UFC fighters are divided into different weight classes where they compete against opponents of similar weight and size. But how many UFC weight classes are there and how do they work in practice?
UFC Weight Classes (Divisions)
- Light heavyweight:102.1 kg (205 pounds)
- Welterweight Weight:77.1 kg (170 pounds)
- Luz:70.3 kg
- Flyweight:56.7 kg
- straw weight:52,5kg
The UFC consists of 12 weight classes, 8 for men and 4 for women. Under MMA's unified rules, the sport has 15 weight classes, but promoters like the UFC don't have to include all divisions.
Keep reading this article as we discuss UFC weight classes in more detail and teach you more about how this system works in practice.
UFC weight classes in order
The UFC has 8 weight classes for men and 4 for women.
UFC Men's Weight Categories (Divisions)
|Weight category (men)||minimum weight||Maximum weight|
|men's heavyweight||93 kg (205 pounds)||120.2 kg (265 pounds)|
|Men's Light Heavyweight||83.9 kg (185 pounds)||93 kg (205 pounds)|
|male average weight||77.1 kg (170 pounds)||83.9 kg (185 pounds)|
|male welterweight||70.3 kg (155 pounds)||77.1 kg (170 pounds)|
|male lightweight||65.8 kg (145 pounds)||70.3 kg (155 pounds)|
|male penalty weight||61.2 kg (135 pounds)||65.8 kg (145 pounds)|
|men's bantamweight||56.7 kg (125 pounds)||61.2 kg (135 pounds)|
|men's flyweight||52.2 kg (115 pounds)||56.7 kg (125 pounds)|
UFC Women's Weight Categories (Divisions)
|Weight category (women)||minimum weight||Maximum weight|
|female featherweight||61.2 kg (135 pounds)||65.8 kg (145 pounds)|
|female bantamweight||56.7 kg (125 pounds)||61.2 kg (135 pounds)|
|female flyweight||52.2 kg (115 pounds)||56.7 kg (125 pounds)|
|female straw weight||/||52.2 kg (115 pounds)|
When did the UFC introduce weight classes?
The UFC introduced weight divisions in 1997, when it divided fighters into heavyweight and light heavyweight.
The 12-division concept emerged a few years later with the birth of the Unified Rules of MMA in 2000.
When the UFC was formed in 1993, the promotion had no weight classes for the first four years. These early days are often seen as the UFC's dark years. Weight differences reached 100 pounds in some games.
And as if that wasn't dangerous enough, there was no time limit or protective gear.
The UFC has had to regulate the sport and make drastic security changes to keep operations running.
The first significant change came in 1997 when they introduced the concept of weight classes, similar to boxing.
In the beginning, there were only two departments:
- Heavyweight(over 200 pounds)
- light heavyweight(less than 200 pounds)
HeMMA Uniform RulesIt appeared three years later, in 2000, with a concept of 9 weight classes.
As the sport has evolved and grown they have added 6 more divisions. These divisions were: Strawweight in 2015, Super Lightweight, Super Welterweight, Super Middleweight and Cruiserweight, which were added in 2017.
However, promotions do not need to cover all MMA weight classes, which is why the UFC has 8 for men and 4 for women.
Why are they important?
The main purpose of weight divisions is to improve fighter safety and make fights fair and just. Divisions level the playing field, forcing wrestlers to face opponents of similar weight and size.
UFC weight classes prevent athletes from gaining a physical advantage over smaller opponents. As the fighters are similar in size, both need skill and technique to win the fight.
Without weight classes, a physically superior fighter can rely on his brute strength to dominate a smaller opponent. Even if the smaller fighter is more skilled, they will have a hard time using this to their advantage.
Not to mention how dangerous it is for a 200lb fighter to hit a 155lb opponent in the head with a kick or punch.
Today not a single sports commission would sanction this game.
How do they work in practice?
Every active UFC fighter competes in a weight class. They choose the division based on various factors such as physical characteristics, physique and ability to lose weight.
Once they are ready to fight, the UFC reserves them to compete in their division against an opponent of the same weight.
The official UFC weigh-in takes place approximately 24 hours before the start of the event. Each athlete competing on the map must step on the scale within the upper and lower weight limits of a division in which they compete.
For example, lightweight wrestlers of 155 pounds or less, but not less than 145 pounds, should step on the scale.
However, most UFC fighters weigh more than the divisional limit.
For example, Alex Pereira competes in a 185-pound division but weighs 220 pounds out of competition.
How does he manage to pass the scale? The fighters go through a brutal weight loss process that sees them lose up to 18 kilos in less than a week.
Why are they divided by weight and not by height?
UFC weight classes are divided by weight because weight directly affects injury severity, but height does not.
Weight plays a huge role, not just in MMA, but sparring in general. More weight means more muscle mass and the ability to generate more power with each punch.
With more weight, you can do a lot of damage and hurt your opponent more easily.
A higher weight also offers a significant advantage in the grip department. It allows you to overwhelm the smallest opponent with size and strength.
Just think of how Israel Adesanya fought the much heavier Jan Blachowicz during the matchups.
On the other hand, size does not represent a significant advantage in a fight, in fact it can be seen as a disadvantage in some cases, for example leaving you vulnerable to takedowns.
Also, not all fighters know how to make the most of their long reach and height.
Can UFC fighters transfer between weight classes?
UFC fighters change weight classes quite often. They can gain or lose weight as long as they can go through the weight loss and reach the required limits on the scale. There are no other specific requirements or rules that must be followed.
In some cases, a fighter may choose to reduce their weight because they feel physically inferior. You may find it difficult to deal with bigger and heavier opponents within a division. Moving down the weight class, they compete against similarly sized opponents and enjoy better chances of winning.
Wrestlers can also choose to increase their weight to compete in heavier divisions. In most cases, they do so because they are no longer able to gain weight or are experiencing dramatic weight loss.
One such fighter was Kevin Gastelum, who at 170lbs faltered a few times and had to move up and compete in the 185lb division.
The champions of a certain weight class will usually challenge the winner of the other division. They do it to win another title and be two-time champion, have a superfight and earn a lot of money.
The best example is Conor McGregor, a then 145-pound champion who moved up the division to defeat Eddie Alvarez for the 155-pound title.
Do UFC heavyweights slim down?
The heavyweight division of the UFC has a maximum weight limit of 265 pounds, which might be the heaviest fighter in the UFC. Heavier fighters need to drop weight to overcome.
Brock Lesnar is a former heavyweight champion who weighed around 120 pounds and had to lose weight in order to compete in the UFC.
In modern times, Francis Ngannou is also known for running around 290 pounds outside of training camp.
In 2021, Justin Tafa became the first UFC heavyweight in history to lose weight by weighing in at 267 pounds, 2 pounds over the limit.
Who was the heaviest UFC fighter of all time?
Emmanuel Yarbrough was the heaviest fighter in the UFC at the time, weighing around 272kg. He fought in the open early on in the UFC because there was no weight class at the time.
He fought at the memorable UFC 3, where he lost via TKO to Keith Hackney, who weighed 200 pounds.
Will there ever be a 165 weight class in the UFC?
The Unified Rules require a weight distribution of 165, and the UFC may adopt it at any time. but the presidentsaid Dana White several timesThe UFC won't accept the 165-pound division while he's in charge.
On the other hand, the MMA community supported this change. Above all, the introduction of a new weight category will improve the safety of fighters, who will no longer have to risk their health with brutal weight reductions.