MMA weights classes and weigh ins are huge wild cards in terms of the sport if you think about it.
Many fans bank on the weigh in whether or not a fighter will perform on fight night. Weighing in over the max is often a huge red flag. How many times have we seen a fighter weigh in a few pounds too high and fail, only to see them be finished violently in the first or second round of the fight?
Fighters flourish in certain weight classes while failing miserably in another.
Even worse, when someone seems to fit right in between, like future Hall of Famer Rich Franklin... 195 lbs is often called "Franklinweight."
The system works well for the most part but every so often we see fighters struggling to find a place in two weight classes. Too big for one and too small for another. MMA weight classes are separated between 10 and 20 lbs with the exception of heavyweight, with as we all know goes between 206 lbs and 265 lbs.
Which begs the question why there is an upper limit on the heavyweight division to begin win?
Boxing heavyweights have no upper limit. Why does MMA?
Logically speaking , one answer could lie in amateur wrestling, which in many ways mirrors MMA weight classes. Amateur heavyweights, depending on the state or level have rules regarding a heavyweight's max between 250 lbs for some and 276 lbs for others. In the end it all depends on where you're competing.
But that's amateur wrestling, not professional mixed martial arts.
Could it be because MMA lacks a "Cruiserweight" division? In boxing the weight classes without a cruiserweight division would jump from light heavyweight (175 lbs) to no limit. In 1980 the cruiserweight division was formally recognized at 190 lbs, and in 2003 it was increased to 200 lbs. So in essence, the cruiserweight division mirrors MMA's light heavyweight division at 205 lbs. However, that still doesn't answer the question or solve the problem.
Could it be because of the weight difference in grappling? A fighter who is fighting at 210 lbs is technically a heavyweight. His bout is against a man who cuts 10 lbs to make the 265 lbs limit, so at fight time he's easily over 275 lbs. The much smaller man may be faster, but if the fight goes down he's likely at a huge disadvantage. Still doesn't help. Does this problem really happen a lot? No, but it shows that the system is far from perfect.
More than once it's been proposed that an MMA "Cruiserweight" division be established between 220 and 230 lbs as it's limit. The problem with that is the most skilled fighters in the heavyweight division usually weigh around 240 lbs. Not too big, not too small. The Goldie Locks Fighters.
What stops these large but skilled athletes from dropping from the heavyweight division to this new division and leaving the neanderthals with about a 3 on the skill scale to toil away at a division that is extremely thin already? Nothing wood. The Cruiserwieght division would quickly become a powerhouse and guys like Roy Nelson and Big Foot Silva trade the heavyweight title every other week because they are simply too large or too lazy to get to 230 lbs. Goldie Locks Fighters like Stipe Miocic and heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez could probably clean their diets up and make 230 lbs quite easily. So is the thin division the problem?
Does it really need to change? It's been proposed before: Back in 2008 the Association of Boxing Commissions wanted to break up the weight classes into 14, which would have drastically altered the landscape: Light Heavyweight would have been 206-225 and Heavyweight 226-265 lbs among other changes. If you've never read that it's worth checking out.
Below you're going to see a couple of charts because it wouldn't be a fanpost from me without some. First are the standard boxing weight classes which number an astounding 17. In boxing there are a number of sanctioning bodies and the names for those weight classes vary.
After that you will see where MMA weight classes currently stand. Notice the King of the Cage promotion and Shooto promotion weight classes.
|Boxing Sanctioning Bodies|
|175||Light heavyweight||Light heavyweight||Light heavyweight||Light heavyweight|
|168||Super middleweight||Super middleweight||Super middleweight||Super middleweight|
|154||Super welterweight||Super welterweight||Junior middleweight||Junior middleweight|
|140||Super lightweight||Super lightweight||Junior welterweight||Junior welterweight|
|130||Super featherweight||Super featherweight||Junior lightweight||Junior lightweight|
|122||Super bantamweight||Super bantamweight||Junior featherweight||Junior featherweight|
|115||Super flyweight||Super flyweight||Junior bantamweight||Junior bantamweight|
|108||Light flyweight||Light flyweight||Junior flyweight||Junior flyweight|
|105||Minimumweight||Strawweight||Mini flyweight||Mini flyweight|
|Mixed Martial Arts Promotions|
|Weight Limit||UFC/WSOF/ BELLATOR||KOTC||ONE FC||SHOOTO||INVICTA|
|No Limit||Not Used*||Super Heavyweight||Not Used*||Super Heavyweight||Not Used*|
|265||Heavyweight||Heavyweight||Heavyweight||Not Used*||Not Used*|
|220/230||Not Used*||Cruiserweight||Not Used*||Heavyweight||Not Used*|
|205||Light heavyweight||Light heavyweight||Light heavyweight||Cruiserweight (201)||Not Used*|
|185||Middleweight||Middleweight||Middleweight||Light Heavyweight (183)||Not Used*|
|170||Welterweight||Welterweight||Welterweight||Middleweight (168)||Not Used*|
|160||Not Used*||Junior Welterweight||Not Used*||Not Used*||Not Used*|
|125||Flyweight||Junior Flyweight||Flyweight||Bantamweight (123)||Flyweight|
|105||Not Used*||Atomweight *WMMA||Not Used*||Not Used*||Atomweight|
|95||Not Used*||Not Used*||Not Used*||Not Used*||Minimumweight|
And I'll leave you with this thought. I have yet to find an article that formally recognizes the 115 lbs strawweight weight class that's being adopted by the UFC into the Unified Rules of MMA. Does that really matter? Probably not... but it's something worth thinking about. The girl in the kilt is Joanne Calderwood, one of the fighters currently attached to TUF 20.
If you read through this entire article I appreciate it and would like your thoughts on the subject. Have a good week and hope you enjoyed last weekends fights.