What does featherweight mean?

A Day with Jose Aldo
A Day with Jose Aldo / Buda Mendes/GettyImages

Everything you need to know about the featherweight division in MMA.

Weight classes and combat sports are simultaneously linked with each other. Although there was a time when anybody could fight anybody, and it produced some memorable moments, MMA decided to follow the boxing model and implement weight divisions.

This not only legitimized the sport but has also allowed athletes of all sizes to compete and strive to be world champions within set parameters. Whilst it is not a surprise to hear that the heavier weight classes tend to receive the most coverage and intrigue, it would be unfair to the smaller weight classes to say that their impact has not been just as large as their much bigger peers. The featherweight division is a perfect example of that. 

A weight class with its upper limit set at 146 pounds and 145 for title fights, the featherweight division has not only brought us legends but perhaps some of the most memorable moments in MMA history. It all starts with the man many considered the G.O.A.T of the division, the ‘King of Rio’ Jose Aldo. He was promoted to be the UFC’s first-ever featherweight champion after WEC was purchased by Zuffa LLC, the UFC’s parent company.

Carrying three title defenses from WEC, Aldo would increase this tally to 10 straight defenses in the UFC. The man to take his title would change the trajectory of the UFC and MMA forever, pushing the sport into a stratosphere that not many could have predicted.

That man was Conor McGregor, and while it may be difficult to picture him at 145 pounds given his current bulk, his run to the featherweight title, which ended with him knocking Aldo out in a mere 13 seconds, is absolutely legendary and perhaps the most important moment in MMA history. Following McGregor’s departure from 145, the UFC found its next star in Max Holloway, with the Hawaiian seriously jeopardizing Aldo’s spot as the 145 G.O.A.T. following a 13-fight win streak that included three title defenses.

That was until the current champion, Alexander Volkanovski, took the belt and humiliated Holloway 3-0 during their trilogy for the strap. Now, Volkanovski is beginning to rise more and more in the greatest of all-time conversation following four title defenses and an equally impressive 12-fight win streak, ensuring that featherweight will forever continue to have a crucial place in MMA. 

The UFC has both a male and female featherweight division

One must also touch upon the women’s featherweight division if we are discussing the 145-pound division. Whilst not an established weight class in the UFC, it has not stopped other promotions from hosting some of the most dangerous female fighters at their preferred fighting weight.

Amanda Nunes might be the UFC’s featherweight champion and maybe the greatest fighter of all time but the survival of the division is still hanging in the balance, as Dana White has said before that the division only exists as long as Nunes wants it to. Outside of the UFC, no fighter has ever placed as much fear into their competitors as Cris Cyborg. The current Bellator MMA and former UFC featherweight champion has vicious knockout power and has become a fan favorite given her tenacity and devastating victories. 

The fact that her only loss in 18 years is to Amanda Nunes showcases the consistency that Cyborg has competed with throughout her career, a career that will be established amongst the very best in women’s MMA history once she retires. 

Whether it is the greatness of Aldo and Cyborg, the introduction of Conor McGregor to the world, or the outstanding performances from Holloway and Volkanovski, it’s fair to say that the featherweight division has proven that it is amongst the best ever, and will only continue to get better as time passes. 

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