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Five Reasons Why the UFC Needs New Weight Classes

| January 10, 2021 8:07 am PDT
Why the UFC Needs New Weight Classes

Let’s be honest. The current UFC weight classes are not sustainable.

At a time when dangerous weight cutting is the elephant in the room, and the expansion of the promotion is the big idea, it makes sense for the UFC to change weight classes. All it will take is a little readjustment, rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Here are five reasons why the UFC needs to reshuffle the current divisions. Hopefully, by the end of this piece, you’ll understand why it makes sense.

The Current System Doesn’t Work

As the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But if it is broke, well, then we have some fixing to do. And I think Dana White and the rest of the UFC top brass need to take a long, hard look at how the current weight classes are failing a large portion of the roster.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There will always be exceptions to the rule. I could name you plenty of fighters who are thriving in their weight classes without any problems. And it would be harsh on some of those fighters to pull the rug from under their feet to accommodate those who, well, aren’t sitting as pretty.

UFC Weight Classes by Weight
Heavyweight 265 pounds
Light Heavyweight 205 pounds
Middleweight 185 Pounds
Welterweight 170 Pounds
Lightweight 155 Pounds
Featherweight 145 Pounds
Bantamweight 135 Pounds
Flyweight 125 Pounds
Women’s Strawweight 115 Pounds

The simple fact of the matter is that you can’t please all of the people, all of the time. But striking the right balance is key to any organization — whether it is a club, an society, or a business — prospering in the long-term.

Right now, there is an element of complacency in the promotion. It is probably easier predicting all UFC champions at the end of 2021 than it has been in recent years. Well, in theory.

Still, if the UFC is to evolve into the brand that the likes of White and owners WME-IMG foresee, it must embrace change. One of the basic tenets of business is to adapt to the times, and it appears that the times are demanding modification of the foundations on which MMA has been built.

Unlike boxing, wrestling, or Taekkyon —  combat sports that have been around even longer than Henry Kissinger — MMA is relatively new. There are no ancient codes or esoteric practices to adhere to. So what’s the issue?

Well, that’s unclear. But I can tell about something that is a clear and present problem, and one that certainly needs addressing sooner rather than later…

Here is a list of the current UFC champions. Take a quick look before we move on.

New Weight Classes Would be Safer

The biggest problem in MMA is weight cutting. I know that and you know that, but most of all, the poor bar stewards killing themselves to make weight know that.

By introducing new weight classes, you would find the vast majority of problems associated with weight cutting disappear like a fart in a storm. And all jokes aside, this is a serious matter that could very easily lead to a fighter losing their life.

Sure, no fighter has ever died while competing under the UFC banner. And thankfully, no fighter has lost their life cutting weight. But there have been many major instances of UFC athletes coming very, very close to it.

MMA Fighters that Have Died Cutting Weight

Leandro Souza died while cutting weight in 2013. Yang Jian Bing lost his life in a botched weight cut in 2015.

Dennis Munson Jr. and Jessica Lindsay also died due to complications of botched weight cuts.

In simple terms, weight cutting is a very dangerous game. Not only does it leave a person dehydrated, but it can lead to all kinds of issues like kidney failure, heart failure, and stroke. Who would have thought that starving and dehydrating yourself would be bad for you?

World renown fighters such as Khabib Nurmagomedov, Cris Cyborg, Rafael dos Anjos, Darren Till, Uriah Hall, Renan Barao have suffered traumatic weight cuts, with some of the fighters above believing that they were close to death.

With all of this in mind, it seems inevitable that the UFC will change its weight class system at some point.

More Exciting Fights

Should the UFC restructure weight classes, it could very easily lead to more exciting fights.

I know, I know. Fighters have been jumping up and dropping down in weight classes ever since the need for weight thresholds was introduced. But for the most part, it was usually something done to re-ignite a career slump.

Fans betting on Conor McGregor becoming the 145-pound champion in December 2015 before claiming the 155-pound strap less than a year later would have made serious money.

For fellow fighters, however, his exploits led to a slew of other contenders looking to emulate the “Champ-Champ” in holding two titles at the same time.

