With champions who come from countries as far apart as Nigeria, Ireland, and China, the UFC has a very diverse roster of fighters and champions. However, two countries dominate the UFC in terms of sending a champion to the organization.
The United States
Unsurprisingly, the U.S. has created the most champions in the UFC, as 63 Americans have won gold in the UFC according to Cageside Press. This is not surprising because the U.S. is where the UFC was founded, so naturally, most fighters, in general, are from the states.
Plus, during the early days of the UFC, belts changed hands very often, leading to many people holding the title. Given the fact that the UFC was full of American fighters, that just led to very few non-Americans winning the belt in those early days.
The early adoption of the sport also allowed the U.S. to create the infrastructure, such as the gyms and the coaches, necessary in creating a championship level fighter.
Legendary fighters, like Randy Couture, fought many times in the UFC and then retired and started their own gyms to train the next generation of fighters. Couture, in particular, started his own gym called Xtreme Couture MMA, and it currently trains up and coming UFC fighters like Francis Ngannou.
Furthermore, with how dominant wrestling is as a martial art, Americans have a particular advantage over much of the world because wrestling is a relatively popular sport in the country.
Many American champions were high-level wrestlers in their earlier life. For example, Daniel Cormier, the former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion, was an Olympic level wrestler. Henry Cejudo, the current flyweight and bantamweight champion, won an Olympic gold medal in 2008.
Both of these men and many other American wrestlers use their wrestling to great effect. Not many other countries have as a strong wrestling tradition as the U.S. does, and so American wrestlers tend to dominate their opponents in that regard.
The second most dominant country in terms of creating UFC champions is Brazil. There have been 16 Brazilian champions so far. For reference, the third place goes to Canada, which has created three UFC champions. Every other country has created one or two champions.
Similar to the U.S., the reason why Brazil has produced so many champions is because of the head start the country had in MMA compared to everyone else. For example, when the UFC started, very few people in the world knew about Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or BJJ.
After Royce Gracie, a BJJ master, showed everyone what BJJ was and won the first-ever UFC event, BJJ instantly became a martial art that every UFC fighter needed to learn.
Other Brazilian fighters however, like Anderson Silva, already knew what BJJ was. Thus, in the early days of the UFC, many Brazilian fighters were competing against American fighters and winning very often.
That gap in skill however, narrowed as everyone started learning about BJJ. Brazilian dominance waned because now there were BJJ masters who were fighting from the U.S. and elsewhere.
Shrinking the gap
Because of that gap in infrastructure and knowledge, the U.S. and Brazil were able to dominate the early days of the UFC as few people knew how to deal with good wrestling or BJJ.
But with people from around the world training in MMA and learning every martial art there is, that gap is lessening. China produced its first Chinese champion in Zhang Weili earlier this year. The UFC hopes to train these Chinese fighters to be at the highest level by creating a massive gym in Shanghai.
So while the U.S. and Brazil definitely have the most UFC champions, as the UFC lives on, that may change as people from around the world learn about and compete in the sport.