Nobody would’ve guessed that the old no holds barred UFC tournaments would transform into a legitimate sport. The UFC has done a lot of work to make MMA one of the most popular sports in the world.
How many divisions are there in the UFC? Today, there are currently 12 different divisions in the UFC. Let’s explain how they got here and go through the history of the UFC weight classes.
Going from when the UFC decided to make weight divisions and what they look like today. We’ll also explain the different bouts that are held within the UFC weight classes.
History of UFC Weight Classes
The early days of the UFC
As you probably know, there were no weight classes in the early days of the UFC. It was an open weight one night fight tournament. Fighters of various sizes fought each other in this format that lasted a few years.
The UFC transitions to make MMA a sport
As the UFC continued to run shows, they realized with the no holds barred format, they would stay relatively underground. The no holds barred gimmick could not sustain the company going into the future.
So, this would start the transition of the UFC turning MMA into a legitimate sport. They would need to add rules for the sport and of course bright classes.
The first UFC classes
The UFC would first start implementing weight classes in 1997 at the UFC 12 event. They would first introduce two different divisions for the fight tournaments of the event.
Those were the heavyweight division and the lightweight division. Not the same heavyweight and lightweight divisions as we know them now.
Their early heavyweight division was placed at 200lbs(91kgs) and below that was the lightweight at 199lbs(90kgs) and below.
Once the UFC introduced these weight classes, they saw immediate improvements to the product. Fights were more fair at the same weights and the fights were better.
Lightweight renamed to middleweight
The UFC would rename the lightweight division to the middleweight division shortly after it was introduced. This was because they had plans to introduce more weight classes that were below that weight class.
The UFC Lightweight division
The new lightweight division would be introduced at UFC 16, which was set at 170lbs and below. It would then be rebranded as the welterweight division as the UFC added the 155lb lightweight division at UFC 30. (2001)
This division would be discontinued for a while, but brought back in 2006.
The UFC/WEC Merger
It would be 4 years until the UFC added more weight divisions. Zuffa would merge the WEC into the UFC and with it came more weight divisions in 2010. Adding the UFC featherweight and bantamweight divisions.
UFC weight classes for women are introduced
When Zuffa bought Strikeforce in 2012, they inherited their first women’s division, which was the bantamweight division. The success of the first women’s division would lead to the addition of more women’s divisions over the next few years.
First was the strawweight division, then the women’s featherweight division, and the last being the women’s flyweight division.
The UFC Flyweight division is introduced
The men’s flyweight division would be introduced in September of 2012. Right before the introduction of the women’s bantamweight division.
The UFC weight classes
UFC men’s divisions
- Heavyweight: 265lbs(120kgs)
- Light Heavyweight: 205lb(102kgs)
- Middleweight: 185lbs(84kgs)
- Welterweight: 170lbs(77kgs)
- Lightweight: 155lbs(70kgs)
- Featherweight: 145lbs(66kgs)
- Bantamweight: 135lbs(61kgs)
- Flyweight: 125lbs(57kgs)
UFC Women’s divisions
- Featherweight: 145lbs(66kgs)
- Bantamweight: 135lbs(61kgs)
- Flyweight: 125lbs(57kgs)
- Strawweight: 115lbs(53kgs)
Timeline of the UFC men’s weight classes
The UFC Tournament winners
- UFC 1: Royce Gracie
- UFC 2: Royce Gracie
- UFC 3: Steve Jennum
- UFC 4: Royce Gracie
- UFC 5: Dan Severn
- UFC 6: Oleg Tarktarov(Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock fought to a draw)
- UFC 7: Marco Ruas
- The Ultimate Ultimate: Dan Severn
- UFC 8: Don Frye
- UFC 9: Non Tournament Event
- UFC 10: Mark Coleman
- UFC 11: Mark Coleman
- The Ultimate Ultimate 2: Don Frye
- UFC 12: Vitor Belfort & Jerry Bolhander(First event where weight classes were introduced)
- UFC 13: Randy Couture & Guy Metzger
- UFC 14: Mark Kerr & Kevin Jackson
- UFC 15: Mark Kerr
- Ultimate Japan 1: Kazushi Sakuraba(Randy Couture was stripped after a contract dispute)
- UFC 16(UFC Brazil): Pat Miletich
- UFC 17: Dan Henderson
- UFC 23(Ultimate Japan 2): Kenichi Yamamoto
UFC Heavyweight division
- Mark Coleman: Mark Coleman was the very first fighter to win the inaugural championship by beating Dan Severn at UFC 12.
