What does welterweight mean?

UFC 217: Bisping v St-Pierre
UFC 217: Bisping v St-Pierre / Mike Stobe/GettyImages

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

Every MMA promotion has weight classes. Whether it is the UFC, Bellator MMA, ONE Championship, or Cage Warriors, every single mixed martial arts company, whether global or local, will count on different weight classes to separate their athletes.

Not only does this legitimize the sport as the chances of watching a huge competitor against a person barely half of their weight is gone, but it also allows fighters to strive for greatness within specific weight parameters. It also creates limits for fighters, and whilst some will try to cut as much weight as possible, others choose to remain more or less in a comfortable range so that their next weight cut does not completely drain them. 

A weight class that has proven to be extremely popular despite not having the largest athletes throwing punches at each other is welterweight. This division tends to have a multitude of fighters come and go, testing the waters of the 170-pound limit before deciding to keep cutting weight whilst others look to bulk up.

170 pounds is the maximum limit for championship fights and this gets increased to 171 for non-title bouts, however, don’t let the lack of size fool you, this is still one of the most exciting weight classes in all of MMA history. 

To talk of welterweight and not talk about George St. Pierre would be sacrilegious in an MMA context. The two-time UFC 170-pound champion, who also captured an interim title in the division, is considered by many fans, media, and former fighters as the greatest of all time given his lengthy resume as well as his extremely well-rounded MMA game.

St. Pierre has the second most wins in UFC title fights, with 13, as well as being third all-time when it comes to consecutive title defenses as he defended his welterweight strap a ridiculous nine times in a row. Despite his dominance, St. Pierre wasn’t the only 170-pounder that was turning heads. Matt Hughes was considered the greatest of all time before St. Pierre came along, B.J. Penn was one of if not the most exciting fighter to watch in the early 2000s, and who can forget Matt Serra’s huge upset win over St. Pierre to capture the title back in 2007.

Kamaru Usman, who lost the title back in August to current champion Leon Edwards, was on the trajectory to be considered the G.O.A.T. prior to his defeat. Welterweight also gave us the Diaz brothers, who despite never capturing UFC gold, became iconic players in raising the popularity of MMA around the world. One of the biggest rivalries in UFC history, Connor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz, took place at welterweight.

 These are just a few of the killers who called 170 pounds their home and the division has continued to prove that it is still one of the premier weight classes in MMA. The talent at disposal in the UFC currently makes it one of the most competitive and cutthroat divisions in all of combat sports, and with Edwards rematching Usman for a third time at UFC 286 in April with the belt on the line, it appears that welterweight will continue to entertain in the immediate future and for many years to come. 

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