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UFC: Weight classes and current champions

When the UFC made its debut 30 years ago, it was very different to the slick, refined operation we have today.

There were minimal rules, and perhaps most notably, no weight classes. It wasn't until UFC 12 in 1997 that weight classes were introduced, and it wasn't until as recently as 2006 that the lighter weight classes were introduced following the UFC's acquisition of World Extreme Cagefighting, which boasted champions including Jose Aldo, Urijah Faber, and Dominick Cruz.

The UFC now has eight weight divisions for men and four for women.

Here are all of the weight classes and their current champions.

Heavyweight - 265lbs - Jon Jones

Record: 27-1 (1 NC)
Next fight: TBC

After Francis Ngannou left the UFC, vacating his title, the heavyweight division was awaiting a new champion.

Former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones finally made the step up to take on former challenger Ciryl Gane at UFC 285 on 4th March, winning via first-round guillotine.

Jones was set to fight arguably the UFC's greatest ever heavyweight in Stipe Miocic, but Jones was forced to withdraw through injury.

Interim heavyweight - 265lbs - Tom Aspinall

Record: 14-3 
Next fight: Curtis Blaydes (UFC 304, 27th July)

When Jon Jones was ruled out of his title fight with Stipe Miocic, and interim bout between Tom Aspinall and Sergei Pavlovich was set up.

Aspinall won via first-round knockout to claim the interim title, and will hope for a unification fight with Jones in 2024.

Aspinall confirmed his next fight will be at UFC 304 in Manchester, with Curtis Blaydes eventually confirmed as the opponent.

Light-heavyweight - 205lbs - Alex Pereira

Record: 10-2
Next fight: TBC

Jiri Prochazka's injury threw the division into turmoil in November 2022, vacating his title, with would-be challenger Glover Teixeira also pulling out of their proposed fight. Magomed Ankalaev and Jan Blachowicz fought out a draw, leaving the title without a holder, before Jamahal Hill beat Teixeira at UFC 283.

Hill suffered an injury of his own, leaving the division without a champion again, but with Alex Pereira's win at UFC 291, he found himself next in line to take on former champion Prochazka for the vacant belt at UFC 295.

Pereira won with a second-round TKO and defended his strap against Jamahal Hill at UFC 300.

Middleweight - 185lbs - Dricus du Plessis

Record: 21-2
Next fight: TBC

Filed alongside Georges St-Pierre losing to Matt Serra and Ronda Rousey losing to Holly Holm, Sean Strickland's shock victory over Israel Adesanya will forever go down as one of the UFC's greatest upsets.

Strickland failed to make a single defence of his title, however, losing by a razor-thin split decision to Dricus du Plessis at UFC 297.

Du Plessis called out Israel Adesanya, though the former champion said he'd be taking an extended break from MMA.

Welterweight - 170lbs - Leon Edwards

Record: 22-3 (1 NC)
Next fight: Belal Muhammad (UFC 304, 27th July)

For so long one of the hard-luck tales of the UFC, Leon Edwards finally got his title shot against P4P number one Kamaru Usman, winning with a devastating knockout with a minute left of the fight. 

Usman had looked nigh-on unbeatable during his title reign, and the pair met again at UFC 286 on 18th March, with Edwards winning via unanimous decision.

Edwards beat challenger Colby Covington on the second defence of his welterweight strap, gaining a unanimous decision victory over the American.

Lightweight - 155lbs - Islam Makhachev

Record: 25-1
Next fight: Dustin Poirier (UFC 302, 1st June)

Islam Makhachev had spent a long time on the outside looking in as the UFC's most competitive division battled it out for the title, with Charles Oliveira eventually establishing himself as the top dog, but Makhachev was always waiting in the wings, looking like a champion in waiting.

The pair met, with Makhachev capturing the title, and he made his first defence against Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284 on 12th February, narrowly out-pointing the Australian.

