In the last few weeks, a handful of MMA’s best fighters have switched weight divisions or announced a move. Former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao told local Brazilian media he would be moving up to featherweight while former two-time flyweight title challenger John Dodson most recently announced his move up to bantamweight.
On the flipside, top-15 women’s bantamweight, Jessica Andrade has announced a drop to the strawweight division while the lone original cast member of the first Ultimate Fighter, Diego Sanchez will be testing the featherweight waters against top-five fighter, Ricardo Lamas next month.
With the controversial IV ban — along with more stringent drug testing protocols — fighters moving up or down in weight could be a growing trend. On that note, there have been plenty of MMA fighters who have competed successfully at two weight classes.
Below is a list of five of the most notable two-division fighters from 2010 onwards:
Joseph Benavidez (Bantamweight/Flyweight)
Lyoto Machida (Light Heavyweight/Middleweight)
Conor McGregor (Lightweight/Featherweight)
Pat Curran (Lightweight/Featherweight)
Joe Warren (Featherweight/Bantamweight)
5. Hector Lombard (Middleweight/Welterweight)
Although currently serving a one-year suspension for being busted for anabolic steroids in his last UFC fight against Josh Burkman back in January, there is no denying “Showeather” Lombard’s accomplishments the last six years. Lombard was a former Bellator middleweight champion and was virtually unbeatable until he signed with the UFC.
He would go 1-2 as a middleweight with controversial defeats to Tim Boetsch and Yushin Okami but would regain his dominance moving down to welterweight where he would trounce former title contenders, Nate Marquardt and Jake Shields. Lombard has long been in title conversations and after serving his suspension should be back in the picture potentially in a number one contender’s bout.
4. Anthony Johnson (Welterweight/Light Heavyweight)
The man better known as “Rumble” is a very interesting case. Johnson made his UFC debut as a welterweight flashing serious knockout power and going 7-3 (with one loss coming via a referee screw up). Johnson would however continuously suffer making weight even in moving up to middleweight, which would lead him to getting cut by the UFC.
Since being cut, Johnson remade himself and moved all the way up to light heavyweight and has gone 10-1 since with his only loss being to current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Daniel Cormier. Rumble has wins over Phil Davis, Alexander Gustafsson and even heavyweight Andrei Arlovski. His resurgence is a perfect case for fighters to fight in their natural weight class as opposed to depleting their bodies to have a size advantage in smaller weight classes.
3. Demetrious Johnson (Bantamweight/Flyweight)
Once upon a time, the world’s most dominant flyweight fighter was once an undersized bantamweight. “Mighty Mouse” made his Zuffa debut under their WEC banner where he would lose a decision to Brad Pickett. That wouldn’t deter the Washingtonian as he would ring off four consecutive victories including back-to-back wins over featherweight and bantamweight legends Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and Miguel Torres. He was competitive in challenging the much bigger Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight title but was unsuccessful.
The UFC then implemented a flyweight division and in 10 fights since the division’s birth, a single draw has been Johnson’s only blemish. The current UFC flyweight champion seems to get better with each fight and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. The UFC title defense record seems like a very strong possibility for “Mighty Mouse.”
2. Frankie Edgar (Lightweight/Featherweight)
Few fighters can match the unbreakable will of one Frankie “The Answer” Edgar. The Toms River warrior rose to prominence in his back-to-back upsets of two-division champion and UFC legend B.J. Penn. Edgar was already an undersized lightweight fighting exactly at his natural weight of 155 taking on much larger fighters like Gray Maynard whom he defended his belt from in two spectacular contests that saw Edgar rally from the brink of defeat twice.
Edgar would lose his title in controversial fashion to Benson Henderson and would come within a judge’s scorecard at getting it back. Instead, he moved down to featherweight to give the indomitable Jose Aldo a run for his money and has been unbeaten since with dominant victories over Urijah Faber and Cub Swanson. A title shot is in the near future for Edgar and he could well be on his way to becoming only the third two-division champion in UFC history.
1. Daniel Cormier (Heavyweight/Light Heavyweight)
A former Olympian and NCAA Division I champion runner-up, Cormier started into MMA at 30 and took it by storm. Debuting in 2009 as a small heavyweight, Cormier dominated the competition with his powerful wrestling and heavy hitting. He would go unbeaten with wins over “Bigfoot” Silva, Josh Barnett and former UFC heavyweight champion, Frank Mir as well as winning the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix as a reserve fighter. But with close training partner, Cain Velasquez already ruling the division, Cormier would make the drop to light heavyweight.
As a light heavyweight, Cormier continued to dominate and dusted Patrick Cummins and former two-division PRIDE champion Dan Henderson. He would lose a competitive championship bout to Jon Jones suffering his first and only defeat. As fate would have it, Jones would be stripped of the title opening the door for Cormier to quickly bounce back and end Anthony Johnson’s red-hot winning streak to win the belt. He would defend the belt in a Fight of the Year worthy clash with Alexander Gustafsson and further cement himself as one of the sport’s all-time greatest fighters. Had his friend Cain not been the UFC champion, one can wonder if Cormier would’ve been a two-division champion by now.