(Check out the original version on https://matthewfillery.wordpress.com)
After attempting to explain a recent news story in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, I have decided to start a blog all about explaining various parts of the UFC to newcomers.
This is a Beginners Guide to the UFC. Part 1: The UFC and its divisions.
The sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is unlike anything else in the sporting world. The closest to the ancient Roman gladiators, two combatants enter a cage with the sole intention of incapacitating their opposition. It is unpredictable, violent but also unsettlingly beautiful. You can watch two people absolutely pummel each other but at the end hug and raise each other’s hands like they are best friends (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nhf0vJPJFuI).
But what is the UFC?
The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is the sport’s biggest promotion, and home to largely (but not always) the world’s best talent. Whilst it has its competitors, most notably Bellator, no other brand can compete with the money, sponsorships, brand name and broadcast rights that the UFC has.
So, who fights who?
Like boxing, the UFC has divisions based on weight, with specific limits of weight set for each division. However, fighters are not locked to a certain division, and so if wanted, a fighter can move to whatever weight they want to, granted they can make the correct weight. As of right now, two fighters have become champions of two divisions at the same time (more affectionately known as being a “Champ Champ”).
What are these divisions?
Well, it can be difficult to explain sometimes, so for the sake of clarity I have used various European football leagues as a comparison. Although the comparisons will not be perfect, I hope it helps:
Heavyweight Division – The English Premier League:
- Big money, big matchups, historically the grand-daddy of the UFC. Has contained legends such as Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar and Mark Coleman plus likely-to-be legends Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier. If any division is known to those outside the UFC it is the heavyweights. Current Champion: Daniel Cormier
Light Heavyweight – The Italian Serie A:
- Tainted by controversy against a champion of the division. Just like Italian giants Juventus, ex-champ Jon Jones is now forever linked to a controversy that led to him being barred from the division for a certain amount of time, only to then rise up and reign supreme. Current Champion: Daniel Cormier
Middleweight – Portuguese Primeira League
- A division that deserves more attention than it gets – containing big names like Yoel Romero, Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman whilst also including lesser names. Current Champion: Robert Whittaker
Welterweight – The French Ligue 1
- A historically rich division within the octagon, the Welterweight scene has beheld some of the greats, none more so that potential greatest-of-all-time George St. Pierre, known as GSP. Much like PSG, current champ Tyron Woodley has reigned supreme with little challengers present for years. Current Champion: Tyron Woodley
Lightweight – The Spanish La Liga Santander:
- Just as La Liga has some of the biggest European clubs (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid) The UFC Lightweight division has some of the biggest names in UFC today. Undefeated champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, world-renowned Conor McGregor and greats like Tony Ferguson being its highlights. This division has some huge names whilst also containing some lesser-known faces. Current Champion: Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Featherweight – The German Bundesliga
- Another historically stacked division – and Conor McGregor’s debut division in the company. The featherweight division always has exciting fights and fighters whether it be veterans such as Brazilian Jose Aldo or young blood such as title challenger Brian Ortega. Current Champion: Max Holloway
Bantamweight –The Dutch Eredivisie
- A division that has mainly centred on three figures – TJ Dillashaw, Cody Garbrandt and Dominick Cruz. Just like Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord, the division's crown has floated between these three men for years. Current Champion: TJ Dillashaw.
Flyweight – The Russian Premier League
- An injustice but the only one that I could make work. A criminally under-appreciated division of fighters given the skill that is possessed. Ex-champ Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson is one of the greatest fighters ever but never received the attention or praise he truly deserved in the UFC. Current Champion: Henry Cejudo
Women’s Featherweight – The Scottish Premiership
- A one-person division (sorry Rangers fans). Champion Cris Cyborg is such a scary fighter that the only other champion of the division refused to fight her. Cyborg has gone on to defend her title a couple of times but lacks a pool of talent, forcing her to go into other divisions. Current Champion: Cris Cyborg
Women’s Bantamweight – The Greek Superleague
- Just like AEK, Olympiacos, PAOK and Panathinaikos, this division only has a few champions in its history. First champ Ronda Rousey’s sudden decline as the competition around her stepped up is a tale that will be told as long as the UFC lives. Current Champion: Amanda Nunes
Women’s Flyweight – The Kazakhstan Premier League
- Not be to seen as an insult but the league is comparative due to its relatively new establishment. The Women’s Flyweight is the newest UFC division and is currently awaiting its first champion. Current Champion: N/A
Women’s Strawweight – The Ukrainian Premier League
- A division with only really two main rulers – ex-champ and Scrabble player’s wet dream Joanna Jedrezejczyk and current queen Rose Namajunas. Current Champion: Rose Namajunas.