The UFC has weight classes for a reason. It would be chaos if fighters of all different sizes were competing against each other. Even though some of us would like to bring back the original UFC-style championships to life. That is why the UFC has specific weight classes so that fighters can compete against opponents of a similar size.
The UFC weight classes were created in 1997 at UFC 12 where the lightweight and heavyweight divisions were introduced. It wasn’t until UFC 31 that the more commonly-known weight classes were introduced, as outlined below. Read on to get all the information you need about UFC weight divisions.
The Official UFC Weight Classes
Men’s Weight Classes
The UFC currently has eight different weight classes for men. The classes and their upper weight limits are as follows:
Women’s Weight Classes
The UFC has four weight classes for women. They are as follows:
Best Fighters in Each UFC Weight Division
Below, we will talk more about the different weight classes in the UFC and who some of the top fighters are in each one.
Best Fighters in the UFC Flyweight Division
The Flyweight class is definitely fun to watch since it is, in my opinion, one of the technically most sound divisions in the whole UFC, meaning its fighters can’t solely rely on their power for a knockout punch like in the heavier divisions; therefore, their technique is almost impeccable. Fighters like Deiveson Figueiredo, Brandon Moreno, and Kai Kara France are the top 3 fighters in the division, and their devotion and their skill are maybe the highest in the UFC. One of the GOATs of MMA and the UFC was also a king within the division, the one and only Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.
Best Fighters in the UFC Bantamweight Division
Bantamweight is another division packed with killers with impeccable techniques. Fighters such as Petr Yan, Cory Sandhagen, the legend Jose Aldo, and many others always make fireworks of any fight they are in. The Bantamweight division really is a shark pool. The current Bantamweight champion is Aljamain Sterling, who is quite controversial within the UFC. Other notable fighters in the division are TJ Dillashaw, Marlon Vera, Frankie Edgar, Dominic Cruz, Rob Font, and Sean O’Malley.
Best Fighters in the UFC Featherweight Division
Next up is the Featherweight division with my favorite active fighter of them all, the champion himself, Alexander Volkanovski. Other prominent fighters within the division are Max Holloway, Brian Ortega, Yair Rodriguez, and Calvin Kattar.
Best Fighters in the UFC Lightweight Division
Today, some of the most popular mixed martial arts fighters in the UFC compete in the Lightweight class. This division is home to the “Notorious” Conor McGregor, who was once the UFC featherweight champion. The Lightweight division is currently without a champion since Charles Oliveira missed weight before his last fight, where he won over Justin Gaethje. Other top lightweight fighters include Tony Ferguson, Michael Chandler, Dustin Poirier, Islam Makhachev, and many more. We cannot forget to mention the GOAT himself, Khabib Nurmagomedov, who “drowned” all of his opponents during his 29-0 reign.
Best Fighters in the UFC Welterweight Division
The Welterweight division is another one that is always exciting to watch. This weight class has produced some of history’s most memorable UFC fights. Some of the past top welterweights included the names such as Robbie Lawler, Rory MacDonald, and Tyron Woodley. Currently, the reigning champion is also the pound-for-pound best fighter in the UFC and maybe the world, the Nigerian Nightmare, Kamaru Usman. Other notable fighters within the welterweight division are Colby Covington, Leon Edwards, Khamzat Chimaev, Gilbert Burns, Belal Muhammad, Vicente Luque, Stephen Thompson, and Jorge Masvidal.
Best Fighters in the UFC Middleweight Division
The Middleweight division is currently ruled by one man, and that man is Israel Adesanya. Adesanya has defended his title multiple times against some of the best fighters in the world. Other top middleweights include Robert Whittaker, Jared Cannonier, and Marvin Vettori.
