Like all martial arts and combat sports, the UFC has several weight categories that are called divisions.
As we know, the main purpose of weight categories is to equalize the battlefield and enable relatively similar opponents to face each other without anyone having a clear-cut advantage over the other.
UFC weight classes (divisions):
- Heavyweight: 265 lb (120.2 kg)
- Light Heavyweight: 205 lb (102.1 kg)
- Middleweight: 185 lb (83.9 kg)
- Welterweight: 170 lb (77.1 kg)
- Lightweight: 155 lb (70.3 kg)
- Featherweight: 145 lb (65.8 kg)
- Bantamweight: 135 lb (61.2 kg)
- Flyweight: 125 lb (56.7 kg)
- Strawweight: 115 lb (52.5 kg)
In this article, I am going to present to you the UFC weight divisions, as well as all the champions for each of them. There’s not a lot of them – 8 for men and 4 for women – but that does not make it less interesting.
How Many UFC Weight Classes Are There?
In order to understand the UFC weight divisions, we have to understand how weight categories in MMA generally work. Since it would be of no use for us to describe all the categories, I shall present them to you in one table, which is pretty self-explanatory:
|Weight Class||Maximum Weight|
|Strawweight||115 lbs (52.2 kg)|
|Flyweight||125 lbs (56.7 kg)|
|Bantamweight||135 lbs (61.2 kg)|
|Featherweight||145 lbs (65.8 kg)|
|Lightweight||155 lbs (70.3 kg)|
|Super Lightweight||165 lbs (74.8 kg)|
|Welterweight||170 lbs (77.1 kg)|
|Super Welterweight||175 lbs (79.4 kg)|
|Middleweight||185 lbs (83.9 kg)|
|Super Middleweight||195 lbs (88.5 kg)|
|Light Heavyweight||205 lbs (93 kg)|
|Cruiserweight||225 lbs (102.1 kg)|
|Heavyweight||265 lbs (120.2 kg)|
Why Do UFC Weight Classes Exist?
The main purpose of UFC weight classes is to equalize the playing field and enable relatively similar opponents to face each other without anyone having a clear-cut advantage over the other.
When Did the UFC Get Weight Classes?
UFC weight classes were first introduced in 1997. At UFC 12, the first two UFC weight classes were introduced, UFC lightweight division and UFC heavyweight division. At UFC 31, the weight classes were modified to reflect the current MMA standard.
UFC Men’s Weight Classes (Divisions)
Now, as you will soon see, the UFC doesn’t have a division for each of the weight categories as they are presented in the table.
The UFC only has eight divisions and they correspond to eight of the before mentioned categories.
The oldest one is the Heavyweight Division, founded back in 1997.
The Light Heavyweight and Welterweight Divisions soon followed in December 1997 and 1998, respectively, with the Lightweight and Middleweight divisions being introduced in 2001.
The most recent divisions are the Bantamweight and Featherweight, introduced in 2010, and the Flyweight Division, introduced in 2012.
So, historically, the first-ever weight division UFC champion was Mark Coleman, who won the Heavyweight belt back in 1997.
UFC Women’s Weight Classes (Divisions)
The competition format for women is both newer in date and a lot smaller. Women only participate in four categories, with three of them being the same as the men’s and one being specifically for women.
The oldest among them is the Women’s Bantamweight Division, which got its first champion at the end of 2012.
The end of 2014 saw the establishment of the Women’s Strawweight Division, while the remaining two divisions – Women’s Featherweight and Women’s Flyweight – started in 2017.
So, the first female UFC champion in any category was American Ronda Rousey, who won the Women’s Bantamweight title in December 2012.
UFC Tournaments and the Superfight Championship
Throughout its existence, the UFC has also held numerous openweight tournaments.
Unlike the more-known divisions, openweight tournaments do not have any weight limits, which means that everyone can participate and that there can be a substantial difference in the physique of the fighters, something we’ve talked about at the beginning of this article.
Certainly, that could lead to unfair situations, but if you know the rules beforehand and accept them as they are, then the issue is a bit clearer.
