Let’s face it: height advantage is real in combat sports. Height may not be the most apparent indicator of strength, but it has a lot of influence on how fighters engage each other. It is also closely linked to the reach and ape index – two important indexes that can influence MMA matches’ outcome. These reasons are why many MMA fans and observers consider height vital.
As we all know, they hardly consider height when grouping MMA fighters into different classes (for example, check out the UFC weight classes). Weight is the ultimate criterion for separating fighters to ensure fair play. Therefore, the Mixed martial arts weight classes ensure that people of the same weight category go up against each other.
Ultimate Fighting Championship and Its Weight Classes
In the past, weight classes were not mandatory in staging mixed martial arts fights. This was before state sanctioning and the involvement of athletic commissions. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) introduced weight classes in UFC 12 and grouped fighters into heavyweight (fighters over 200 lb) and lightweight (fighters below 200lb).
Over the years, weight classes have undergone several changes. Ideally, promotions were allowed to autonomously decide their weight classes. At the moment, almost every promotion and state commission has adopted the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. There are fourteen weight classes, but it is not compulsory to have fighters in all categories. Fighters can also agree to a catchweight bout, which occurs between weight classes.
Relationship between Weight Class and Height
Back to our main topic: why are we interested in the average UFC fighter height? Well, we have already stated that height plays a role in how fighters engage each other. The real effect may be negligible, but we have to acknowledge that height can influence a fighter’s techniques. We also need to admit that height can pose limitations during a fight, offering an opponent some advantages.
It is also important to talk about the relationship between height and weight. There is a direct relationship between the two, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a taller person will weigh heavier than a shorter person. This can be the case in many instances, but there are always exceptions.
In UFC weight classes, there are differences in the height of fighters. It may not be much between fighters in the same weight category, but there are differences. Even fighters who weigh the same may have notable height differences. Will this affect the outcome of their matches? Most unlikely, but it is necessary to always note the differences.
The Average UFC Fighter Height
It will be wrong to talk about the entire UFC fighters’ average height without talking about their respective weight classes. It will misrepresent most fighters and defeat the purpose of this post. Rather than do that, we will discuss the average height of UFC fighters, based on the different weight categories.
Women Strawweight: 115 lbs (52.2 kg) and under
The average height of fighters in this category is 5’4″. The current UFC strawweight champion is Weili Zhang, and her height is exactly 5’4″.
Flyweight: 115 lbs (52.2kg) to 125 lbs (56.7 kg)
The fighters’ average height in the UFC flyweight division is 5’5″. The current champion of this division is Deiveson Figueiredo, who is exactly 5’5″ in height.
Women’s Bantamweight: 126 lbs (57 kg) to 132 lbs (60 kg)
The average height of fighters in this category is 5’6″. The current UFC women’s bantamweight champion is Amanda Nunes, and her height is 5’8″. She is taller than the average fighter in the weight class.
Bantamweight: 126 lbs (57 kg) to 135 lbs (61.2 kg)
The average height of UFC fighters in this class is 5’7″. The UFC Bantamweight champion is Petr Yan, with a height of 5’7″. He is just as tall as the average fighter in the class.
Featherweight: 135 lbs (61.2 kg) to 145 lbs (65.8 kg)
The average height of UFC fighters in this category is 5’9″. The current UFC Featherweight Champion is Alexander Volkanovski. His height is 5’6″, which means he is noticeably shorter than the average fighter in the class.
Lightweight: 145 lbs (65.8 kg) to 155 lbs (70.3 kg)
The average height of UFC fighters in this weight class is 5’10”. The current UFC Lightweight Champion is Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is 5’9″. He is slightly shorter than the average fighter in the category but has shown to be the best with 28 wins, 0 losses, and 0 draws.
Welterweight: 155 lbs (70.3 kg) to 170 lbs (77.1 kg)
The average height of UFC fighters in this category is 5’11.5″. The current champion of this class is Kamaru Usman, whose height is 6’0″. He is taller than the average UFC fighter in this weight class by half an inch.
Middleweight: 170 lbs (77.1 kg) to 185 lbs (83.9 kg)
The average height of UFC fighters in the middleweight class is 6’1″. The current UFC Middleweight champion is Israel Adesanya, who is 6’4″. He is way taller than the average fighter in the category. While Israel’s dominance of this weight class is mostly attributable to his flexibility and adaptability to different styles (the last style bender), there is no doubt that his height and reach advantages have helped to some extent. This doesn’t take anything away from his spectacular career.
Light Heavyweight: 185 lbs (83.9 kg) to 205 lbs (93.0 kg)
The average height of fighters in this category is 6’2″. The Current UFC light heavyweight champion is Jan Blachowicz, who is 6’2″. He is just as tall as the average fighter in the class.
Heavyweight: 205 lbs (93.0 kg) to 265 lbs (120.2 kg)
The average height of heavyweight fighters in UFC is 6’3″. The current UFC Heavyweight Champion is Stipe Miocic, who is 6’4″. He is slightly taller than the average fighter in the category.
What Can We Learn From The Average Height of MMA Fighters?
From the average height of UFC fighters, as shown above, it is clear that height has a relationship with weight in many instances. We can also deduce from the information that there are exceptions to this natural pattern.
It is also easy to see that an MMA fighter’s height doesn’t determine the success or lack of it. While many champions are as tall as the average fighter in their weight classes, some are taller, and some are shorter. While Paige VanZant (one of the hottest MMA fighters and hottest boxers of all time) had an up-and-down career, there’s no denying she had some spectacular wins despite her tiny 5’4″ frame.
Looking at the exploits of the Russian Alexander Volkanovski in the featherweight division, one cannot help but marvel at how he bullies and defeats fighters who are noticeably taller. He has established himself as the king of the division, winning 28 fights, losing none, and drawing none.
Another spectacular example is Israel Adesanya. The Nigerian-born New Zealand fighter is taller than most fighters in his division. He looked skinny and Derek Johnson mocked him about his stature in the early days. He has dominated the division, winning 19 fights, losing none, and drawing none – and was the highest paid UFC fighter in 2022. You can be taller and less muscular than those in your division and still kick asses.
If you’re an aspiring MMA fighter and you’re particularly tall (or short), your body might present different advantages and disadvantages… but neither is necessarily better than the other. Make sure you get the right gear though – a 6’8″ grappler will have a tough time finding a Jiu Jitsu gi that fits 😆
Height is not a reliable attribute to consider when predicting an MMA fight. So, organizers use weight to allocate fighters into appropriate divisions. But height is linked to weight, as we can observe from the information above.
While height offers a reach advantage in many instances, it doesn’t necessarily determine a fight’s outcome or affect it significantly. If you’ve ever wondered how tall MMA fighters are, the stats above clearly show that fighters of a variety of heights can have success at the “highest” (ha) levels.