In the UFC, top fighters get to compete in a series of weight classes.
The UFC has eight weight classes. These weight divisions allow officials to place fighters in fair competitions with fighters of roughly the same size and weight. Some of these classes include heavyweight, lightweight, and strawweight.
This article provides a guide to UFC and the varying weight divisions if you are new to the field. Read on to learn more about how fighters are divided into classes and why weight classes matter.
UFC Weight Divisions
The UFC is divided into weight divisions, each spanning about ten pounds. Fighters are weighed before matchups to determine suitable opponents. Some of these classes may include both men and women, while some are exclusively for men. Generally, heavier classes are exclusively male.
There are eight primary weight divisions in the UFC. These are:
|Weight Class||Minimum Weight Limit||Upper Weight Limit|
|Strawweight||106 lb (48 kg)||115 lb (52.2 kg)|
|Flyweight||115 lb (52.2 kg)||125 lb (56.7kg)|
|Bantamweight||125 lb (56.7kg)||135 lb (61.2 kg)|
|Featherweight||135 lb (61.2 kg)||145 lb (65.8 kg)|
|Lightweight||145 lb (65.8 kg)||155 lb (70.3kg)|
|Welterweight||155 lb (70.3 kg)||170 lb (77.1kg)|
|Middleweight||170 lb (77.1kg)||185 lb (83.9kg)|
|Light Heavyweight||185 lb (83.9 kg)||205 lb (93.0 kg)|
|Heavyweight||205 lb (93.0 kg)||265 lb (120.2 kg)|
Strawweight (106-115 lbs)
Started in 2014, the division has a lower limit of 106 pounds (48 kg) and an upper limit of 115 lbs (52.2 kg). The division is one of the three divisions where women can compete.
The division debuted in 2013 after the 20th season of the Ultimate Fighter. The season featured only women where Carla Esparza walked home with the winning title.
Flyweight (115-125 lbs)
Introduced in December 2017, the second UFC division has a lower limit of 115 lbs (52.2 kg) and an upper limit of 125 lbs (56.7 kg). The division includes both male and female fighters.
The division aims to create more opportunities for women to participate in MMA sports at a competitive level. It is common for athletes under this category to display the fastest and best jiu-jitsu.
Bantamweight (125-135 lbs)
The next and final division that includes women is the Bantamweight division. This division has an upper limit of 135 pounds (61.2 kg) and a lower limit of 125 pounds (56.7 kg).
Featherweight (135-145 lbs)
The fifth UFC division is the featherweight with a limit of 135 lbs (61.2 kg) to 145 lbs (65.8 kg). The division holds both male and female athletes. Top names in this division are Brian Ortega, Max Holloway, and the 2020 reigning champion, Alexander Volkanovski.
McGregor won both the featherweight and the lightweight championship titles at different points in his career.
Lightweight (145-155 lbs)
The lightweight division is for male athletes weighing between 145 lbs (65.8 kg) to 155 lbs (70.3kg). The UFC attributes most of its pay-per-view money to athletes in this division.
Conor McGregor held this title between 2008-2012 and 2016-2018.
Welterweight (155-170 lbs)
Known as the most balanced division, athletes in this category are neither too heavy nor too light. The division holds athletes weighing between 155 lbs (70.3 kg) to 170 lbs (77.1 kg).
In 2019, Kamaru Usman won the champ title after defeating Tyron Woodley at UFC 235. Kamaru, dubbed ‘The Nigerian Nightmare,’ defended his title against Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington to a victorious triumph.
Aside from the division title, Kamaru tied with Georges St-Pierre for the highest consecutive wins under the Welterweight division.
Middleweight (170-185 lbs)
The middleweight division holds fighters weighing between 170 lbs (77.1 kg) and 185 lbs (84 kg). The Last Stylebender, Israel Mobolaji Temitayo Odunayo Oluwafemi Owolabi Adesanya, holds the current middleweight champion title.
Since his debut at UFC, Adesanya has displayed great agility comparable to athletes in the lightweight division.
Light Heavyweight (185-205 lbs)
The Light Heavyweight division holds athletes weighing between 185 lbs (84 kg) to 205 lbs (93 kg).
Heavyweight (205-265 lbs)
The last division in the UFC is the heavyweight division. It has a lower limit of 205 lbs (93 kg) and an upper limit of 265 lbs (120.2 kg). It’s not uncommon to see a technical knockout (TKO) with a single punch in this division.
