UFC Women’s Weight Classes
Women’s MMA has grown significantly since the mid-2000s, with the UFC officially adding a Women’s division to the company for the first time back in 2013.
The first-ever Women’s fight in Ultimate Fighting Championship history saw Ronda Rousey defend her UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship against Liz Carmouche.
The importance of ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey to the popularity of Women’s MMA cannot be overstated, as her appearances in the media, her role in The Ultimate Fighter TV series, her fantastic highlight wins that would get featured on mainstream television like ESPN, and incredible performances across her mixed martial arts career helped to push the UFC to implement more Women’s weight classes and add to the health of the sport in total.
Unlike the Men’s divisions of the company, there are a limited number of Women’s weight classes currently active in the UFC, with there being four overall as of 2023.
🔴 Strawweight: up to 115 pounds (52.2 kg)
The smallest fighters in UFC compete as part of the Women’s Strawweight division, and what the competitors in this weight limit lack in power, they more than make up for in speed, agility and spectacle inside the octagon. Arguably the most incredible MMA fight in the history of the sport took place in the 115-pound UFC division, with Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk putting on a striking clinic at UFC 248.
In terms of Women’s Strawweight fights that you absolutely need to go out of your way to see:
- Gadelha vs. Jędrzejczyk – UFC on FOX 13 (December 2014)
- Zhang vs. Jedrzejczyk – UFC 248 (March 2020) Namajunas vs. Jedrzejczyk II – UFC 223 (April 2018)
- Esparza vs. Jedrzejczyk – UFC 185 (March 2015)
- Jedrzejczyk vs. Gadelha II – The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale (July 2016)
- Jedrzejczyk vs. Namajunas – UFC 217 (November 2017)
- VanZant vs. Curran – UFC Fight Night 57 (November 2014)
- Jedrzejczyk vs. Penne – UFC Fight Night 69 (June 2015)
- Namajunas vs. Esparza – The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale (December 2014)
- Gadelha vs. Aguilar – UFC 190 (August 2015)
- Jedrzejczyk vs. Kowalkiewicz II – UFC 205 (November 2016)
- Andrade vs Hill – UFC Fight Night 104 (February 2017)
- VanZant vs Namajunas – UFC Fight Night 80 (December 2015)
- Namajunas vs Waterson-Gomez – UFC on FOX 24 (April 2017)
- Namajunas vs. Andrade – UFC 237 (May 2019)
- Gadelha vs Andrade – UFC Fight Night 117 (September 2017)
- Jedrzejczyk vs Letourneau – UFC 193 (November 2015)
- Jedrzejczyk vs Andrade – UFC 211 (May 2017)
- Namajunas vs. Kowalkiewicz – UFC 201 (July 2015)
- Wood vs. Casey – UFC Fight Night 72 (July 2015)
- Herrig vs. VanZant – UFC on FOX 15 (April 2015)
🔴 Flyweight: up to 125 pounds (56.7 kg)
Unlike the Strawweight division of the company, where we have seen a number of different champions and competitors becoming the 115-pound Strawweight Champion, the Flyweight division has been somewhat dominated by one fighter since 2018, Valentina Shevchenko. Shevchenko held onto the title for almost five years, and she would end up becoming synonymous with the belt and the way in which fighters would approach bouts in the 125-pound mixed martial arts division. ‘Bullet’ would take a shock loss against Alexa Grasso at UFC 285, bringing her historic run as champion to an end.
One of the great elements of the Women’s Flyweight division is the fact that the competitors in this weight class are not only extraordinarily athletic and quick, but they can also produce some absolutely incredible knockouts with the power that the extra weight over Strawweight affords them.
🔴 Bantamweight: up to 135 pounds (61.2 kg)
The Women’s Bantamweight division in recent years has also been all about one fighter for pretty much the entirety of her career inside the octagon: Amanda Nunes. Despite her own shock loss to Julianna Pena at UFC 269 in December 2021, the ‘Lioness’ from Brazil would get a rematch and the chance to add to her already unbelievable record, which she did. A number of title fights and significant wins over the top contenders in the weight class have meant that ‘Lioness’ is regarded by many as the absolute GOAT in Women’s MMA, potentially even across the board.
