Ciryl Gane broke barriers by bringing UFC gold back to France after securing a victory at UFC 265. Mexico gained its first champion earlier this year in Brandon Moreno, and there are several other countries on the cusp of realizing their inaugural UFC champion.
The history of UFC champions has largely been dominated by the United States and Brazil, but recently fighters representing other countries have asserted themselves.
Francis Ngannou brought the heavyweight strap home to Cameroon at UFC 260 earlier this year. Before that, Weili Zhang (China) and Kamaru Usman (Nigeria) obtained championships for their respective nations in 2019.
Currently, several countries have top-level fighters aiming for UFC gold.
Potential First UFC Champions
The nation of Georgia is located Caucasus region, intersecting Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It’s host to roughly four million people and in recent years, some uber-talented fighters.
As it stands today, Georgia’s highest-ranked fighter is Giga Chikadze, who comes in at #10 in the featherweight division. Since entering the UFC, the 32-year-old is 6-0 and is coming off an opening-round finish over Cub Swanson. Back-to-back POTN showings have many believing Chikadze has championship potential.
Next on the list is Merab Dvalishivili, who finds himself at #11 in the bantamweight rankings. Impressively, “The Machine” has reeled off six consecutive wins after failing to get his hand raised in his first two UFC bouts. The 30-year-old has cardio for days and seems to be improving with each appearance.
Ilia Topuria and Arman Tsarukyan both sit at #15 within their weight classes. The former was born in Germany but is the son of Georgian parents. While the latter was born in Georgia but fights out of Russia. Topuria is unbeaten and is fresh off a statement performance against Ryan Hall. Tsarukyan has only lost to Islam Makhachev, besides that he’s won three straight by unanimous decision.
Other Georgian names to watch include Guram Kutateladze, Roman Dolidze, and Liana Jojua. The country of Georgia is undoubtedly trending towards having a UFC champion.
A pair of Czechian fighters have their eyes fixated on being crowned a UFC champion. The first is reportedly serving as the backup for the UFC 276 headliner in October.
Yes, you may have guessed it’s Jiri Prochazka, who sits as the #2 contender at light heavyweight. Many didn’t know what to expect from “Denisa” when he entered the UFC last summer. He quickly announced himself as a viable contender by flatlining Volkan Oezdemir.
He then delivered a knockout of the year candidate in the form of a spinning elbow to the head of Dominick Reyes. Now, many people peg Prochazka as a future champ when he gets his chance.
The other Czechian is the #11 ranked flyweight, David Dvorak. The 29-year-old has carried his success right over into the UFC since debuting last year. “The Undertaker” can quickly become a player for the belt with another victory, which will hopefully come against someone in the top-10.
The Middle East has been coming on strong in recent years. It even plays host to Fight Island, which is located in the United Arab Emirates. Other nations that make up the Middle East include Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and a handful of others.
#3 Beneil Dariush out of Iran is right on the brink of challenging for the lightweight championship. The 32-year-old has been rolling lately. Winner of seven straight, Dariush has amassed quite the highlight reel, which he capped off with a dominant decision victory over Tony Ferguson. He’s likely one win shy of attempting to become Iran’s first UFC champion.
Heading back to the flyweight division, where #14 Amir Albazi sits, who was born in Iraq. The 27-year-old is just 2-0 in the UFC, but he’s looked impressive and also owns two wins for Bellator. Albazi was scheduled to face Ode Osbourne in July but was forced to withdraw. Hopefully, we’ll see him back in there soon.
Italy’s #4 Marvin Vettori had a prime opportunity at UFC 263 to bring home gold, but he came up short. Still, Vettori remains a top contender at middleweight. A win over Paulo Costa will certainly re-insert him back into the thick of things.
Serbia’s (Austria) #3 Aleksandar Rakic has been clamoring for a top-contender fight with Prochazka, but it doesn’t appear like he’ll get his wish. Regardless, it would come to the surprise of many if the 29-year-old doesn’t compete for a belt sometime in the near future.
South Korea’s #4 Chan Sung Jung (Korean Zombie) competed for a featherweight championship back in 2013 but fell shy. To this day, he remains one of the division’s top products. In his previous outing, he out-classed Dan Ige, proving he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level.
Suriname’s #6 Jairzinho Rozenstruik figures to be a player in the heavyweight title picture for years to come. He’s 33-years-old, but that’s considered fairly young for the weight class. As one of the more feared strikers at heavyweight, “Bigi Boy” has the tools to bring a belt back to the small nation of roughly half a million citizens.
Sweden’s #6 Jack Hermansson is a bona fide UFC veteran at this point in his career. At 33-years-old, “The Joker” must act soon if he wishes to become the first Swedish-born UFC champion. He’s gone .500 in his last four outings, making his next fight pivotal in his title quest.
There are other fighters representing other countries that were left off the list. Who do you believe has the best shot at realizing championship status for the first time in their nation’s history?