Weight Classes of MMA

MMA has now achieved a great deal since its worldwide debut in the 1990’s. Long gone is the era where open caged, one night only, 8 man battle royal tournaments dominated the MMA fights. Now with its soaring popularity across the world with a fanatical fan base, it has now turned into a professional high level sport from once no rules cage fighting. 

This shift has led to the introduction of uniformed and strict series of rules and regulations enforced by the Athletic Commission. The enforcement of the rules led to the creation of 14 official weight classes designed to achieve fairness. This is to avoid unequal confrontations between small and compact fighters against heavy behemoths in the ring.

The weight classes were first established at UFC 12 in 1997. UFC 12 featured only heavyweight and lightweight classes for the fighters. Since then onwards, weight classes were added on different occasions and now rising to sport 14 official weight classes.

The Weight Classes

The weight classes were introduced at UFC 12 in 1997. Fighters were divided into Lightweight and Heavyweight classes. The Strawweight class was introduced in 2015. Super-Lightweight, Super WelterWeight, Super Middleweight, and Cruiserweight classes were added in 2017.

The following are the 14 official weight classes of MMA listed below:

Weight Class

Lower Limit Weight

Upper Limit Weight

Relaxation

Strawweight

No Limit

115 lbs / 52 kg

3 lbs / 1.36 kg

Flyweight

115 lbs / 52 kg

125 lbs / 57 kg

3 lbs / 1.36 kg

Bantamweight

125 lbs / 57 kg

135 lbs / 61 kg

3 lbs / 1.36 kg

Featherweight

135 lbs / 61 kg

145 lbs / 66 kg

5 lbs / 2.26 kg

Lightweight

145 lbs / 66 kg

155 lbs / 70 kg

5 lbs / 2.26 kg

Super-Lightweight

155 lbs / 70 kg

165 lbs / 74 kg

5 lbs / 2.26 kg

WelterWeight

165 lbs / 74 kg

170 lbs / 77 kg

5 lbs / 2.26 kg

Super-Welter Weight

170 lbs / 77 kg

175 lbs / 79 kg

7 lbs / 3.17 kg

Middleweight

175 lbs / 79 kg

185 lbs / 84 kg

7 lbs / 3.17 kg

Super Middleweight

185 lbs / 84 kg

195 lbs / 88 kg

7 lbs / 3.17 kg

Light Heavyweight

195 lbs / 88 kg

205 lbs / 93 kg

7 lbs / 3.17 kg

CruiserWeight

205 lbs / 93 kg

225 lbs / 102 kg

7 lbs / 3.17 kg

HeavyWeight

225 lbs / 102 kg

265 lbs / 120 kg

7 lbs / 3.17 kg

Super HeavyWeight

265 lbs / 120 kg

No Limit

-

 

 

Why MMA Uses Weight Classes Instead of Height Classes

In the ring, more height does not mean more power nor increases odds in your favor but as Newton's second's law of motion puts it, force depends upon mass and acceleration of an entity; in other words, it means that more weight (mass) produces more power (force) which can greatly increases odds of winning against a lower weight opponent in the ring and increasing chances of knockout against lower weight fighters. More Weight translates into more grappling and more weight also means more muscle and more power. That is why height is not force multiplier in the ring but weight is and many matches have shown that fighters of lower height have won championships against opponents with greater height than themselves, which further proves height is not necessary to have its own class. However, weight classes are a must to even the playing field between fighters. This is to let them make a difference by displaying their fighting techniques and persistent training along with their astute tactics in the ring to win against their virtually same weight bracket opponent

All of the above is best described by the monumental fight between Mark Hunt having an average height of 5 foot 10 inches and Stefan Struve having height of an astounding 7 foot, the match resulted in Mark Hunt knocking out Stefan Struve. Daniel Cormier is another example of a fighter being among smallest height wise in their weight class but always dominating his weight class despite only being 5 foot 11 inches.  

Why MMA needs Weight Classes 

Since the introduction of weight classes in 1997, fighters of their weight division must weigh in before the fight. During weigh-ins, the upper and lower limits of weight must not exceed or fall short of their weight class respectively.