In terms of the greats in the division beyond Nunes, you have to look at the aforementioned Ronda Rousey, as she genuinely was a pioneer in the sport. Even beyond her retirement and move into WWE, she is still a household name in Women’s MMA.
Due to the historical importance of the Bantamweight division and how it has helped shape Women’s MMA over the past decade-plus, it is absolutely worth checking out the following Championship fights as they’re not only fantastic contests, but you’ll see some of the greatest MMA practitioners defending one of the most prestigious titles ever:
Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm – UFC 193
When Holly Holm was able to emphatically defeat Rousey at UFC 193 in November 2015, it was widely regarded as one of the biggest upsets in company history. In terms of the hype and abilities that Rousey had shown up to this point inside the octagon, she genuinely looked unbeatable, and seeing the former boxer Holm dominate the ‘Rowdy’ one was a spectacle to behold that you need to witness if you have not done so already.
Miesha Tate vs. Holly Holm – UFC 196
Coming off of the aforementioned defeat of Rousey, Holm went into her bout with ‘Cupcake’ Miesha Tate in March 2016 at UFC 196 with a far more prominent profile and the expectation that she may be able to pull off another huge victory against one of the division’s best. Despite ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ not being able to retain her title, her 5-round contest with Tate was a fantastic affair that showcased both fighters’ strengths. Tate ended up getting a takedown in the fifth round and the chance to sink in a rear-naked choke that made Holm pass out and give ‘Cupcake’ the gold.
Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche – UFC 157
Once the UFC had purchased the Strikeforce promotion, they opted to reveal that Rousey would be the first-ever UFC Bantamweight Champion and that she would be heading into UFC 157 to defend her belt for the very first time. At the time, fans believed that this was going to be a one-sided affair, with Rousey getting a straightforward win to start off her octagon career, but it ended up being anything but.
Despite the UFC also signing Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano at the same time from the defunct Strikeforce, they opted to have Liz Carmouche face Rousey in the first Women’s bout on a UFC card. At one point, it genuinely looked like Carmouche could’ve won the fight with either a rear-naked choke or neck crank, but Rousey was able to fight back into top position and get in her own signature armbar to win the fight and start her phenomenal run for the company.
Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate – UFC 168
This was the fight that many thought they would see for Rousey right off the bat, but fans had to wait until after the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter, where both women were coaches, to see this feud get another classic encounter. Looking back at the contest, this is arguably the first time that ‘Rowdy’ genuinely felt like she was put in a difficult position during her MMA career, as although Carmouche was almost able to get in that submission, Tate was the first opponent for Rousey who genuinely looked like she belonged in the octagon with her. A great fight and absolutely one that is worth watching back to see two of the pioneers of the UFC Bantamweight division and Women’s MMA in general.
Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena – UFC 269
Although seeing Holly Holm defeat Ronda Rousey felt like it would be the biggest upset ever… seeing Julianna Pena submit Amanda Nunes at UFC 269 eclipsed that tenfold.
Pena had been begging Dana White publicly to give her the fight at Bantamweight against Nunes, whom many believed was (and is) the GOAT in terms of Women’s MMA, and she entered the bout as a massive underdog. When Pena managed to lock in the submission on Nunes’ back, it sent shockwaves across the world of MMA, starting off a series of shock title wins over the next couple of years, making underdogs like Alexa Grasso and Carla Esparza the order of the day. In terms of drama and the unexpected, this sensational fight will take some beating, but with Nunes now back atop the mountain and the P4P great once again, we may well never see the likes of this shock with the ‘Lioness’ again.
