Georges St-Pierre. Hughes became the first fighter in history to defeat GSP at UFC 50 and reclaimed his Welterweight title. Hughes got the opportunity to avenge his loss to Penn when he defeated him in their rematch at UFC 63 solidifying himself as the best Welterweight in the world.