UFC Weight Classes Explained for dummies: Divisions, techniques… and more

By Nika

In a UFC weigh-in, the atmosphere is full of tension when two fighters weigh themselves with their eyes fixed on each other. 

The crowd, all excited, knows this can swing the balance for this fight today. 

The scale readings show the fighters’ size and weight, which are important in mixed martial arts (MMA).

The UFC deploys weight classes for purposes of equal fighting, so that the fighters come against their counterparts of similar weight and size. 

Different categories like heavyweight and featherweight were created to accommodate the variations in the athlete’s body shape.

But this doesn’t mean that a higher weight means a more brutal fight. Even in lightweight or welterweight, fighters like Anderson Silva and fresh talents such as Ilia Topuria, will always deliver thrashing matches.

The weight classes, aside from ensuring that the matches are more balanced, also make them more thrilling. They put together fighters of all sizes, from the ones who are small like Jessica Andrade and Henry Cejudo to those who are big and high like Amanda Lemos and Irene Aldana giving the opportunity to every fan.

That being the case, let’s talk a bit about why there are weight divisions, and their impact on the fights, and introduce some of the top class fighters in each category.

UFC Weight Divisions: Octagon Hierarchy

The UFC is the place where the fighters of different weight classes fight with the different weight limits and fighting styles. 

Let’s have a look at the current UFC weight classes in a little bit more detail.

In men’s divisions, Flyweights will have the lightest weight of 125 lbs, while there are no limits set to the Heavies, Heavyweight

The Featherweight division falls between 135 and 145 lbs and the Lightweight division between 145 and 155 lbs. 

On the other hand, the Welterweight division goes from 155 to 170 lbs, the Middleweight division covers the weight range of between 170 and 185 pounds, and the Light Heavyweight division is for the weight range of 185 to 205 pounds.

Some of the best fighters who are famously associated with the weight classes include Jon Jones who holds the title of the Heavyweight champion or Amanda Nunes previously in the Bantamweight division.

The lowest division, Strawweight class, for the women’s has a limit of 115 pounds. As for the remaining classes, they are similar to the men’s. 

The weight classifications in all the divisions have a substantial role in the fighting style. 

For instance, because of being in lighter divisions like Flyweight the fighters are more likely to be quicker and more agile. 

However, power and strength are two features often associated with Heavyweight fighters as they do not have an upper limit of weight.

Basically, the UFC weight classes allow fighters of all sizes as well as strengths to be able to compete at their peak weight, which in turn makes the octagon a diverse and exciting one.

Other MMA Weight Classes 

Other MMA associations from the world have weight classes which are different from the UFC’s divisions. 

The difference is due to the fact that those organizations are constantly changing the weight classes based on multiple factors. For instance, if there are not many fighters in a certain division, they might just remove it. 

There are numerous promoters such as: Bellator, ONE Championship, and PFL, that each have their own weight categories and some of them are quite creative with it. 

A lot of variations in rules occur due to a number of reasons, which include historical development of the sport, regional preferences, and the necessity to differentiate fighters by weight and abilities.

Various weight classes in the organizations are nothing but the display of the diversity and vibrancy of MMA. 

As the sport gains momentum and the fighters hail from different places, it has become imperative for the organizations to upgrade and develop weight divisions that can contain a larger number of fighters. 

This will prevent a case where the fighters will fight opponents who differ in the size and weight and hence create a level ground for fairness and safety.

The growth of weight classes in MMA was especially seen in the birth of more divisions during the last few years, like the strawweight and flyweight divisions for women MMA. 

In this case, the incorporation of weights is an acknowledgment of the superior skills and qualifications of female fighters in addition to the opportunity to compete on a platform that is commensurate with their body size and type.

The fact that there are weight classes which go beyond the octagon is a reflection of the flexibility and inclusiveness of MMA as the sport grows and adjusts to the constant change in its nature.

Tables of Weight Divisions in MMA Organizations (detailed):

UFC:

DivisionWeight Range (lbs)Weight Range (kgs)
HeavyweightUp to 265Up to 120
Light HeavyweightUp to 205Up to 93
MiddleweightUp to 185Up to 84
WelterweightUp to 170Up to 77
LightweightUp to 155Up to 70
FeatherweightUp to 145Up to 66
BantamweightUp to 135Up to 61
FlyweightUp to 125Up to 57
Strawweight (Women)Up to 115Up to 52

Bellator MMA:

DivisionWeight Range (lbs)Weight Range (kgs)
HeavyweightUp to 265Up to 120
Light HeavyweightUp to 205Up to 93
MiddleweightUp to 185Up to 84
WelterweightUp to 170Up to 77
LightweightUp to 155Up to 70
FeatherweightUp to 145Up to 66
BantamweightUp to 135Up to 61
Flyweight (Women)Up to 125Up to 57

ONE Championship:

DivisionWeight Range (lbs)Weight Range (kgs)
HeavyweightUp to 265Up to 120
Light HeavyweightUp to 225Up to 102
MiddleweightUp to 205Up to 93
WelterweightUp to 185Up to 84
LightweightUp to 170Up to 77
FeatherweightUp to 155Up to 70
BantamweightUp to 145Up to 66
FlyweightUp to 135Up to 61
StrawweightUp to 125Up to 57
Atomweight (Women)Up to 115Up to 52

The Cut to Make Weight: The Science and Risks 

Water weight cutting is a popular issue in combat sports that include MMA where fighters dehydrate themselves to be qualified into a lighter weight class. 