UFC has had two openweight competitions, with just one being active. The now defunct Superfight Championship was held only twice, in 1995 and 1996, was envisioned as a tournament that would determine the ultimate UFC champion.
Ken Shamrock won the first edition, while his challenger from 1995, Dan Severn, became the tournament’s second and final winner.
The UFC tournaments are held on an irregular basis since 1999 (until then, they’ve been an annual event, sometimes held more than once a year), from which moment only two tournaments have been held – one in 2003 and the most recent one in 2012.
These tournaments were initially openweight, but have been associated with weight divisions since the UFC 12 edition in 1997.
Of course, I bring you a list of all of them and the winners:
|UFC 1||November 12, 1993||None||Royce Gracie (BRA)|
|UFC 2||March 11, 1994||None||Royce Gracie (BRA)|
|UFC 3||September 9, 1994||None||Steve Jennum (USA)|
|UFC 4||December 16, 1994||None||Royce Gracie (BRA)|
|UFC 5||April 7, 1995||None||Dan Severn (USA)|
|UFC 6||July 14, 1995||None||Oleg Taktarov (RUS)|
|UFC 7||September 8, 1995||None||Marco Ruas (BRA)|
|The Ultimate Ultimate||December 16, 1995||None||Dan Severn (USA)|
|UFC 8||February 16, 1996||None||Don Frye (USA)|
|UFC 10||July 20, 1996||None||Mark Coleman (USA)|
|UFC 11||September 20, 1996||None||Mark Coleman (USA)|
|The Ultimate Ultimate 2||December 7, 1996||None||Don Fyre (USA)|
|UFC 12||February 7, 1997||Heavyweight||Vitor Belfort (BRA)|
|Lightweight||Jerry Bohlander (USA)|
|UFC 13||May 30, 1997||Heavyweight||Randy Couture (USA)|
|Lightweight||Guy Mezger (USA)|
|UFC 14||July 27, 1997||Heavyweight||Mark Kerr (USA)|
|Lightweight||Kevin Jackson (USA)|
|UFC 15||October 17, 1997||Heavyweight||Mark Kerr (USA)|
|Ultimate Japan||December 21, 1997||Heavyweight||Kazushi Sakuraba (JAP)|
|UFC 16||March 13, 1998||Lightweight||Pat Miletich (USA)|
|UFC 17||May 15, 1998||Middleweight||Dan Henderson (USA)|
|UFC 23||November 19, 1999||Middleweight||Kenichi Yamamoto (JAP)|
|UFC 39||February 28, 2003||Lightweight||BJ Penn (USA) / Caol Uno (JAP) – draw|
|UFC on FX||September 22, 2012||Flyweight||Demetrious Johnson (USA)|
|UFC on FX 2|
What Is the Weigh-In Policy in UFC?
It is mandatory that neither fighter weighs more than the upper limit of their respective division at the weigh-ins.
What Happens if a UFC Fighter Misses Weight?
If a fighter ‘misses weight’ for a title fight, then they will not be eligible to win the UFC belt being fought over (even if they win the fight).
On top of that, a fighter that missed the weight will have to give a 20% of the fight purse to the opponent.
What About Weight Cutting in the UFC?
As the subject of weight cutting in the UFC (and other combat sports) is complex, I have written an article where I explain how UFC fighters cut weight in depth.
Interesting Number and Statistics About UFC Weight Classes
165-Pound Weight Division in the UFC – the Future?
There were a lot of talks recently that UFC will introduce a new weight class, with 165 pounds limit.
The reason for that is because the difference between lightweight (155 pounds) and welterweight (170 pounds) is “too big”. Some fighters are too big for 155 pounds limit, but also too small compared to some fighters in the 170-pound division.
The large talent pool of UFC’s lightweight and welterweight divisions goes in favor of making a new 165-pound weight division. Some of the fighters that could fit here are Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Colby Covington, Nate Diaz, Gilbert Burns, and many others.
Currently, as per Dana White, UFC has no plans to open this new weight class.