Which means if a fight of fly weight division is taking place, a fighter must not exceed 125 lbs / 57 kg or fall short of 115 lbs / 52 kg. The latter cases rarely happen as fighters are focused on having more weight to possess more power even by a slight margin over their opponent as weight carries a great advantage in MMA fights. To achieve the perfect upper limit of their respective weight class, many fighters practice an unhealthy and controversial practice of weight cutting.

Which points out how the weight classes are important to ensure fairness of the matches and to keep the game interesting by negating any power advantage gained solely through having higher weight over your opponent.

What is Weight Cutting?

In order to just slide under the upper weight limit of their respective weight class, the fighter engages in activities to reduce their weight to fit the upper limit of their weight class. A Week or so before their fight, a fighter will try to reduce their water weight as much as possible by engaging in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), cutting carbs, taking electrolytes, fasting, long periods in saunas or just by consuming only the necessary amount of water required for life.

One of the most effective ways to reduce body weight is by exercising while wearing a sauna suit. The sauna suit is a specially designed suit that has the opposite functionality of a tracksuit. It traps the heat inside it by preventing air flow through it. The heat and lack of airflow generates sweat which decreases the overall weight of the body. Athletes wear the sauna suit during training to reduce their weight before the weigh-ins.

Once the weigh-in passes the fighter under the upper weight limit of their respective class, the fighter will then rehydrate at a rigorous rate. In some extreme cases they can gain about 10 - 15 lbs / 4.5 – 6.8 kg in just under a day. This is a potentially dangerous practice but just to get more power fighters are more than willing to go with it just to get an extra edge during the match.

What will Happen When the Fighter is Overweight

During weigh-ins, it is quite often seen that fighters are overweight in their respective classes i.e. miss weight. The opponent will be given the choice to either proceed forward with the match or not.

If the opponent agrees to the match, they will receive nearly 20 or 30 percent of their missed weight opponent’s purse regardless of the outcome. But in many cases opponents refuse to proceed with the match against missed weight opponents as the higher weight opponents who missed their weight will have an unfair advantage over their opponents.

The fighter who misses weight will be fined 20% or 30% of their purse which is subsequently awarded to the opponent. If the fighter misses weight for a title match, then the fighter will be declared ineligible for the title even if the fighter wins the title match as a penalty for missing weight.

Those who repeatedly miss weight are forced to move up to the above weight class or they are cut off from the tournament.  Only case where the upper weight limit is ignored is the super heavyweight class which has no upper weight limit.

What will Happen When the Fighter is Underweight

The whole process of weigh-in is focused by fighters just barely making under the upper weight limit of their respective weight class. It is quite easy to overlook that there exists a lower weight limit and in rare cases fighters may miss the lower limit but this usually happens in heavier weight classes.

If the fighter misses weight in the lower limit, they will be given an hour or two hours to bulk up to meet the lower limit criteria. If the fighter still misses weight despite the time provided for bulking up, their fight will be canceled and they may be forced down below their respective weight class.

Only strawweight has no lower limit so this case of force down will only happen in heavier weight classes. The cases of fighters missing weight in lower limit are virtually nonexistent and if it happens, bulking up to meet the lower limit is quite easy as sometimes having a calorie rich snack can instantly up the weight of the fighter.

Why MMA has many Weight Classes

Since the introduction of weight classes in 1997 and adding further weight classes which has now led to 14 official weight classes. It is because weight gives a huge advantage to a fighter in the match. To make fights more fair and even the playing field to make fighters fight and win relying upon superior skills and techniques and negating the weight advantage as much as possible.

Also more weight classes allows for more title fights which draws more sponsors and audience. All of this turns in more revenue and PPV points for the fighter and organizers alike resulting in the win-win situation for everyone involved.

Conclusion

Weight classes since their introduction to the sport in 1997 at UFC 12 has brought a lot of changes, we will no longer witness epic 8 men battle Royale between assortments of people with varying strengths. Now it’s only one-on-one fights with fighters of virtually the same attributes on paper will duke it out in the ring.

It is to conclude that introducing weight classes has provided more equality in MMA fairer for fights and has given a professional look to the sport, long gone are the days of David versus Goliath like showdowns to witness during the matches. Now only the training and right application of your skill, experience and knowledge will make all the difference in the ring.


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