- Maurice Smith: Maurice Smith won the second championship at UFC 14 by beating Tank Abbott.
- Randy Couture: Randy Couture beat Maurice Smith at UFC Japan, but was stripped shortly after due to contract disputes.
- Bas Rutten: Bas Rutten defeated Kevin Randleman at UFC 20, but vacated to move down in weight.
- Kevin Randleman: Kevin Randleman defeated by Pete Williams for the title at UFC 23. He would defend it one time against Pedro Rizzo.
- Randy Couture: Randy Couture would win his second title after returning to the promotion at UFC 28.
- Josh Barnett: Josh Barnett defeated Randy Couture at UFC 36, but was stripped due to a failed drug test.
- Ricco Rodriguez: Ricco Rodriguez defeated Randy Couture for the vacant heavyweight title at UFC 39
- Tim Sylvia: Tim Sylvia won the title at UFC 41 and defended it once against Gan McGee. Later stripped due to a positive drug test.
- Frank Mir: Frank Mir snapped Tim Sylvia’s arm at UFC 48 to win his first title.
- Andrei Arlovski: Andrei Arlovski was the interim champion, but was promoted to undisputed champion due to Frank Mir’s motorcycle accident.
- Tim Sylvia: Tim Sylvia won his second UFC title UFC 59 and would defend the belt twice.
- Randy Couture: Randy Couture would come out of retirement at UFC 68 to win his 3rd heavyweight title. He would defend it one time against Gabriel Gonzaga.
- Brock Lesnar: Brock Lesnar defeated Randy Couture at UFC 91 and defended the belt twice against Frank Mir and Shane Carwin.
- Cain Velasquez: Cain Velasquez won his first title at UFC 121 defeating Brock Lesnar.
- Junior dos Santos: Junior Dos Santos UFC won the title at the very first UFC on Fox event and defended his title one time against Frank Mir.
- Cain Velasquez: Cain Velasquez would regain his title in a rematch against JDS and defended it twice.
- Fabricio Werdum: Fabricio Werdum defeated Cain Velasquez at UFC 188 in Mexico.
- Stipe Miocic: Stipe Miocic won his first UFC title at UFC 198 and defended it a record three times before losing it.
- Daniel Cormier: Daniel Cormier would move up to heavyweight and win the heavyweight title at UFC 226 and defended it once against Derrick Lewis.
- Stipe Miocic: Stipe Miocic would regain his title and beat Cormier one more time in their third meeting.
Current Champion: Francis Ngannou: Francis Ngannou is the current champion and has defended the belt one time against Cyril Gane.
- Andrei Arlovski:
- Antonio Minotauro Nogueira
- Frank Mir
- Shane Carwin
- Fabricio Werdum
- Cyril Gane
UFC Light Heavyweight division
- Frank Shamrock: The inaugural UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.
- Tito Ortiz: Defeated Wanderlei Silva at UFC 25 and defended the title 5 times.
- Randy Couture: Won the title at UFC 44.
- Vitor Belfort: Won his second UFC title at UFC 46 due to a doctor stoppage.
- Randy Couture: Regained the light heavyweight title at UFC 49.
- Chuck Liddell: Won the light heavyweight title at UFC 52 and defended the belt 4 times.
- Quinton Jackson: Won the title at UFC 71 and defended it one time.
- Forrest Griffin: Defeated Rampage Jackson at UFC 86.
- Rashad Evans: Beat Forrest Griffin at UFC 92
- Lyoto Machida: Won the title at UFC 98 and defended it once against Shogun Rua.
- Mauricio Rua: Beat Lyoto Machida in their rematch to win the title.
- Jon Jones: Won his first title at UFC 128 and defended it 8 times. He was stripped of his first title due to the hit and run incident.
- Daniel Cormier: Defeated Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 and defended the title 3 times.
- Jon Jones: Regained the title at UFC 232 and defended it 3 times.
- Jan Blachowicz: Defeated Dominick Reyes at UFC 253 and defended the belt once.
- Glover Teixeira: Just recently won the title at UFC 267.
- Randy Couture
- Jon Jones
UFC Middleweight division
- Dave Menne: Won the inaugural middleweight title at UFC 33.
- Murilo Bustamante: Won the title at UFC 35 and defended the belt one time before leaving the promotion.
- Evan Tanner: Evan Tanner beat David Terrel for the vacant title at UFC 51.
- Rich Franklin: Won the title at UFC 53 and defended the title twice.
- Anderson Silva: Won the title at UFC 64 and defended it a division record of 10 times.
- Chris Weidman: Beat Anderson Silva at UFC 162 and defended the belt three times.