Best Fighters in the UFC Light Heavyweight Division
The Light heavyweight division was being dominated by one fighter, and that fighter was Jon Jones. Jones has been considered to be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world for many years. Recently he has been trying to transition into the heavyweight class… we will see how that goes. The light heavyweight division was once full of very talented fighters such as Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson. The current Light Heavyweight champion is Glover Teixeira. Other top light heavyweight fighters include Jan Błachowicz, Jiri Prochazka, Aleksandar Rakić, Magomed Ankalaev, Anthony Smith, and Thiago Santos.
Best Fighters in the UFC Heavyweight Division
The Heavyweight division is always one of the most popular in the UFC. This is because the fights are usually very exciting and often end with someone getting knocked out. The current heavyweight champion is Francis Ngannou, who is getting scarier and scarier every fight. Other top heavyweights include Stipe Miocic, Ciryl Gane, Tai Tuivasa, Curtis Blaydes, Derrick Lewis, and hopefully Jon Jones soon.
Best Fighters in the UFC Women’s Divisions
The Women’s MMA divisions were mostly held down by two women, two absolute killers in their own right, the “complete human being” Valentina Shevchenko and Amanda Nunes. Valentina still holds her belt in the Women’s Flyweight division, while Julianna Pena defeated Amanda Nunes and won the Women’s Bantamweight division belt.
Why Did The UFC Establish Weight Classes?
There are a number of reasons why the UFC decided to implement weight classes. First and foremost, the promotion wanted to improve the safety of its athletes. Larger fighters have a significant size advantage over their smaller opponents, which can lead to serious injuries in a fight. By creating weight classes, the UFC hoped to minimize this risk by pitting fighters of similar size against one another.
In addition to safety concerns, the UFC also wanted to create more competitive and exciting fights. Larger fighters often easily win against their smaller opponents simply because of their size advantage. This can make for one-sided and uninteresting fights. By creating weight classes, the UFC hoped to even the playing field and make for more competitive bouts.
Weight classes help keep fighters healthy, as they are not competing outside their natural weight range, at least should be one of the many reasons, but we all know weight cutting is still a staple of fight prep within the UFC.
Finally, weight classes provide structure for tournaments and championship title fights.
Who decides the weight classes in UFC, and how often are they revised?
The weight classes in the UFC are based on the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, which were established by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board and later adopted by other state athletic commissions in the United States. These rules define the various weight classes for professional mixed martial arts competitions, including those in the UFC.
It’s important to note that the UFC itself does not independently decide the weight classes; instead, they adhere to these established regulations. However, the organization can propose and advocate for changes.
As for how often they are revised, there’s no set schedule. Changes to weight classes are relatively infrequent and typically occur only after extensive discussion and review among the athletic commissions, medical professionals, and other sports stakeholders.
For example, the UFC added the women’s divisions gradually. The women’s Bantamweight division was the first, introduced in 2012 when the UFC signed Ronda Rousey. Other divisions, like Strawweight, Flyweight, and Featherweight, were added later. But these changes were not merely revisions; they were significant additions that took place over several years.
Any proposed changes to the weight classes would need to be widely accepted and adopted in order to ensure consistent standards across the sport, both within the UFC and in other MMA promotions.
How does a fighter determine which weight class they belong to?
Determining a fighter’s weight class in the UFC is largely based on their walk-around weight, ability to cut weight, and where they feel most competitive.
- Walk-Around Weight: This is a fighter’s weight during their regular daily activities, not in preparation for a fight. It’s typically higher than their fighting weight due to regular hydration and dietary habits.
- Weight Cutting: This refers to the process fighters undergo to lose weight before a fight, often through a combination of dieting, dehydration, and exercise. The amount of weight a fighter can safely and effectively cut can influence which weight class they compete in.
- Performance and Strength: Some fighters may choose a weight class because they feel stronger or faster compared to their potential opponents in that class. This involves a balance, as dropping too much weight can lead to decreased performance while going up a weight class could mean facing physically larger opponents.
