In Women’s MMA (WMMA), just like for their male counterparts, female fighters must adhere to a strict set of weight classes, designed to even out the competition between fighters.
In fact, you may have recently read about the issues some female fighters were having making weight for their fights. The best known example is the one of Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, a female Brazilian professional mixed martial artist who fights out of the Chute Boxe Academy. Scheduled to fight Hitomi “Girlfight Monster” Akano from Japan, who fights out of Abe Ani Combat Club, in the ring on April 11, 2009 – this Strikeforce fight almost didn’t happen, and in fact for a lot of people, it never should have…
At 5 ft. 8 in. tall, and fighting in the 145 lbs. division, Cyborg was supposed to weigh in at 145lbs – but she came in at a good 7lbs. over the contracted weight of 145lbs. After some last minute negotiations amid a torrent of controversay, Akano accepted the bout. Cyborg, who not only came in overweight, but had obviously hydrated herself overnight, overwhelmed the much smaller Akano, and won via a third round stoppage. The fight was very painful to watch.
While Cyborg blamed her weight issues on “female problems” it was widely felt in the MMA community that this excuse was invalid, if not absurd, especially given the fact that she knew what her weight should have been well in advance and had in fact contracted for 145lbs.
While much “to do” was made over the issue of female MMA fighters making weight, male fighters have had just as many problems making weight for fights, as witnessed in many of the TUF episodes where the men try to lose weight by upping their cardio, or sweating in the steamroom in an effort to lose those last few pounds.
Regardless, when MMA first began, there were no weight classes. A 300lb. judo wrestler could fight a 185lb. karateka, and that was okay, because that’s what mixed martial arts was all about. As time went by it became clear that if MMA were ever to be respected as a sport, we had to initiate rules and regulations that made sense, and that were designed to protect the combatants. Weight classes were born from this decision!
Fortunately for Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, she did much better during the weigh ins for her fight in August 2009 against Gina Carano.
Many people know there are weight classes for male fighters – but few realize female MMA fighters also are required to abide by a preset weight class standard. According to the Mixed Martial Arts Referee Handbook mixed martial artists are divided into the following classes for women (note that these weight classes were never ratified into the MMA Unified Rules of Conduct):
• Flyweight – 95 lbs. and below.
• Bantamweight – 95.1-105 lbs.
• Featherweight – 105.1-115 lbs.
• Lightweight – 115.1-125 lbs.
• Welterweight – 125.1-135 lbs.
• Middleweight – 135.1-145 lbs.
• Light Heavyweight – 145.1-155 lbs.
• Cruiserweight – 155.1-165 lbs.
• Heavyweight – 165.1-185 lbs.
• Super Heavyweight – 185.1 and above.
Editor’s Note: Most promotions no longer make any distinction between the names and weights of the men’s and women’s divisions. See their respective rankings:
• Featherweight (145)
• Bantamweight (135)
• Super Flyweight (125)
• Flyweight (115)
• Strawweight (106)