Following his monumental win at UFC 205, #ConorMcGregor’s rending of a second world championship from former titleholder Eddie Alvarez has redefined MMA’s standard for excellence. Becoming the first fighter to hold concurrent UFC titles, much of the discussion has centered around McGregor’s place in the pantheon of all-time greats, and how this singular achievement should be weighed against the years of dominance offered by other greats in their respective divisions.
During his appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones spoke briefly about the idea of holding two world championships, himself. Stating that he was awaiting a preferable opponent to challenge for the heavyweight belt, Jones speculated on his likely success in a weight class currently foreign to MMA, 225lbs.
“I would like there to be at least another weight class when it comes to us big boys,” Jones told Rogan. “I believe that if there were a 225lb weight class, I’d be a two-belt holder myself.”
In a pragmatic sense, the distribution of talent within certain divisions could lead to a situation where expanded weight class options may adversely affect the depth of already-shallow divisions. In a purely hypothetical sense, it is still worth examining which of MMA’s greatest fighters possess the most potential for concurrent UFC championship reigns under a more liberal weight distribution. In order to do so, we’ll hypothesize about what the UFC’s championship landscape would look like were they to utilize boxing’s weight classes.
The fighters highlighted here are those who are most likely to achieve multi-divisional dominance, and certain considerations will be made. In the case of Jon Jones and other suspended athletes, his current suspension will not be factored in. All weight classes will be curated under the assumption that every fighter will be willing to move up or down in weight to challenge for championships in nearby divisions. This should minimize variables and allow for a more open dissection of the sport’s potential multi-weight champions.
Divisions: 122lbs, 126lbs, 130lbs
The UFC’s flyweight king would find himself in prime position for a multiple-division title run under boxing’s weight classes. With the UFC’s elite bantamweights too large to make 130lbs, and with Johnson himself small enough to cut even lower than 125lbs, he would be challenged in these divisions by his usual cast of flyweight opponents, along with smaller bantamweights. With champion Dominick Cruz likely unable to cut to 130lbs, Johnson’s only legitimate new threat would be former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw, who has stated in the past that he could cut all the way to 125lbs.
Divisions: 135lbs, 140lbs
The UFC’s bantamweight champion would be a near shoe-in to establish himself atop a 140lb weight division. With his greatest current rival, TJ Dillashaw, more likely to move down in weight than up, Cruz’s most threatening new foes would come in the form of Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes, two elite featherweights with frames more suited to bantamweight who could make 140lbs with little difficulty. Cruz would likely be favored against both men.
Divisions: 147lbs, 154lbs
Too large for 145lbs, but comfortable at 155, a more charitable weight distribution would benefit McGregor in the two divisions which he has already conquered.
Divisions: 168lbs, 175lbs
Though coming off a draw in his recent title fight against Tyron Woodley, Stephen “Wondeboy” Thompson may be the fighter best equipped to find success at both 168 & 175lbs. A large welterweight who could still likely cut an additional two pounds, Thompson is a stylistic nightmare for most opponents, and would face little in the way of elite middleweights dropping in weight class.
Divisions: 112lbs, 115lbs, 118lbs, 122lbs, 126lbs
Women’s weight classes are more nebulous in boxing than men’s, and thus more difficult to pin down, but as a framing device designed to examine how a current champion may perform against a diversified pool of foes, few appear more untouchable than Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Perhaps capable of dominating as many as five weight divisions, Jedrzejczyk has in the past stated her desire to compete in a women’s 125lb weight class. Her most notable opponents would reside in the 126lb division, alongside smaller bantamweights such as Valentina Shevchenko, who holds multiple wins over the UFC strawweight champion in Muay Thai.
Boxing’s weight classes may present some applicability issues in an MMA context, but the landscape of the sport, and the capacity of its athletes to achieve greatness within many divisions, may prove to be significantly more interesting in a world where divisions are separated by less imposing chasms of mass.