- Luke Rockhold: Luke Rockhold won the world title at UFC 194.
- Michael Bisping: Mike Bisping defeated Luke Rockhold at UFC 199.
- Georges St Pierre: Won his third UFC title at UFC 217 and vacated the belt after winning it.
- Robert Whitaker: Promoted to world champion after GSP vacated.
- Israel Adesanya: The incumbent champion that has defended his title 4 times.
- Robert Whitaker
- Israel Adesanya
UFC Welterweight division
- Pat Miletich: The first world champion, who won the title at UFC Brazil.
- Carlos Newton: Won the title at UFC 31.
- Matt Hughes: Beat Carlos Newton at UFC 34 and defended the title 5 times.
- BJ Penn: Defeated Matt Hughes at UFC 46, but was stripped after leaving the promotion.
- Matt Hughes: Won his second title at UFC 50 and defended it twice.
- Georges St Pierre: Won his first welterweight title at UFC 65
- Matt Serra: Upset GSP at UFC 69.
- Georges St Pierre: Regained his title at UFC 83 and defended it 9 times.
- Johny Hendricks: Defeated Robbie Lawler for the vacant title at UFC 171.
- Robbie Lawler: Beat Johny Hendricks in a rematch at UFC 181 and defended the belt twice.
- Tyron Woodley: Won the belt at UFC 201 and defended the belt 4 times.
- Kamaru Usman: The current champion that has defended the title 5 times.
- Georges St Pierre
- Carlos Condit
- Colby Covington
UFC Lightweight division
- Jens Pulver: Won the inaugural lightweight title at UFC 30 and defended it twice
- Sean Sherk: Won the second inaugural lightweight title at UFC 64, but was stripped due to a positive drug test.
- BJ Penn: Beat Joe Stevenson for the vacant title at UFC 80 and defended the belt 3 times.
- Frankie Edgar: Won the title at UFC 112 and defended it 3 times.
- Benson Henderson: Beat Frankie Edgar at UFC 144 and defended the title 3 times.
- Anthony Pettis: Won the title at UFC 164 and defended the title once.
- Rafael dos Anjjos: Won the title at UFC 185 and defended the title once.
- Eddie Alvarez: Won the title on a UFC on Fox event.
- Conor McGregor: Beat Alvarez to win his second UFC title at UFC 205.
- Khabib Nurmagomedov: Defeated Al Laquinta for the vacant title and defended the belt 3 times.
- Charles Oliveira: The current champion that beat Michael Chandler for the vacant title and has defended the belt once.
- Tony Ferguson
- Dustin Poirier
- Justin Gaethje
UFC Featherweight division
- Jose Aldo: The first featherweight champion that defended the title a division record 7 times.
- Conor McGregor: Defeated Aldo at UFC 194 and vacated the title.
- Jose Aldo: Promoted to champion after Conor was stripped.
- Max Holloway: Won the title at UFC 212 and defended the belt twice.
- Alex Volkanovski: Beat Holloway at UFC 245 and has currently defended the belt twice.
- Conor McGregor
- Jose Aldo
- Max Holloway
UFC Bantamweight division
- Dominick Cruz: The inaugural UFC Bantamweight champion that defended the title twice.
- Renan Barao: Promoted to undisputed champion after Cruz could not compete due to injury.
- TJ Dillashaw: Won the title at UFC 173 and defended the belt twice.
- Dominick Cruz: Beat Dillashaw at a fight night event and defended the title once.
- Cody Garbrandt: Defeated Cruz at UFC 207.
- TJ Dillashaw: Regained the title UFC 217, but failed a drug test and was stripped.
- Henry Cejudo: Henry Cejudo moved up and defeated Marlon Moraes.
- Petr Yan: Defeated Jose Aldo for the vacant title at UFC 251.
- Aljamain Sterling: Became the champion at UFC 259 after an illegal knee by Yan.
- Renan Barao
- Petr Yan
UFC Flyweight division
- Demetrious Johnson: The first flyweight champion that defended the belt a record 11 times.
- Henry Cejudo: Won the title at UFC 227 and defended the belt one time.
- Deivison Figueiredo: Won the belt at fight night event and defended the belt twice.
- Brandon Moreno: Won the title in his second match up with Figueiredo.
- Deivison Figueiredo: Just won the third fight in his trilogy with Moreno.
No Flyweight Interim Champions
Timeline the women’s UFC weight classes
UFC Women’s Bantamweight division
- Ronda Rousey: The very first UFC women’s champion that defended the belt 6 times.
