MMA has come a long way since it made its introduction to the world in the 90’s. Gone are the days of one night only, open weight 8-man tournaments. As its popularity has grown over the years so to has the need for stricter rules and regulations to transform its image from no rules cage fighting to legitimate high level sport.
The good old days
When the unified rules of MMA were formed in the year 2000 to give the sport some sort of professionalism, it also birthed the official weight classes that we see today. Based around the weight limits that we see in boxing with some minor tweaks, these also helped give the smaller fighters their share of the limelight. Although there is some differences between organisations with the naming of weight classes, the weight limits themselves are pretty common around the globe. Here is the breakdown of the most common 11 weight classes, shared both between men and woman.
Heavyweight – 265 lb (120 kg)
The big boys of MMA. Big hitting and fast finishing, heavyweight was the first division that the UFC made official back at UFC 12 in 1997. As the sport has risen in popularity over the years so to has the level of athlete at heavyweight, attracting athletes from a wide range of sports and giving them another option to earn a paycheck.
Light Heavyweight – 205 lb (92 kg)
Much like the heavyweight division, light heavyweight has seen a jump in quality as the years have gone by. Former light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell was one of the very first superstars of the UFC, going unbeaten in 7 fights over the space of 2 years back in the mid 2000’s and helping bring the world of MMA into mainstream popularity.
Middleweight – 185 lb (84 kg)
Regarded as one of the most exciting divisions, its hard to argue with that considering the history of this division. With a good mix of explosiveness and athleticism, middleweight has seen its fair share of great fights and pound-for-pound greats. Anderson Silva is synonymous with the word middleweight, dominating the division through 2006-2012. He proved middleweight can do it all, even going up to light heavyweight and dismantling top level competition there.
Welterweight – 170 lb (77 kg)
One the deepest divisions in MMA, the balance of power and speed shine welterwight. High level wrestlers have seemed to dominate this weight class over the years, a trend which continues to this day. Arguably the GOAT of MMA George St Pierre ruled over welterweight for many years with his wrestle-boxer style, raising the bar for generations of fighters to come.
Lightweight – 155 lb (70 kg)
Much like welterweight, a deep division stacked full with talent across all fight promotions. Lightweight has long been one of the most competitive divisions there is, which has seen multiple fighters come to the UFC from what have been perceived as weaker organisations and not only be successful, but in some cases champions.
Featherweight – 145 lb (66 kg)
Shared between both the men and woman, featherweight caught every bodies attention when a loud mouthed Irishmen named Conor Mcgregor was starching the competition left-right and center at this weight. Although womens featherweight is relatively new to the scene, with the continued growth of the sport it will no doubt catch up to the heights of the men.
Bantamweight – 135 lb (61 kg)
Known to be one of the more technical weight classes across both men and women. While the mens division has been around a lot longer, womans bantamweight and womans MMA in general was given a shot in the arm when Rhonda Rousey joined the UFC, becoming the first ever womans champion and inspiring a whole generation of female fighters.
Flyweight – 125 lb (57 kg)
While it doesn’t get the shine as much as the higher weight classes, theres no doubt that some of the best athletes and tacticians ply their trade at flyweight. Capable of more action in one round than some weight classes are in three, its a shame these athletes aren’t regarded more highly.
Strawweight – 115 lb (52 kg)
While there is a small contingency of male flyweights out there, most would be more familiar with the woman of strawweight. By far the most competitive womans division going round with any fighter capable of beating anyone on their day, this division has given us some of the best fights ever amongst both men and women.
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