What does heavyweight mean?

August 17, 2019; Anaheim, CA, USA; Stipe Miocic celebrates his championship victory by TKO against
August 17, 2019; Anaheim, CA, USA; Stipe Miocic celebrates his championship victory by TKO against / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

What does heavyweight mean?

The world of combat sports, whether it is MMA, boxing, or jiu-jitsu, is divided by weight classes to ensure that competition is not only fair between two athletes of relatively the same size but it also helps in professionalizing the sport.

While watching two athletes of completely different sizes match up against each other is often extremely fun, it does not carry much logic outside of that. Without weight classes, who will be able to call themselves a champion and what would the parameters be to win or even compete for titles? These boundaries in size help to legitimize combat sports and that is no exception when it comes to MMA. 

The common question then arises: What is the best MMA weight class? You won’t be surprised to hear that much like in boxing, heavyweights rule. 

What does heavyweight mean?

Heavyweight fighters are among the biggest stars in the sport, their sheer size is enough for anyone to want to tune in to a fight as everyone patiently waits for either man to be brutally knocked out.

Unlike in boxing, MMA’s heavyweights do not have an unlimited amount of weight they can carry and must weigh a maximum of 265 pounds if they wish to compete, having to go over 205 pounds to enter the heavyweight threshold, although this differs per promotion.

Perhaps the most exciting part of watching heavyweights throw their weight around is that rankings, styles, or even size can end up being irrelevant if one gets caught. All a heavyweight needs is a puncher’s chance and we have seen fighters pull sensational last-second knockouts simply because they carry all that power behind their fists.

Ask Derrick Lewis how his fight against Alexander Volkov went. Despite there being lots of excitement and intrigue whenever heavyweights fight, it has to be said that heavyweight competitors have not fared as well as the champions from lower weight classes when it comes to being considered the greatest of all time. 

Who is the greatest heavyweight of all time?

While other weight classes have had legends with over 10 title defenses in a row, the UFC’s heavyweight record for most consecutive title defenses sits at three, which occurred during Stipe Miocic’s first reign as champion.

Currently, the UFC does not even have a heavyweight champion, as the last man to carry the strap, Francis Ngannou, left the company after a heated contract dispute. Thankfully, fans won’t have to wait too long for the belt to switch hands as the title is on the line on March 4, 2023, at UFC 285, with either Jon Jones or Cyril Gane walking away as the champion.

While the UFC’s heavyweight title is yet to be decided, one thing that cannot be questioned is who the greatest MMA practitioner to fight at the riskiest weight class is.

That man is none other than Fedor Emelianenko, PRIDE FC’s greatest jewel when the now-defunct Japanese promotion was regularly competing with the UFC for the biggest MMA promotion in the world during the mid-2000s. Although Emelianenko also only managed to defend his title three times, he was undefeated for over a decade in what was the most competitive weight class in all of MMA at the time, defeating some of the world’s best that the sport had to offer. After a career spanning over 23 years, Emelianenko retired in 2023, but not before challenging for another heavyweight title in his last fight aged 46. While he ultimately came up short, his legacy was long cemented as the greatest heavyweight of all time, perhaps the greatest fighter of all time. 

With the next UFC pay-per-view being headlined by a heavyweight title fight, the weight class with the most eyes on it, as well as the most prestige, will once again look to prove exactly why the heavyweight champion of the world is considered ‘the baddest man on the planet.’