Makhachev's next defence came at UFC 294 against Volkanovski, after Charles Oliveira was forced to pull out through injury. Makhachev stopped his Australian opponent in the first round to claim a devastating KO victory.

While Oliveira's fight against Arman Tsarukyan was meant to be a #1 contender fight, Poirier will get the nod.

Featherweight - 145lbs - Ilia Topuria 

Record: 15-0
Next fight: TBC

Alexander Volkanovski claimed the featherweight title in 2019 and had clung on like a rabid dog ever since, before getting stopped by undefeated Ilia Topuria at UFC 298.

Despite Topuria's unbeaten record Volkanovski still came into the fight as the strong favourite and his knockout loss certainly qualified as an upset.

Talk is already underway about a potential rematch in Spain, but the featherweight division may be set to enter a new era with 27-year-old Topuria.

Bantamweight - 135lbs - Sean O'Malley

Record: 18-1 (1 NC)
Next fight: TBC

One of the most recognised faces in the sport, 'Sugar' Sean O'Malley took ownership of the bantamweight title in style by knocking out Aljamain Sterling at UFC 292.

O'Malley has been on the up for a number of years, but his ability to become world champion was still up for debate right up until his breath-taking stoppage of Sterling.

O'Malley, who has gained a strong following thanks to his natural charisma and flashy appearance, made his first defence against Marlon Vera in March, winning by unanimous decision.

Flyweight - 125lbs - Alexandre Pantoja

Record: 27-5
Next fight: TBC

After years of Demetrius Johnson dominance, Henry Cejudo became the king of the 125lbs division before hanging up the gloves, leaving a void at flyweight. Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueredo fought out a quadrilogy, with Moreno finally coming out on top to settle the score once and for all.

After back-to-back Performance of the Night contests, Alexandre Pantoja moved up to #2 in the flyweight rankings, setting up a third fight with Moreno since 2016.

Panjota won by split decision to record a third win over Moreno at UFC 290, and successfully made his first title defence against Brandon Royval at UFC 296 in a rematch of their 2021 bout.

Pantoja made his second defence against #10-ranked Steve Erceg, winning by unanimous decision at UFC 301.

Women's featherweight - 145lbs - Vacant

Following Amanda Nunes's retirement, Dana White suggested that women's featherweight division may be retired with the former champion. There's never been sufficient activity within the division, with Nunes only defending the title twice since capturing it in 2018.

Women's bantamweight - 135lbs - Raquel Pennington

Record: 16-9
Next fight: TBC

After the Ronda Rousey era came the Amanda Nunes era. A total of six title defences across two reigns saw Nunes match Rousey's record reign, but after her win over Irene Aldana, the Lioness hung up the gloves, leaving a gaping hole in the women's division.

Raquel Pennington, who beat Miesha Tate back in 2016 to set up an unsuccessful tilt at Nunes's crown, got a second bite of the cherry when taking on Mayra Bueno Silva at UFC 297 in January, claiming the belt via unanimous decision. 

Women's flyweight - 125lbs - Alexa Grasso

Record: 16-3-1
Next fight: TBC

While Amanda Nunes dominated the heavier women's weight classes, the 125lbs division belonged to Valentina Shevchenko since 2018. 

As invincible as Nunes looks at 135, Shevchenko looked her equal at 125, making seven straight title defences before running into Alexa Grasso at UFC 285, losing via a fourth-round face crank.

The pair faced off again on 16th September at UFC Fight Night 227, with the pair fighting out a razor-thin draw. Grasso and Shevchenko are coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 32 and may be set for a trilogy fight in the summer.

Women's strawweight - 115lbs - Weili Zhang

Record: 25-3
Next fight: TBC

After losing her crown to Rose Namajunas, and controversially losing the rematch, Zhang won her next two fights to regain the title against Carla Esparza.

Zhang then beat Amanda Lemos at UFC 292, winning again on the landmark UFC 300 card against Yan Xiaonan. 

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