🔴 Featherweight: up to 145 pounds (65.8 kg)
Not only has Nunes been the queen of the Bantamweight division for quite some time, but she has been so dominant in the UFC Women’s Featherweight division that as of writing (March 2023), the UFC does not even recognize rankings in the weight class, meaning that she has not had to defend the belt at an event for some time.
Much like the rankings on the Men’s side of the sport, the Women’s UFC Ranking lists produced by the Ultimate Fighting Championship are subject to change quite frequently, depending on the results that occur inside the octagon and how the athletes perform in recent contests. For a snapshot of the sort of fighters that are currently on the top of their game, here are the rankings for the UFC Women’s weight classes in March 2023:
🔴 UFC Women’s Strawweight Rankings
Champion – Zhang Weili
- Carla Esparza
- Rose Namajunas
- Amanda Lemos
- Jessica Andrade
- Marina Rodriguez
- Xiaonan Yan
- Mackenzie Dern
- Tecia Torres
- Virna Jandiroba
- Michelle Waterson-Gomez
- Amanda Ribas
- Tatiana Suarez
- Angela Hill
- Luana Pinheiro
- Tabatha Ricci
🔴 UFC Women’s Flyweight Rankings
Champion: Alexa Grasso
- Valentina Shevchenko
- Manon Fiorot
- Taila Santos
- Erin Blanchfield
- Jessica Andrade
- Katlyn Chookagian
- Lauren Murphy
- Jennifer Maia
- Amanda Ribas
- Viviane Araújo
- Andrea Lee
- Casey O’Neill
- Maycee Barber
- Tracy Cortez
- Cynthia Calvillo
🔴 UFC Women’s Bantamweight Rankings
Champion – Amanda Nunes
- Julianna Peña
- Raquel Pennington
- Holly Holm
- Ketlen Vieira
- Irene Aldana
- Yana Santos
- Pannie Kianzad
- Macy Chiasson
- Karol Rosa
- Mayra Bueno Silva
- Miesha Tate
- Julia Avila
- Norma Dumont
- Josiane Nunes
- Chelsea Chandler
🔴 UFC Women’s Featherweight Rankings
Champion: Amanda Nunes
As noted, the UFC opted to no longer rank in the top 15 of the division as Nunes has been so dominant and may no longer need to defend the title. Speaking to Combate back in 2021, Nunes revealed that UFC President Dana White wanted to get rid of the division, stating (via MMAFighting):
“Dana [White] wants to end this division, but I told him that, as long as I’m champion, I want it open. I think the issue with the featherweight [division] is talent. I think it’s hard to find talented girls in this division. I could be wrong, but we’re seeing that the girls that fought Cris [Cyborg] needed a little bit more. Not that they are bad athletes, but they needed some work.”
We will have to wait and see what the company opts to remove the weight class completely.
Just like Men’s MMA and competitors in the UFC, several fighters will move between weight classes to try and get the biggest fight purse and compete against the top opponents in the world.
- Paying attention to a fighter’s ‘usual’ weight class is extremely important when it comes to betting. If you’re able to establish if a competitor is heading into a bout with a differential, then that could certainly be seen as a disadvantage.
- If a fighter who usually competes in the Strawweight division moves up to Flyweight, then there is a chance that the difference in weight class could have affected the speed and overall course of their training camp.
- The same could also be said for a fighter who is moving from a higher weight class down, as the difficulty of hitting the weigh-ins with the correct poundage can play a massive part in a competitor’s focus ahead of a bout, and the move to a smaller weight division may well take them entirely off of their game.
UFC Weight Classes Champions
As of writing, the following fighters are the current champions on the Women’s UFC roster:
- Strawweight: Zhang Weili
- Flyweight: Alexa Grasso
- Bantamweight: Amanda Nunes
- Featherweight: Amanda Nunes
There are a number of extremely popular fighters across the entirety of the UFC Weight Classes, with the likes of Rose Namajunas, Holly Holm and Miesha Tate having significant followings, giving them an advantage when it comes to negotiating endorsement deals, fight contracts with the UFC itself and big-time bouts.
