To be a champion is to cement your place in history. It is the one goal that unites every fighter, from the lowliest regional circuit to the heights of live, televised combat at Madison Square Garden.
There are some legends who are able to stay at the pinnacle of their sport for a very long time. Anderson Silva in MMA and Wladimir Klitschko in the world of boxing are just two great examples of fighters who were able to repel any opponent for longer than anyone in their respective sports.
Others aren’t so lucky, and this heady list of shortlived champions serves to illustrate just how quickly a dream can be snatched away.
8. Holly Holm – MMA - 111 Days
All that anyone expected in November 2015 was for Ronda Rousey to continue her unbeaten streak, and knock out Holly Holm. She was the huge favorite in UFC 193, but it was Holm instead who took away her title in the most dramatic of fashion.
Everyone watching was shocked by the outcome, and a few months later and Holm was thrown in against another great fighter, Miesha Tate. Tate wasn’t going to make the same mistake as Rousey, and a rear naked choke ended her short reign as a champion. She tried to reclaim a title at featherweight in 2017 but lost to Cris Cyborg.
7. BJ Penn – MMA – 107 Days
One of the more interesting title reigns in UFC history was that of BJ Penn. He was a great fighter, and did much to increase the popularity of MMA, notably beating Matt Hughes at UFC 46 to claim the welterweight title and prove his greatness.
After the fight, Penn wanted to try his hand at kickboxing, and signed up with the K-1 organization. The UFC decided to make an incredibly controversial call and strip him of the title. Subsequently, he came back to the sport and won another title, this time in the lightweight division.
6. Dave Menne – MMA – 105 Days
MMA fighters don’t tend to have as many fights as boxers due to the brutality of the sport, and this makes Dave Menne’s run of 64 fights even more incredible. He fought for a wide range of different organizations and had the honor of becoming UFC’s first-ever middleweight champion in 2001 at UFC 33.
His opponent on that occasion was Gil Castillo, with the win coming via a unanimous decision. Just a little over three months later, Menne was unable to defend his belt, suffering a knockout at the hands of Murilo Bustamante. Incredibly, the two would fight again ten years later, and the bout yielded the same result, in what happened to be each man’s last fight.
5. Carla Esparza – MMA – 92 Days
Another female star who had a short reign was Carla Esparza. She was good enough to claim a belt, beating Rose Namajunas back in 2014 to become the first ever women’s strawweight champion. However, keeping it was too much of a task.
She was hoping to defend that belt 92 days later when she came up against Joanna Jdrzejczyk. It wasn’t to be, and she was duly knocked out in the second round. Joanna Jdrzejczyk would be a lot more successful with her belt, managing to defend it on five occasions, before ironically losing it to Rose Namajunas, the very woman who relinquished it to Esparza.
4. Eduardo Ray Marquez – Boxing – 36 Days
In boxing days of old, it was common for even high-quality fighters to have a bout every month, or even after a few short weeks. Here and now in the 21st century, journeymen may still have a lot of fights, but top-class professionals will fight twice a year at the most.
That makes Eduardo Ray Marquez’ short time at the top even more interesting, as it was a story that unfolded in 2003. Having beaten Jorge Mata in March, Marquez decided to defend it just two months later, against Ivan Calderon. Unfortunately for Marquez, his short 36-day reign came to an end after being knocked out in the ninth round.
3. Tony Canzoneri – Boxing - 33 Days
Tony Canzoneri fought 10 times in 1933 and 161 times in his whole career. On May 21, 1933, he fought Battling Shaw and was able to claim the light welterweight title. It was a part of his career total of five belts across three divisions.
However, he wasn’t able to hold his title for long. He fought Barney Ross just 33 days later, on June 23, and lost by majority decision in a close contest. The two then fought again three months later, but Canzoneri would once again be on the wrong end of a close decision, cementing his place in history for the wrong reason.
2. Waldemar Holberg – Boxing – 23 Days
Another fighter that took on a heap of fights in a short space of time was Waldemar Holberg, who had a nasty habit of getting disqualified in bouts. He was disqualified an incredible eight times over the course of his career.
Taking on Ray Bronson back in 1913, Holberg managed to get through the fight to win the world welterweight title, as recognized by the Australian boxing authorities. Not only did he win on points, but he also did so over an incredible (and brutal) 20 rounds of boxing.
Just 23 days later at the same venue, he decided to fight Tom McCormick. Holberg clearly had no interest in fighting clean despite his title, and he was disqualified, though not for the last time.
1. Mike Glover - Boxing – 21 Days
Another boxer from the 'historical' era, Glover spent a ridiculously short time at the top. It was a fairytale journey to the title, as he won it against Matt Wells in front of his home crowd in Boston.
Unfortunately for Glover, he would pick the same venue for his title defense, but was beaten by Jack Britton, ending his glory days as soon as they had begun.