As a UFC fan, you are probably familiar with what the rankings are. They are simply a number system that tells you who the best fighters are in each weight class, compared to other fighters in the same division.
But there are a lot of questions you might have about the ranking system. Who makes the rankings? What qualifies a fighter for ranking? What are the rules?
So in this post, I’m going to explain everything there is to know about the ranking system. So how do the UFC rankings work?
The UFC rankings are decided by a panel consisting of journalists from different networks. These people vote for which fighter should be in which position in the rankings. The votes are then aggregated to create the official UFC rankings.
Let’s take a closer look at who decides the rankings, and other details you should know.
So we know that members of the media cast the votes that decide the official rankings. But what exactly constitutes a “member of the media”? Let’s look at exactly who is deciding these rankings.
First, let’s look at the UFC’s official statement on how the rankings are decided, which you can find on the rankings page.
Rankings were generated by a voting panel made up of media members. The media members were asked to vote for who they feel are the top fighters in the UFC by weight-class and pound-for-pound. A fighter is only eligible to be voted on if they are in active status in the UFC.UFC Rankings page
The rankings are basically an average of the votes cast by the media members. The media members are allowed to vote for any fighter who is currently active on the UFC roster, and can include a fighter in several weight classes. The members vote for the top fifteen fighters in each weight division.
The only exception is that champions and interim champions are defaulted to the first and second spots respectively in their division, as their champion status labels them as the best in their weight class.
So unfortunately, the UFC isn’t very specific on how the particular media members are chosen for voting, and doesn’t disclose if there are any requirements.
According to an article by MyMMANews, the only requirement for members of the panel is that they vote on rankings within 48 hours of an event, or risk being pulled from the panel.
I’m going to be using that article by MyMMANews pretty often as a source. The reason why is that they reached out to several members who were in the voting panel at the time, and they are a fairly reputable MMA site. Also, they are currently members of the voting panel, meaning they have more insight into how the rankings work.
It seems that at the time the article by MyMMANews was written (two years ago), you could see each individual voter’s name. On top of that, you could see the rankings as decided by each individual voter. This was useful at the time, as you could clearly see bias or misjudgment simply by glancing at a voter’s picks. Here’s an example:
At UFC 194, interim featherweight champ Conor McGregor knocked out the long-reigning champion Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds. Given that McGregor beat Aldo, you would assume that McGregor would jump above him in the pound-for-pound rankings.
You would assume correctly, because McGregor went from #12 all the way up to #3, with Aldo dropping from #1 to #6. However, a Brazilian journalist named Marcelo Russio had a different opinion. Russio was a voter through Brazilian MMA site Canal Combate, and provided his updated rankings after UFC 194 as he should.
And his rankings seemed a bit biased to say the least. Instead of moving McGregor up in the rankings, he unexplicably moved McGregor down for spots, from #11 to #15. Jose Aldo however, was only moved down one spot, from #1 to #2.
This goes to show the lack of qualifications required to vote on the rankings, which makes them susceptible to bias and ignorance. Russio’s bias was made public through posts such as this one by SportsJoe, as the voter’s rankings were still on the UFC’s site at the time.
Unfortunately, the UFC does not provide that info today. The UFC rankings page only shows the official rankings once they have been voted on.
One thing the UFC does still show is the outlets that vote, just not the individual members of those networks. Let’s look at who these networks are, what they cover, and their domain expertise in regards to MMA.
So here is a current list of the media networks deciding the rankings, as well as a small description of each one:
KHON Honolulu – TV station licensed in Honolulu, Hawaii.
MMA Oddsbreaker – Source for MMA odds as well as news and updates.
CFMU 93.3 – A Canadian radio station, owned and operated by the McMaster Students Union at McMaster University.
Bursprak.se – A Swedish MMA website which doesn’t exist, and apparently hasn’t existed for years now (at least two, as MyMMANews reported that the website didn’t exist even two years ago, and their last Instagram post was in 2017). I assume the vote is still held by their former representative Christoffer Esping, who has had questionable rankings in the past.
