Fan Questions | Martial Arts History

How Does The UFC Measure Reach?

So as you likely know, fighters usually have their reach listed in their stats, along with their record, height, and weight. You may have seen the reach of some fighters and noticed that it is very long, sometimes longer than their own height in inches! So how does the UFC measure reach?

In short, the UFC measures a fighter’s reach by measuring the distance from fingertip to fingertip when their arms are stretched out, parallel to the ground. In other words, reach is measured the same way as arm span or wingspan would be.

In the rest of the post, I’m going to show you how the wingspan/reach gets measured, as well as what an ape index is, and how it relates to reach.

How Reach Is Measured In The UFC

So as already mentioned, a fighter’s reach is basically mastered from fingertip to fingertip, with the arms stretched out. The image below shows exactly how it is measured, courtesy of pre-tattoo Conor McGregor.

Here's an image of McGregor getting his reach measured prior to his UFC debut.
Here’s an image of McGregor getting his reach measured prior to his UFC debut.

This is why you the reach listed for UFC fighters is almost as long as they are tall, as typically a person’s wingspan is about the same as their height. The difference in measurement between height and wingspan is known as a fighter’s “ape index”.

What Is An Ape Index In MMA?

A fighter’s ape index is the difference between their wingspan and their height. For example, to find the ape index of Jon Jones, we take his height in inches, which is 76 inches. Then, we subtract that from his wingspan/reach (which is 85 inches), and we get Jones’ ape index, which is +9.

I believe it is the biggest ape index in the UFC ever. Ape index is talked about often due to its relation to the fighter’s height. The ape index basically tells you how much longer a fighter’s arms are than his height, which you can gauge their relative advantage with.

This picture gives you an idea of how crazy Jones' reach is. Dude can scratch his knee without bending over.
This picture gives you an idea of how crazy Jones’ reach is. Dude can scratch his knee without bending over.

For example, Jon Jones, a light-heavyweight who is 6’4, will obviously have a much longer reach than Conor McGregor, who is a 5’9 lightweight. However, their ape index is narrower than their actual reach, and it gives you more insight into how much of an advantage their reach gives them, regardless of height.

McGregor’s ape index is +5, which is relatively high, and he is usually at a reach advantage against his opponents. However, you can tell that Jon Jones has an odd body composition, because he ALWAYS has the reach advantage with his +9 ape index.

So we’ve covered reach/wingspan and ape index, but the UFC also measures another type of reach: leg reach.

How Is Leg Reach Measured?

In late 2015, the UFC started to measure leg reach and included it as a stat for each of their fighters. This makes sense, as a fighter has a limited range with their kicks as they do with their punches. Of course, this is not very common to see, as this stat is useless in boxing for example, where the “tale of the tape” style stats originally come from.

So how is leg reach measured in the UFC? According to SportsJoe.ie, “leg reach is measured from the hipbone to the heel”, meaning that just the fighter’s individual leg is measured, and not the span of their legs, as is done with the arms.

Here is an example of how leg reach is measured by the UFC, as noted by 'Line B'. Note that it starts at the hip, and is not the same as the 'inseam' measurement.
Here is an example of how leg reach is measured by the UFC, as noted by ‘Line B’. Note that it starts at the hip, and is not the same as the ‘inseam’ measurement.

This seems to be a truer way of measuring reach, as it cannot be easily manipulated like wingspan can. For example, if a fighter wanted to, they could simply bring their shoulders together a bit while being measured, and present a shorter wingspan than what they actually have.

However, since the actual length of the limb is being measured for leg reach, it is not easily manipulated.

Should Reach Be Measured Differently?

There have been arguments made (typically on MMA forums and such) by fans who think that reach should be measured differently, as the current measurement is really the wingspan, which is less informative about a fighter’s advantage than it could be.

Fans have suggested that the reach stat be measured in the way that the mans arm is in 5, from shoulder to fingertip.
Fans have suggested that the reach stat be measured in the way that the man’s arm is in 5, from shoulder to fingertip.

Instead, the fans have suggested that the measurement for reach be changed to measuring the length of an individual arm, such as in the case for leg reach. The arm would be measured starting at the armpit, and ending at the fingertip.

This makes sense, as there is a lot of information included in the wingspan that can alter a fighter’s perceived advantage. For example, a fighter with broad shoulders might have the same wingspan as a fighter with long arms and narrow shoulders. However, the fighter with actually longer arms will have the real advantage once in the fight.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the UFC will change the way reach is measured, as it has been done this way for so long, since before the UFC was started.

That’s pretty much all there is to say about reach in the UFC.

I appreciate you reading to the end of this post. If you enjoyed, consider checking out some similar ones on the Martial Arts History page. Thanks for reading!