In addition, a fighter’s team, including their coaches and nutritionists, will usually have significant input on this decision. This group will help the fighter monitor their weight, performance, and overall health to determine the most suitable and sustainable weight class for them.
Please note that fighters must meet the designated weight limit during the official weigh-in before a fight to be eligible to compete in their chosen weight class. If a fighter consistently struggles to make weight, it might be an indication that they need to move to a higher weight class.
What Is the Official Weigh-In Policy in the UFC?
The UFC’s weigh-in policy requires that fighters meet the weight limit for their weight class during the official weigh-in, which typically occurs the day before the fight.
Here are the key points regarding UFC’s weigh-in policy:
- Time and Place: The official weigh-in usually takes place at a designated location and is overseen by the athletic commission supervising the event. The time is typically in the morning, 24 hours before the event, to allow fighters to rehydrate and recover.
- Weight Limits: Fighters must meet the specific weight limit for their weight class or the agreed-upon weight for a catchweight fight. Fighters cannot weigh even 0.1 pounds over the limit for championship bouts. Non-title bouts typically allow a one-pound allowance over the limit.
- Multiple Attempts: Depending on the regulations of the athletic commission, fighters may be allowed multiple attempts to make weight within a certain timeframe during the official weigh-in.
- Failure to Make Weight: If a fighter fails to make weight, they may be fined a percentage of their purse, which often goes to their opponent. The fight can be canceled or converted into a catchweight bout, depending on the agreement between the fighters and the promotion. In a title fight, a fighter who fails to make weight is not eligible to win the title.
- Ceremonial Weigh-in: Besides the official weigh-in, UFC also typically holds a ceremonial weigh-in later in the day, which is more for promotional purposes and for the fans. The fighters’ weights are not officially recorded during this event, but they still step on the scale for the audience.
The weigh-in procedure is designed to ensure that the fights are fair and that the fighters are competing in the correct weight class. It also seeks to mitigate health risks associated with severe and sudden weight loss, also known as weight cutting.
What Happens if a Fighter Misses Their Weight?
Fighters are required to weigh in before each fight. The official weigh-in usually takes place the day before the fight to allow fighters time to rehydrate before stepping into the octagon.
The fighters are required to meet the weight limit for the respective weight class they are fighting in. If a fighter fails to make the weight limit during the official weigh-in, several consequences can occur:
- Fight Cancellation: The fight could be canceled, especially if the fighter misses weight by a significant margin or their opponent is unwilling to proceed with a bout against a heavier competitor.
- Catchweight Bout: If both fighters and the promotion agree, the fight can be changed to a catchweight bout. This term refers to a fight that doesn’t fall within the usual weight class boundaries. This usually happens if one or both fighters fail to make the agreed-upon weight.
- Forfeiture of Purse: A fighter who misses weight might be fined a percentage of their fight purse (the amount they’re paid for the fight), which typically goes to their opponent. The exact percentage can vary.
- Title Implications: If the bout is a title fight and the fighter missing weight wins, they will not be awarded the title. However, if the fighter who made weight wins, they can still win the title.
These regulations aim to maintain fairness and safety in the sport, as significant weight differences between fighters can potentially lead to a competitive imbalance and increase the risk of serious injuries.
Can a fighter compete in multiple weight classes?
Yes, a fighter can compete in multiple weight classes in the UFC. However, this usually involves moving up or down in weight over time, not simultaneously competing in multiple weight classes at the exact same time.
Fighters might choose to change weight classes for a variety of reasons. For instance, they may have difficulty consistently making weight in their current division, see more advantageous matchups in a different division, or aspire to become a “champ-champ” – a term for fighters who hold titles in two different weight classes.
In UFC history, several fighters have won championships in more than one weight class, including Conor McGregor, Amanda Nunes, Daniel Cormier, and Henry Cejudo. However, it’s important to note that changing weight classes is a significant decision that can affect a fighter’s performance and health, and it should be made with careful consideration and proper medical guidance.