- Holly Holm: Beat Ronda Rousey at UFC 193.
- Miesha Tate: Defeated Holly Holm at UFC 196.
- Amanda Nunes: Won the title at UFC 200 and defended the belt 5 times.
- Julianna Pena: Just recently defeated Amanda Nunes at UFC 269.
No Women’s Bantamweight Interim Champions
UFC Women’s Strawweight division
- Carla Esparza: The first strawweight champion that won the title at a TUF finale in 2014.
- Joanna Jedrzejczyk: Became the champion at UFC 185 and defended the title 5 times.
- Rose Namajunas: Won the title at UFC 217.
- Jessica Andrade: Won the title at UFC 237.
- Zhang Weili: Won the title at a UFC fight night event.
- Rose Namajunas: Regained the title at UFC 261.
No Strawweight Interim Champions
UFC Women’s Flyweight division
- Nicco Montano: Won the first women’s flyweight title, but was stripped after missing weight at UFC 228.
- Valentina Shevchenko: The reigning and defending champion with 6 title defenses.
No Women’s Flyweight Interim Champions
UFC Women’s Featherweight division
- Germaine de Randamie: Won the inaugural title at UFC 208, but vacated the belt after winning it.
- Cris Cyborg: Cris Cyborg would defeat Tonya Evinger UFC 214 and defended the belt twice.
- Amanda Nunes: Defeated Cris Cyborg at UFC 218 and has defended the belt twice.
No Women’s Featherweight Interim Champions
The difference between title bouts and non title bouts
When you watch a UFC event you’ll notice different types of bouts between each of the UFC weight classes. The matches are either non title bouts or title bouts.
Title bouts are at the top of the card, while the non title bouts make up the rest of the night of fights. Aside from title bouts being for a belt, there is one other specific difference between them.
That is the one pound rule. In non title bouts, you don’t have to weigh in at exactly a certain weight of below it.
If you’re fighting at middleweight, you can come into the fight at 186 with no problem. But if it were a title bout, you would have to weigh in at 185lbs or below.
Rules for missing weight and penalties
There is a certain protocol within the UFC weight classes if a fighter misses weight. Before any penalties are handed down, the fighter has one hour to cut the remaining weight.
If they fail to cut the remaining weight in the hour given, they will be penalized. They will be deducted a percentage of their purse if the other fighter agrees to still fight them.
Missing weight for a title bout has even worse consequences. Failing to make weight for a title bout means that the bout will no longer be for a title.
Instead it’ll be just a 5 round main event bout, where no title match bonus will be given out.(At least to the fighter that missed weight.)
Possible new weight divisions
There are always rumors of possible new UFC weight classes that may get added into the future. Here are some of those possible new UFC weight classes and Joe Rogan’s weight class idea.
UFC Women’s Atomweight division
For a few years, the UFC has been floating the idea of making another women’s division. A atomweight that would be at 105lbs(47.6kg).
Quite a few fighters like Michelle Waterson have been vocal about the addition of this division. Feeling that many fighters that walk around at 130lbs+ that cut to strawweight gives them an unfair advantage.
Fighters that walk around between 115-120lbs would be on an even playing field. Nothing is concrete about this division being added in the future, but you never know.
UFC 165lb division
One UFC weight class that a lot of lightweight and welterweight fighters have been pitching for is a 165lb(75kg) division. There have been two specific reasons this weight has been constantly brought up.
The big one is that 165lb is a nice buffer zone between lightweight and welterweight. Great for fighters that are too small for welterweight, but have a hard time cutting to lightweight.
Many fighters that fight from both weight classes liked the idea, so they could fight against each other. Getting the opportunity to fight in more than one weight class would be profitable for them.
After the success of the Diaz vs Masvidal bout at 165lbs, many fighters and fans were vocal about adding it permanently. Unfortunately there are no plans to make a 165lb division as of now.
Joe Rogan’s idea
If you listen to the JRE podcast, then you’ve heard Joe Rogan talk about his idea for UFC weight divisions. Rogan doesn’t just want one more weight division added, but numerous divisions.
He wants the UFC weight classes to look more like boxing weight classes. In that format, there would be a weight division at every 10lbs.
Joe believes this would give more fighters the opportunity to fight and the chance to hold multiple titles. Of course, this is just Joe’s idea and probably nothing will come from it.
The future of UFC weight classes
As of now, there are currently 12 UFC weight classes within the promotion. The sport of MMA is always growing and evolving and there are more fighters than ever.
We will no doubt see new UFC weight classes get added in the future. It will be a win for the fighters and us fans, who will get to see more great fights.