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A championship belt is a large, extravagantly designed belt used primarily in combat sports such as boxing, mixed martial arts, and professional wrestling to signify the champions of the promotion or company, much like a cup or trophy in other sports. There are several companies in the business of constructing championship belts.
The first belt given as a prize for accomplishments within the ring was presented in 1810 by King George III to bare-knuckle boxer Tom Cribb, after he defeated Tom Molineaux, an American former slave.
In boxing, the individual organizations such as the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Association, the International Boxing Federation, and the World Boxing Organization each have their own unique championship belt that are awarded to the champions of each weight class. Boxers strive to win the belt of all four organizations to unify their weight divisions. The Ring also created a championship system that is "intended to reward fighters who, by satisfying rigid criteria, can justify a claim as the true and only world champion in a given weight class".
Champions maintain permanent possession of these belts even upon losing their title, with a new belt made when a new champion is crowned.
Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment which combines athletics and theatrical performance in a mimicry of combat sports. Many storylines center around the promotion's championships, which are represented by championship belts similar to those in boxing. The top title in a major promotion is usually designated a "world heavyweight championship". Other, lesser championships may carry regional names, be limited to a specific weight class, or be defended in other special circumstances, such as the traditional tag team match.
Typically, pro wrestling title belts have a unique design for each title, in contrast with boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) where the title belts of a given sanctioning body are all the same design. The Big Gold Belt design, for example, is very recognizable and has been used by various wrestling promotions since the 1980s.
In 2016, WWE began to streamline their championships, making their top male and female championships have the same design, similar to boxing and MMA. The only differences between them are the colors (to represent if the title belongs to either the Raw or SmackDown brand), the name on the belt, and the women's belts are smaller. The tag team championships also have the same design between each other with the only difference being the color of the straps.
Mixed martial arts generally follows the boxing model of each sanctioning group, which is also a promotion, awarding its champion in each weight class a championship belt. As in boxing, the design of each promotion's belts are the same regardless of weight class, and the champion keeps their belt after losing the title.
The Las Vegas Motor Speedway offers a championship belt in lieu of the traditional trophy for drivers who win the Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race there, owing to the prominence of Las Vegas in combat sports.
Historically, championship belts were also awarded to the winner of professional golf tournaments. Rodeo tournaments also award special belts, among other prizes.
The Ring is an American boxing magazine that was first published in 1922 as a boxing and wrestling magazine. As the sporting legitimacy of professional wrestling came more into question, The Ring shifted to becoming exclusively a boxing-oriented publication. The magazine is currently owned by Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Enterprises division of Golden Boy Promotions, which acquired it in 2007. Ring began publishing annual ratings of boxers in 1924.
Mixed martial arts (MMA), sometimes referred to as cage fighting, no holds barred (NHB), and ultimate fighting, is a full-contact combat sport based on striking, grappling and ground fighting, incorporating techniques from various combat sports and martial arts from around the world. The first documented use of the term mixed martial arts was in a review of UFC 1 by television critic Howard Rosenberg in 1993. The question of who actually coined the term is subject to debate.
Bare-knuckle boxing is the original form of boxing, closely related to ancient combat sports. It involves two individuals fighting without boxing gloves or other padding on their hands.
Heavyweight is a weight class in combat sports and professional wrestling.
Welterweight is a weight class in combat sports. Originally the term "welterweight" was used only in boxing, but other combat sports like Muay Thai, taekwondo, and mixed martial arts also use it for their own weight division system to classify the opponents. In most sports that use it, welterweight is heavier than lightweight but lighter than middleweight.
A championship or title in professional wrestling is a recognition promoted by professional wrestling organizations.
Mini flyweight, also known as strawweight or minimumweight, is a weight class in combat sports.
An interim championship is an alternate title that is awarded by the four major sanctioning bodies of professional boxing, and in other combat sports such as kickboxing, professional wrestling, and mixed martial arts.
The super heavyweight division in mixed martial arts has no weight limit but generally refers to competitors weighing above 265 lb (120 kg). This is the definition used by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the Association of Boxing Commissions.
Mixed martial arts weight classes are weight classes that pertain to the sport of mixed martial arts.
Travis Jon Fulton is an American mixed martial artist and a professional boxer in the heavyweight division of both sports. Known as a longtime veteran in mixed martial arts, he has competed in over 300 sanctioned bouts and while he is perhaps best known for competing in smaller US-based promotions, he has also competed in the UFC, the WEC, Pancrase, the Chicago Red Bears of the IFL, King of the Cage and RINGS. He also holds the record for the most sanctioned mixed martial arts bouts, with 320 bouts; in addition to that, he also holds the most wins in mixed martial arts history.
Ivan Gene LeBell is an American martial artist, instructor, professional wrestler, stunt performer and actor born in Los Angeles, California. LeBell has also worked on over 1,000 films and TV shows and has authored 12 books. Nicknamed "the Godfather of Grappling", LeBell is widely credited with popularizing grappling in professional fighting circles, serving as a precursor to modern mixed martial arts.
In certain sports, when a sportsman wins three crowns, titles, medals, belts or another distinctions, the athlete is called a triple champion.
In combat sports where champions are decided by a challenge, the lineal championship of a weight class is a world championship title held initially by an undisputed champion and subsequently by a fighter who defeats the reigning champion in a match at that weight class. In professional boxing, the lineal champion is informally called "the man who beat the man".
A catchweight is a term used in combat sports, such as boxing or mixed martial arts, to describe a weight limit that does not adhere to the traditional limits for weight classes. In boxing, a catchweight is negotiated prior to weigh-ins, which are conducted one day before the fight. The term 'catchweight' is also less regularly used in professional wrestling, but used to describe catch wrestling; which can be used to mean no weight limit. An example of a catchweight division in professional wrestling is Pro Wrestling Pride's Catch Division Championship.
The strawweight division in mixed martial arts is for competitors weighing between 106 and 115 lb. It sits between the lighter atomweight division and the heavier flyweight division.
In boxing, a weight class is a measurement weight range for boxers. The lower limit of a weight class is equal to the upper weight limit of the class below it. The top class, with no upper limit, is called heavyweight in professional boxing and super heavyweight in amateur boxing. A boxing match is usually scheduled for a fixed weight class, and each boxer's weight must not exceed the upper limit. Although professional boxers may fight above their weight class, an amateur boxer's weight must not fall below the lower limit. A nonstandard weight limit is called a catchweight.
Openweight is an unofficial weight class in combat sports and professional wrestling. It refers to bouts where there is no weight limit and fighters with a dramatic difference in size can compete against each other. It is different from catch weight, where competitors agree to weigh in at a certain amount without an official weight class.
While mixed martial arts is primarily a male dominated sport, it does have female athletes. For instance, Female competition in Japan includes promotions such as DEEP Jewels. Now defunct promotions that featured female fighters were Valkyrie, and Smackgirl. Professional mixed martial arts organizations in the United States that invite women to compete are industry leader Ultimate Fighting Championship, the all female Invicta Fighting Championships, Resurrection Fighting Alliance, Bellator Fighting Championships, and Legacy Fighting Championship. Now defunct promotions that featured female fighters were Strikeforce and EliteXC.