Origins of Weight Classes in the UFC
Since its inception in 1993, the UFC has gathered widespread popularity, garnering close to millions of viewers in every broadcast. In addition, the sport has attracted more than 1 million pay-per-view (PPV) sales in the last five years. In that time, it’s become safer for the athletes while remaining true to its roots.
The sport dates back to the Pankration in 648 BC during the Greek Olympics event. Although UFC takes the credit for introducing and popularizing the sport, a Brazilian form of MMA took an interest in the sport about 80 years ago.
To ensure fairness in the competition, the UFC implemented rules and guidelines for athletes in MMA. They intended to safeguard fighters against injuries and ensure fair fights.
The goal of the sport was to find an undisputed champion who would display all forms of combat sports. For example, athletes were expected to know elements of the following:
The UFC’s goal was to maintain an atmosphere where athletes could display these skills safely in a controlled environment.
Creating weight classes was a part of the UFC’s attempt to ensure safe, fair fights.
The UFC also partnered with USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) to carry out random testing on athletes year round. That way, no athletes would go into a fight with an unfair advantage over another.
During its inception, UFC had minimal rules for the athletes. Fighters would headbutt, pull-hair, or strike the groin. However, today these attack strategies are illegal. Athletes also used to go up against any opponent, where today they’re paired against an equal in weight.
The UFC strives for high levels of safety by providing accident insurance coverage for injuries resulting from training. The UFC also partners with the Cleveland Clinic in studying brain health, according to a 2016 announcement.
Weight classes are a big part of how the UFC protects its fighters. However, they are just one part of a bigger strategy.
Top UFC Fighters by Weight Class
Over the years, MMA has led to the rise of stars in different weight divisions. Here is a list of some of the greatest UFC fighters. Notice that there are stars in every division. Talent lies in every weight class, not just the heaviest or the lightest.
Despite his frequent involvement in performance-enhancing drugs, Jon Jones continues to reign as a UFC legend. With a record of 23-1, Jones’ attacking abilities are his greatest strength.
Jones secured the light heavyweight title in 2011, ranking him as the youngest UFC champion in all of UFC history.
Known as one of the best UFC fighters of all time, Hughes is a:
- Two-time Welterweight champion
- NJCAA Hall of Fame inductee
- UFC Hall of Fame inductee
Hughes’s induction into the UFC Hall of Fame took place in May 2010. During his fighting career, Hughes was considered pound-for-pound the top UFC fighter on the planet.
While in the UFC, Couture secured the following titles:
- Interim UFC Light Heavyweight champion
- Three-time UFC Heavyweight Champion
- Two-time UFC Light Heavyweight champion
- UFC 13 Heavyweight winner
Alongside Conor McGregor and B.J Penn, Couture is the third fighter to hold two UFC Champion titles. Couture is also the only fighter above 40 years to win a UFC championship fight. He was also the fourth member to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
One of the three fighters to hold multiple titles in different weight classes, Penn is a former UFC Welterweight champion and UFC Lightweight champion.
For eight years, Penn, nicknamed the prodigy, reigned at 115 lbs (52.1 kg).
As a lightweight champion, Nurmagomedov continues to earn a reputation for his straight-talking and being dominant in championships.
The Russian wrestler is popularly known for his strong religious beliefs leading to his massive following. His catapult to fame attributes to his victory over Conor McGregor.
The earliest superstar in UFC history, Chuck Lidell ranks as one of the best UFC fighters owing to his dominant reign of the light-heavyweight title. Dubbed ‘the Iceman,’ UFC has Lidell to thank for the increased mainstream audience within the United States and beyond.
As a former Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion, Rousey has won six fights in the UFC and 12 consecutive MMA fights. She won nine rounds by armbar submission and 11 fights within the first round.
Rousey was ranked as the most dominant athlete by two magazines in May 2015. In 2015, voters selected Rousey as the Best Female Athlete in an online ESPN poll.
In 2015, Rousey ranked as the highest-paid fighter and the third-most Googled person. Based on UFC rankings, Rousey retains her title as the fourth female bantamweight fighter globally.
To UFC novices, the name Conor McGregor rings a bell.
Dubbed the notorious, McGregor made his debut in MMA in 2008, and in 2012, he won both the Lightweight Championships and the Cage Warriors Featherweight championships.
UFC fighters come in various sizes, and there is a place for each in different classes. These classes are divided based on weight, and fighters are paired with each other based on that. Men and women may compete in the same weight classes, though the heaviest classes are reserved for men.