Bellator Weight Classes (Fully Explained)

Bellator Weight Classes

Bellator is widely regarded as the second-best MMA promotion in the world. Like most others, it has also adopted the Unified Rules of MMA, according to which fighters are split into different weight divisions. How many weight classes are there in Bellator, you may ask?

Bellator has eight weight classes in total ranging from flyweight (125 lbs; 56.7 kg) all the way up to heavyweight (265 lbs; 120.2 kg). Men fighters compete across all weight classes except flyweight, while female fighters compete only in flyweight and featherweight.

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at Bellator weight classes. You will also learn what happens when a fighter misses weight, as well as how the concept differs from the one in the UFC.

How Many Weight Classes Are There in Bellator?

Bellator has eight weight classes in total out of which seven are used by men, and two by female fighters. The gap between each division ranges between 10 and 20 pounds in most cases. The only exception is the gap between light heavyweight and heavyweight which is 60 pounds. Here is a detailed explanation of the upper and lower weight limits of each one.

Weight Class Lower weight limit Upper weight limit
Flyweight 115 lbs (52.5 kg) 125 lbs (56.7 kg)
Bantamweight 125 lbs (56.7 kg) 135 lbs (61.2 kg)
Featherweight 135 lbs (61.2 kg) 145 lbs (65.8 kg)
Lightweight 145 lbs (65.8 kg) 155 lbs (70.3 kg)
Welterweight 155 lbs (70.3 kg) 170 lbs (77.1 kg)
Middleweight 170 lbs (77.1 kg) 185 lbs (83.9 kg)
Light Heavyweight 185 lbs (83.9 kg) 205 lbs (93 kg)
Heavyweight 205 lbs (93 kg) 265 lbs (120.2 kg)

Like most other promotions, Bellator adopted the “Unified Rules of MMA” created in 2000. According to this specific rule set, MMA promotions have 16 weight classes at their disposal, but they do not have to adopt them all. This is why Bellator has “only” eight in total as they are not obligated to have all since this requires significant resources.

Men Bellator Weight Classes

Men Bellator fighters compete across 7 different weight classes. Here is a detailed explanation:

Weight Class Lower weight limit Upper weight limit
Bantamweight 125 lbs (56.7 kg) 135 lbs (61.2 kg)
Featherweight 135 lbs (61.2 kg) 145 lbs (65.8 kg)
Lightweight 145 lbs (65.8 kg) 155 lbs (70.3 kg)
Welterweight 155 lbs (70.3 kg) 170 lbs (77.1 kg)
Middleweight 170 lbs (77.1 kg) 185 lbs (83.9 kg)
Light Heavyweight 185 lbs (83.9 kg) 205 lbs (93 kg)
Heavyweight 205 lbs (93 kg) 265 lbs (120.2 kg)

Women’s Bellator Weight Classes

Bellator has only two weight classes for women:

Weight Class Lower weight limit Upper weight limit
Flyweight 115 lbs (52.5 kg) 125 lbs (56.7 kg)
Bantamweight 125 lbs (56.7 kg) 135 lbs (61.2 kg)

How Do Weight Classes Work in Bellator?

Bellator weight classes and the way the concept works in practice is very much the same as in all other promotions. When they sign a contract, each fighter must choose a weight class according to their physical size (weight). Each division has upper and lower weight limits according to which they pick the one that suits their physical size.

Physically smaller fighters choose lower divisions such as bantamweight and featherweight. Medium-sized ones go to lightweight, welterweight, or middleweight. Light-heavyweight and heavyweight are reserved for the “big boys”.

The majority of fighters go through a brutal weight-cutting process where they lose up to 15% of their total body weight. They do this to compete in a class below their natural one to gain a competitive advantage.

For example, a fighter weighing 210–220 pounds cuts all the way down to 185 to compete as a middleweight (upper weight limit). In the week leading up to a fight, they would decrease the intake of fluid, carbs, and salt. They would lose up 30 pounds before the official weighing-ins, organized on Friday (in most cases).

On the day of the way-ins, fighters must step on the scale within the upper and lower weight limits of the division they are booked to compete in. If it is a non-title match, they are allowed to miss weight by 1 pound. However, if there is a title on the line, both the champion and challenger must hit the scale on target without being half a pound over or below the limit.

Once the weighing-in is done, the match is official as far as the athletic commission is concerned. Both fighters would have around 24h to rehydrate their bodies, gain the majority of the lost weight back, and enter the cage far above the upper limits of the weight class.

Can Bellator Fighters Switch Weight Classes?

Yes, Bellator fighters are allowed to move up and down in weight as long as that makes sense. There is no rule stopping the fighters from changing their weight classes. As long as a fighter can step on the scale within the upper and lower weight limits of a specific division, they are free to make a change and test their luck in a weight class below or above their regular one. But why would Bellator fighters change weight classes?

There are two main reasons. Some fighters might feel “small” in a specific weight class and inferior to other athletes when it comes to size, reach, and overall strength. Thus, they might decide to cut more weight, drop a division down, and test their luck against physically smaller opponents, at least on paper. This comes at a certain price as cutting more weight means more stress on the body. This might have a negative impact on their performance, notably cardio, on fight night.

