The UFC has come a long way since it was originally a one night no holds barred anything goes tournament. To survive, the UFC had to make MMA a legitimate sport.

Along with a clear set of rules, the UFC needed another important thing to legitimize MMA. Weight classes.

For those that are new fans to MMA, you may be wondering how they came up with their weight classes. This write up is a complete history of the UFC weight classes explained.

We’ll start by detailing when weight classes were first implemented into the promotion. Along with that, we’ll give you a short history of each weight class. Including when they were brought in and list the champions of each division

Why were weight classes added?

Weight classes were added into the UFC for a number of different reasons. One of the main reasons why is because they needed to be added to legitimize the sport.

If they were going to become more respected and add more fans, they needed to make weight divisions. They could no longer continue having no rules brawls between a massive heavyweight against a lightweight fighter.

Then as MMA grew, the fighters started to become more well rounded. This meant that the UFC had to even the playing field and have fighters go against opponents closer to their weight.

Doing this improved the product drastically as we saw more exciting fights and star athletes emerge. Without gradually adding weight classes, MMA would not be the sport it is today.

When did the UFC add weight classes?

The UFC began adding weight classes in 1997, which was only 4 years after the promotion started. 

They would add two weight classes to their UFC 12 tournaments. Heavyweight, which was 200lbs(90.71Kgs) and lightweight at 199lbs(90.2Kgs) and below.

After this tournament, the UFC would continue to gradually add more weight classes. At UFC 14, the lightweight category would be rebranded the middleweight division,

Then at UFC 16, a lightweight division was added at 170lbs(77Kgs) and below. Later renamed the welterweight division as we know it now.

For a while, the UFC would keep it to just these 3 divisions and the results were a success. Fight fans saw the emergence of many talented fighters and higher level fights.

When they reached UFC 26, a bantamweight division of 155lbs(70Kgs) was added to the promotion.

UFC weight class shake up

After the introduction of the original bantamweight class at 155lbs was added, the UFC reorganized the weight divisions.

Jens Pulver would win the inaugural UFC Bantamweight Championship, which was renamed the UFC Lightweight division. Subsequently, the 170lb division would be renamed the welterweight division and be from 156lbs to 170lbs.

The middleweight division would stay, but a light heavyweight division was added at 205lbs(93Kgs).

Bantamweight and featherweight

More divisions wouldn’t be added until 2010, when the Zuffa owned WEC merged into the UFC. Initially, the WEC was made to showcase smaller weight classes, but they got popular and so they merged.

With the merger, we saw the addition of the featherweight division at 145lbs(66Kgs) and the bantamweight division(61Kgs).

A year later, the promotion added a flyweight division at 125lbs(57Kgs) with the first fight taking place in 2012.

UFC adds a women’s divisions

The UFC would buy rival company Strikeforce and with that purchase, they added the first female division.

Initially the first women’s division was the women’s bantamweight division with the first fight taking place in 2013. Then in 2014, a UFC strawweight division was added for women at 115lbs(52Kgs). 

Later a flyweight division was established and the last to be added was a women’s featherweight division.

UFC divisions today

Today in the modern era of MMA, the UFC currently has 12 weight divisions between the men and women fighters. It seems like these are the set weight classes for the UFC for the foreseeable future.

Timeline of division champions

Let’s look at the timeline of champions within each division. Here is a complete list of each champion from when the division started.

Heavyweight division

The heavyweight division was the first official weight class of the UFC. Initially it was 200lbs and up, but moved up to 206lbs-265lbs after the introduction of the light heavyweight division. Here is the list of the 22 undisputed UFC heavyweight champions since 1997.

  • Mark Coleman: 
  • Maurice Smith: 
  • Randy Couture
  • Bas Rutten
  • Kevin Randleman
  • Randy Couture
  • Josh Barnett
  • Ricco Rodriguez
  • Tim Sylvia
  • Frank Mir
  • Andrei Arlovski
  • Tim Sylvia
  • Randy Couture
  • Brock Lesnar
  • Cain Velasquez
  • Junior dos Santos
  • Cain Velasquez
  • Fabricio Werdum
  • Stipe Miocic
  • Daniel Cormier
  • Stipe Miocic
  • Francis Ngannou

Interim champions: Andrei Arlovski, Antonio Minotauro Nogueira, Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, Fabricio Werdum, Cyril Gane

Light Heavyweight division

Initially the light heavyweight division was the middleweight division and went from 186 to 205lbs(84-93kg). It was later changed to just 205lbs as of May 4, 2001 at UFC 31. Here are the 15 undisputed UFC light heavyweight champions in the division’s history.