On top of that, others have either retired from the sport or moved on to other MMA promotions with social media followings of a pretty substantial size. Cat Zingano, for example, last fought in the UFC back in 2018 in a losing effort against Megan Anderson. ‘Alpha’ still competes at the age of 40 for Bellator MMA, and her substantial social media following includes over 250k followers on Twitter, showing just how popular she still is outside of the biggest MMA promotion in the world with a global fanbase.
As of writing, three weight classes currently feature in both Men’s and Women’s MMA for the UFC, with these being Flyweight, Bantamweight and Featherweight. In terms of the rules, there is absolutely no difference between Women’s MMA and Men’s MMA whatsoever, with competitors able to be determined the winner via KO, TKO, Submission or Decision. The way in which a title defence takes place is exactly the same as well, as a Champion will defend against their opponent in a 5-round fight.
Why Doesn’t UFC Have A Women’s Heavyweight Division?
There is no apparent reason given by the UFC as to why there is not a Women’s Lightweight, Welterweight, Middleweight, Light Heavyweight or Heavyweight division in the company, but it is likely for a couple of reasons.
The biggest reason is most likely the lack of depth when it comes to top-quality Women’s competitors in the upper weight classes, as although there are Women’s fighters competing for other promotions in these divisions, the sport is still looking for more top-level fighters before a genuinely strong division can be established in the UFC.
You can guarantee that if the UFC could create a Women’s Heavyweight division that has the depth of the Men’s, then they absolutely would do so, but that would mean finding competitors at the level of Jon Jones, Francis Ngannou, Glover Teixeira, Ciryl Gane and Derrick Lewis… it’s arguably difficult enough to find one fighter at the level of those fighters, so creating an entire competitive division would likely take years of scouting and more investment in Women’s Heavyweight MMA overall.
If the UFC were to implement bigger weight classes, then it is likely that they would not go further than that, as the Men’s roster does not currently have a Super Heavyweight division.
Should The UFC Create Heavier Women’s Divisions?
Whether or not the UFC should implement and bring in heavier weight categories for Women’s MMA is something that has been discussed for some time. In reality, nothing from a legal perspective is stopping the company from doing so, and it is worth noting that the Lightweight and Welterweight Men’s divisions are some of the most popular in all of the mixed martial arts.
As is the case with everything when it comes to the combat sports business, it all depends on whether there is a market for higher weight classes in Women’s fighting and whether or not the Ultimate Fighting Championship can accrue and create a division that can produce the Women’s equivalent of Islam Makhachev, Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, Leon Edwards, Kamaru Usman or Colby Covington.
The debate will heat up when the independent MMA scene around the higher weight classes of women’s fighting starts to generate some buzz and a genuine potential roster of fighters comes to the forefront.
The UFC is a company that will happily provide fans with the content that they want to see, and if Women’s weight classes above Featherweight are genuinely something that the audience wants to watch and are willing to pay for, then Endeavour will try to make it happen as soon as possible.
Women’s MMA and the UFC Women’s Weight Classes have been a huge part of the presentation for the promotion for some time, but as you’d expect, there are a number of questions that fans have regarding this element of mixed martial arts, and we’ll look to answer as many of these as we can below.
As of writing (March 2023), there are currently four weight classes in Women’s UFC, these being Strawweight, Flyweight, Bantamweight and Featherweight.
The Women’s Strawweight Division is currently the smallest in the company, with fighters having an upper weight limit of 115 pounds to compete in the weight class.
The Women’s Flyweight division in the UFC has an upper weight limit of 125 pounds (56.7 kg).
Fighters who compete at an upper weight limit of 135 pounds in the UFC are classed as being part of the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Division.
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Jake is an SEO-minded Combat Sports, Gaming and Pro Wrestling writer and successful Editor in Chief. He has more than ten years of experience covering mixed martial arts, pro wrestling and gaming across a number of publications.