In the other scenario, a fighter might decide to move up in weight because they can no longer make weight and go through the grueling process of weight cutting. At some point, their bodies would start failing them, and they might decide to move up and compete in a division closer to their natural one.

Although this means facing bigger opponents, they will feel much better, have more strength, and enter the match in a better mood.

What Happens When A Fighter Misses Weight in Bellator?

When a Bellator fighter misses weight the fight is not canceled straight away. No, if they fail in their first attempt, fighters will get one or two more hours to lose extra weight backstage. The weigh-ins are overseen by the Athletic Commission of the state in which the event takes place and it is up to them to decide how much time they will give a fighter to try and lose more weight.

An extra hour or two is often enough for most fighters to lose a pound or even two pounds. They would then come back and make weight in their second attempt, and in that case, the fight is official. However, if they miss weight a second time, then there are two possible scenarios. First, the match gets canceled and stripped off the card. In the second, the promotion and Athletic Commission would try to arrange a catchweight fight.

They would ask the opponent who successfully made weight to accept the fight at the new upper limit (usually the last recorded weight of a fighter who missed the scale). They can either accept or refuse to fight under new circumstances. In most cases, they will say yes to save the card and show their loyalty to the company. A fighter who missed weight would also give 20–30% of their fight purse to their opponent as compensation for not being professional.

The last thing left is for the commission to approve the match, which they do in most cases.

Why Bellator divisions are Split by Weight and Not Height?

Height does not represent a big advantage in a fight, or not as much as weight does. In fact, being too tall or short for a division is often considered a disadvantage. Not all fighters know how to maximize their long physical attributes in a fight, and they are often prone to takedowns for example.

Weight plays a big factor when it comes to both striking and grappling. In the grappling department, it enables you to overwhelm the opponent with sheer physical strength to take them down, and control against the fence or in the bottom position. Height is a factor in grappling, but nowhere near as much as weight.

Next, more weight means more power when it comes to punches and kicks. Fighters who weigh more are capable of generating more force in every strike, and with that, cause more damage upon impact. Letting a 265 heavyweight punch a 185-pound middleweight could cause serious, life-threatening injuries. On the other side, being tall doesn’t necessarily mean you can strike harder.

Thus, the main reason why fighters are split by weight is the power/damage ratio, and the safety of the fighters.

Bellator Grand Prix Weight Classes

Bellator organization promotes the sport of MMA through two different formats. There are single events where fighters compete in single matches and where the main goal is to win the championship belt. And there is a tournament-based format that Bellator also conducts as seasons.

Each season lasts around three months during which eight fighters per weight class compete against each other.

Tournaments have been a part of Bellator since its establishment back in the 2009. They adopted this concept from PRIDE FC, which collapsed two years prior, in an attempt to differentiate their product from the UFC. It’s reasonable to assume the concept was successful as Bellator Grand Prix Tournaments are present to this day.

As far as the weight classes are concerned, each Bellator season is different. It includes between 4 and 6 weight classes for both men and women, but not all. First, athletes compete in a regular season, before moving on to the elimination tournament where the winner becomes the “Bellator Grand Prix Winner” of a specific weight class.

Difference between UFC and Bellator Weight Classes?

The biggest difference is the number of weight classes. The UFC has 12 weight classes in total out of which 8 are form men, and 4 for female fighters. Bellator has 9 weight classes in total out of which 7 are for men and 2 for female fighters. Other than that, everything else is the same including the upper and lower weight limit of each weight class.

Here is a detailed comparison.

Weight Class UFC Bellator
Strawweight None – 115lbs  Does not include this weight class
Flyweight 115 lbs – 125 lbs (for both men and women) 115 lbs – 125 lbs (for women only)
Bantamweight 125lbs-135lbs (both men and women) 125lbs-135lbs (for both men and women)
Featherweight 135lbs-145lbs (both men and women) 135lbs-145lbs (men only)
Lightweight 145lbs-155lbs (men only) 145lbs-155lbs (men only)
Welterweight 155lbs-170lbs (men only) 155lbs-170lbs (men only)
Middleweight 170lbs-185lbs (men only) 170lbs-185lbs (men only)
Light Heavyweight 185lbs-205lbs (men only) 185lbs-205lbs (men only)
Heavyweight 205lbs-265lbs (men only) 205lbs-265lbs (men only)

Final Thoughts

Bellator weight classes are very much the same as in other big promotions because the weight divisions are structured according to the “Unified Rules of MMA”. If you compare it with the UFC, for instance, the only key difference in Bellator is that there is no flyweight weight class for men and strawweight for female fighters. Apart from that, everything else remains the same, including the upper and lower weight limits of each weight class.

According to Unified Rules, there are 16 weight classes and whether Bellator is going to add more is up to the promotion, their business model, and the public demand. But overall, this would be highly unlikely as they don’t have enough resources to add more divisions, notably when it comes to the number of fighters.

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