But what made things more straightforward for McGregor was that 155-pounds was his optimum weight. He was draining himself to make 145-pounds, of course. He had already won belts in both divisions while under the Cage Warriors banner, too.

Now, take McGregor moving up from 145-pounds to 170-pounds to fight Nate Diaz. That’s a 25-pound jump up two divisions. Despite being 2-1 at welterweight, you wouldn’t expect the Dubliner to be looking to challenge Kamaru Usman for his title. Why? Because he would be absolutely mauled, that’s why. Even though he is a natural lightweight, just one division below Usman.

Usman walks around at over 200 pounds, while McGregor’s walk around weight is likely around 170-175 pounds. That’s a major difference once both men had weighed in and were rehydrated. 

Now, imagine there was a weight class somewhere in-between lightweight and welterweight. Let’s say 160 pounds? Then, a division in-between welterweight (170) and middleweight (185). You could call it junior welterweight, and have it at 180 pounds.

Just think of the number of fighters that would thrive under these circumstances. Rafael dos Anjos, who was too big for lightweight yet too small for welterweight, would probably have owned this division if it was around in his prime.

Is the penny dropping yet?

Eliminating the Dominance of Certain Fighters

It’s a rarity in MMA for fighters to go on a long run of ruling a division.

You can say that Anderson Silva did it because he was just ridiculously better than everyone else. The same could apply to Demetrious Johnson, and definitely Jon Jones.

But there is an argument for many fighters — interestingly around the 155-170 region — about size playing a major factor in their success.

I think it’s blasphemy to suggest that Georges St-Pierre was successful because he was bigger than most at welterweight. But I won’t deny that there is an argument there. He showed that he could operate at middleweight, beating a champion, albeit one of the weakest of all time, in Michael Bisping.

Khabib is a welterweight that goes through hell to cut to 155-pounds. Kamaru Usman looked like a monster compared to Tyron Woodley at UFC 235 and looks physically bigger than almost every opponent he faces.

You will see less of this kind of dominance if weight classes are rehashed, in my opinion. That’s not to say that the guys above wouldn’t be champions, of course!

More Champions Means More Title Fights

The fifth and final of my reasons why the UFC needs to change the weight class structure is that we would get more title fights!

Now, much like the internet has taught most of us over the years, more isn’t always better. But in the UFC, I don’t think we should be shying away from a restructure just because there is some anxiety in how additional belts and divisions have kind of wrecked that sport.

For a start, the UFC is the promoter. There is no Bob Arum, Al Haymon, or Oscar De La Hoya looking for the fattest piece of the pie, and ruining what could be great fights. Instead, all fighters operate under one umbrella. 

With the addition of more weight classes, we get to see more fighters have a crack at making their way into the record books. The UFC gets more opportunities to charge fans for pay-per-views. It’s a match made in heaven!

The UFC Needs More Weight Classes

Let’s imagine a UFC where fighters aren’t torturing themselves to make weight.

Where the safety of athletes comes first, and a slew of title fights and competitive matchups we never thought possible comes our way. Yes, that would mean you wouldn’t be reading this piece right now via our MMA blog, but I’d settle for that any day.

The UFC doesn’t need to add weight classes for the sake of it, of course. But a simple realigning of the current structure would be awesome. Instead of major jumps, ten-pound increments from flyweight to heavyweight would suffice. 

The best part? It wouldn’t be difficult to implement. 

Will the UFC’s weight class restructuring happen in 2021? It’s unlikely. But check out the following piece for things that COULD happen over the next twelve months.

9 Bold Predictions for the UFC in 2021 – Khabib to Make a Comeback and More

In a sport as volatile as mixed martial arts, playing the part of a prophet can often leave you with egg on your face. But after a crazy year, there are fewer things I have enjoyed doing more than making my UFC predictions for 2021. It’s fun to try and...

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What do you make of changing up the UFC’s weight divisions? It is a good idea or something that would backfire?

Let me know in the comments section, below!

Adam Haynes
Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA, boxing, and combat sports.

When Adam isn't writing about those, as well as politics, rugby, and Gaelic Games, he can be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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