FightNews – A news site focusing on coverage of boxing.
Fight Network – A Canadian TV network with programming focused on combat sports, including MMA, kickboxing, boxing, and pro wrestling.
Gazeta Esportiva – A Brazilian sports website focusing on soccer.
Cherokee Scout – A news network based in North Carolina covering local news in Murphy and Cherokee county.
Burbank Leader – A local newspaper based out of Burbank, California.
MMA Weekly – Well-known and established MMA news site and the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Independent MMA Website”.
KIOZ 105.3 – Radio station licensed in San Diego.
Vladusport.com – A French sports website which no longer exists. Their twitter bio (translated from French) says: “it’s a little bit of all sports, it’s UFC, it’s surfing, it’s biathlon, it’s NBA, it’s NFL, it’s soccer , it’s F1, …”. Their last tweet was in 2013.
Wrestling Observer – News site primarily covering pro wrestling, with very occasional and scarce coverage of MMA.
Top Turtle Podcast – Podcast hosted on FloCombat covering MMA.
My MMA News – Website primarily covering MMA, but also several other combat sports such as boxing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, etc.
MMA Fight Radio (now MMA Fight Coverage) – MMA news site revolving around a podcast hosted by boxing judge Shawn “Dallas” Hall, along with co-hosts and UFC fighters Cortney Casey and Drakkar Klose.
BoxeoMundial – Site mainly covering boxing news along with occasional MMA coverage.
Kimura.se – Swedish MMA news site.
MMA Soldier – MMA news site run by military veteran and former amateur MMA fighter Rodney James Edgar.
MMA NYTT – Swedish MMA site.
Blood & Sweat – Russian MMA site.
Inside Fighting Radio – MMA Radio show hosted running in South Florida at 9am ET, on Sports Radio 1230 The Zone.
Before give an opinion, I should mention a caveat. I can’t be sure, but I believe that this list is outdated, and that there are some networks listed here that no longer contribute to the rankings.
However, it is impossible to know if that is the case, as we only have the UFC Rankings page to go by, where I found this list. The UFC states that these are the networks currently contributing to the rankings, but it doesn’t state when the list was last updated, so keep that in mind.
At a slight glance I want to assume that most people would take issue with the makeup of topics that these media outlets cover. Here’s a quick breakdown of the topics by outlet:
There are 22 outlets in total. 5 of them cover miscellaneous or local news.
That means out of 22 outlets, only 17 are dedicated to any kind of sport. Of these 17, one is dedicated to soccer, another to pro wrestling, and another is a general sports site.
That leaves only 14 outlets dedicated to combat sports (not including pro wrestling). 2 are dedicated to boxing, while 12 are dedicated to MMA.
My main question is, why are these miscellaneous outlets here? The ones that have nothing to do with MMA? I’m sure there are many better networks that are more qualified to create rankings than any of the 5 sites that cover broad news topics.
And why is a soccer site here? There is almost no value in having a news network contribute to the rankings of a sport that it does not cover at all. I’d even argue that sites focusing on boxing should be excluded from contributing, as it is a completely different domain from MMA.
Sure, MMA and boxing are both combat sports and somewhat related. But I would assume that the UFC wants the best MMA pundits ranking the fighters, not boxing journalists who occasionally watch a UFC fight.
All this is simply to state that UFC rankings should be taken with a grain of salt, as the rankings are created by media outlets, half of which do not primarily cover MMA.
If you made it to the end of this post, I appreciate you sticking through it. There is a lot more than can be said about the UFC ranking system, but the main purpose of this post was to explain how it works. Here’s a quick summary of the post.
In short, UFC rankings are decided by representatives from 22 media outlets chosen by the UFC. The journalists representing their network cast their votes for the rankings, which are averaged out to create the official UFC rankings.
I hope the post helped you understand how UFC rankings work. If it did please consider checking out similar posts on the Fan Questions page. Thanks for reading!