  • Frank Shamrock
  • Tito Ortiz
  • Randy Couture
  • Vitor Belfort
  • Randy Couture
  • Chuck Liddel
  • Quinton Jackson
  • Forrest Griffin
  • Rashad Evans
  • Lyoto Machida
  • Mauricio Rua
  • Jon Jones
  • Daniel Cormier
  • Jon Jones
  • Jan Blachowicz

Interim champions: Randy Couture, Jon Jones

Middleweight Division

The middleweight division was introduced the same time as the light heavyweight division in 2001. The division goes from 171lbs to 185lbs(78 to 84kg) and there have been 11 undisputed UFC Middleweight Champions. Here is the complete list.

Interim champions: Robert Whitaker, Israel Adesanya

Welterweight division

Originally known as the lightweight division, it was renamed the welterweight division in 2001. In it’s 20 year history there have been 12 undisputed welterweight champions. Here is the complete list.

  • Pat Miletich
  • Carlos Newton
  • Matt Hughes
  • BJ Penn
  • Matt Hughes
  • Georges St Pierre
  • Matt Serra
  • Georges St Pierre
  • Johny Hendricks
  • Robbie Lawler
  • Tyron Woodley
  • Kamaru Usman

Interim Champions: Georges St Pierre, Carlos Condit, Colby Covington

Lightweight Division

Originally named the bantamweight division, the lightweight division was implemented in 2001. There have been 11 undisputed UFC lightweight champions and here is the complete list.

  • Jens Pulver

(The division was disbanded in 2001 and didn’t return until 2006)

Interim Champions: Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje

Featherweight division

With the UFC merger in 2010, the WEC featherweight division became the UFC featherweight division. In its 11 year history there have been 5 undisputed UFC featherweight champions and here is the complete list.

  • Jose Aldo
  • Conor McGregor
  • Jose Aldo
  • Max Holloway
  • Alex Volkanovski

Interim Champions: Conor McGregor, Jose Aldo, Max Holloway

Bantamweight division

The UFC bantamweight division was introduced during the WEC merger. There have been 9 undisputed UFC bantamweight champions in the division’s history and are as follows. 

  • Dominick Cruz
  • Renan Barao
  • TJ Dillashaw
  • Dominick Cruz
  • Cody Garbrandt
  • TJ Dillashaw
  • Henry Cejudo
  • Peter Yan
  • Aljamain Sterling

Interim Champions: Renan Barao

Flyweight division

The UFC flyweight was introduced in 2012 ranging from 116 to 125lbs(53 to 57kgs). In the 9 year history of the division, there have been 4 undisputed UFC flyweight champions and are as follows.

Interim Champions: 0

Women’s featherweight division

The UFC women’s featherweight division was established 10 months before the women’s flyweight division was introduced. It was established in 2017 and there have been 3 undisputed UFC women’s featherweight champions.

Interim Champions: 0

Women’s Bantamweight division

With the purchase of Strikeforce, the UFC started the women’s bantamweight division. The first fight took place in 2012 and there have been 4 undisputed UFC women’s bantamweight champions.

Interim Champions: 0

Women’s flyweight division

The UFC women’s flyweight division was the last division added to the UFC as of December 1st, 2017. Since then there have only been a total of just 2 undisputed UFC women’s flyweight champions.

  • Nicco Montano
  • Valentina Schevchenko

Interim Champions: 0

Women’s strawweight division

The UFC women’s strawweight division was established in 2014 with the inaugural title decided on that year’s The Ultimate Fighter season. Since the division was introduced there have been 6 undisputed UFC strawweight champions.

  • Carla Esparza
  • Joanna Champion
  • Rose Namajunas
  • Jessica Andrade
  • Zhang Weli
  • Rose Namajunas

Interim Champions: 0