This method is based on the concept of making the size and strength of an athlete to be better than those of opponents in the lower weight division. But the catch is that it may contain some negative health effects.

Fighters try to get rid of the unwanted water weight prior to weigh-ins. To do so, these methods are applied: strict diet, extreme exercise, sauna sessions, and also diuretics. 

The goal is obviously to drop the body fats and the amount of water the fighter retains, so that they can be at their desired weight class. 

After the fighters have been weighed in, they try to let the weight they lost return and rehydrate very quickly before the actual fight to get an advantage over their opponent. 

Extreme weight cutting can lead to catastrophic health issues. It can result in problems with thinking and reasoning, muscle cramps, kidney damage, and cardiovascular disorders. 

Furthermore, the post weigh-in rapid weight gain puts extra stress on the body and this can result in alteration of performance, risk of injury among others.

The UFC is a consistent topic of debate in MMA with regards to weight cutting. 

The organization has been putting into effect some measures to solve this problem, including the early weigh-ins and the extra fighter monitoring. 

Nevertheless, it is difficult to find a solution that will incorporate all the different aspects.

The weight-cutting process is a very intricate dance for the fighters. The attempt to gain the advantage of size may cost them health and performance. 

The UFC still searches for the right answer but striking the right balance that takes care of fighters without being uncompetitive is a highly complex task.

Choosing the right Weight Class in UFC

The UFC is one of the most competitive mixed martial arts leagues in the world. Therefore, the selection of an appropriate weight class is an important factor in the success of UFC fighters. It can be the difference between win and lose for fighting within the Octagon. 

A number of considerations are involved in the process of establishing the most suitable weight class for a fighter and they are the athlete’s natural size, wrestling expertise, and punching power.

By using size and strength, the light heavyweight and heavyweight fighters keep an edge in the ring. 

The excess burden may add a lot more punching and grappling power which may lead to the possible knockout punches. But, being overweight can also slow down and even exhaust an athlete to the point that it might be a disadvantage in the match against a lighter opponent.

However, for fighters in the lightweight and flyweight divisions, their high level speed and agility advantages are paid-off. 

It can be one of the most significant advantages of fighting less heavier. It is a chance to move faster, avoid strikes and use exact techniques. 

Certainly, these fighters may be unable to deliver all out power knockouts because of their diminutive size.

In UFC, it’s often to see fighters switch between weight classes during their careers. 

Conor McGregor, the prime example, began in the featherweight class where he became the champion, and then he rose up to the lightweight class and once again, he became the champion. 

Such a tactic offered him an opportunity to show his talent by adjusting his game to different types of opponents and potentially getting some easy wins.

Theoretically, the fighters should strive to reach their “fighting fit” by defining their most natural attributes and skill set. 

They must decide whether their body is wide enough to compete in the heavyweight division or whether they will be lighter in weight but agile in the field. 

Through striking an impeccable balance of the weight category, fighters can maximize the odds of their winning in the UFC.

Conclusion 

Weight classes, in brief, are an essential element of the UFC, and other MMA organizations to preserve an equal playing field, safety, and the display of the range of skills among the fighters. 

The UFC divides fighters into specific weight classes in order to set up the matches in the best way possible. 

This helps the competition stay safe and ensures that the fights are not uneven. 

Also, weight divisions hold fighters on their best performance level since losing or gaining too much weight can affect their health and performance in a negative way.

Besides, weight categories expose the magnificent diversity of skill and talent in the art of boxing. In each weight class, fighters arrive with their own distinguishing styles and tactics, thus contributing to the thrill and diversity of every fight. 

Whether it is the heavyweights’ terrorizing power or the featherweights’ super fast moves, fans see the whole range of what MMA can give.

In the future, the UFC might think of establishing new weight divisions to enhance the number of competitors and deal with the upper limit problems in the present divisions. 

Thus, it can prime up the fight for more competitive and exciting bouts, in addition to giving a chance to the fighters who are between weight classes to participate.

Lastly, UFC in the last round of the weight classes is more than just numbers. They provide justice, warrant security, and environment to let the big talent of the sport shine through. 

The UFC will probably observe further changes in weight classes as they keep developing, and it will be interesting to see how these will be adapted to meet the needs of the fighters that keep pouring into the organization.

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