As a new UFC fan, or even as a casual viewer, it is important to know the nuances of a UFC fight. And one of the most important aspects of any combat sport is the number of rounds involved. So in this post, I’m going to cover the following: How many rounds are there in UFC fights?
There are either 3 or 5 rounds in a UFC fight. Normal bouts are 3 rounds in length, while championship and main event fights are scheduled for 5 rounds. Each round is five minutes long, with a one-minute rest period between each round.
In the rest of this post, I’ll go more in-depth on how the round system works, as well as exceptions to the rules stated above.
When Are Fights 5 Rounds Instead Of 3?
As mentioned, MMA fights can only either last 3 or 5 rounds. 5-round fights are reserved for championship fights and main event fights. A typical UFC with no special circumstances surrounding it will always be three rounds.
Championship fights are self-explanatory. If there’s a belt on the line, then the fight goes five rounds. But what is considered a main event fight?
Fights for the belt, as well as main events, are usually scheduled for five rounds.
Basically, the last fight of the night on any fight card is considered the main event. This goes for any type of UFC event, whether it’s a pay-per-view or a free fight on cable tv. The last fight will go five rounds.
Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule.
As far as championship fights go, special circumstances can cause the fight to be three rounds. The most famous example is probably the match between then Light Heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier, when he faced Anderson Silva at UFC 200.
Championship Fights At 3 Rounds
Cormier was originally scheduled to defend his title against interim-champ Jon Jones, in a highly-anticipated rematch between the two. Unfortunately, Jones tested positive for a banned substance the week of the fight, meaning he was unable to compete.
Despite Cormier (right) being the Light-Heavyweight champ in his fight against Anderson Silva, the fight was only scheduled for three rounds.
It was soon after announced that former middleweight champion Anderson Silva would step in to replace Jones. However, Silva had one stipulation. Because he would be moving up a weight class, and the fight would be on two-days notice, Silva would only fight if the bout was scheduled for three rounds.
According to ESPN: “Anderson is giving Daniel the opportunity to fight, to make money and to perform on UFC 200,” White said. “So if Anderson wants three rounds, if Anderson wants two rounds, he’ll get it.”
Thus, Light-Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier fought Silva in a Light-Heavyweight bout that lasted three rounds, and that was not considered a defense of his title.
Main Event Fights At Three Rounds
As stated, main events are usually scheduled for five rounds. However, there are exceptions that can shorten the main event to a three-rounder.
These exceptions are often similar to the example of Cormier vs Silva given previously, where some unexpected change happens on short notice.
Typically what happens is that the main event of a fight card will be cancelled for whatever reason, forcing the UFC to put another fight as the main event.
Zabit vs Kattar was only scheduled for three rounds, despite being the main event for UFC Moscow.
However, fighters train differently for three-round fights than they do for five-round fights. So it would be unfair for the new main event fighters to compete for five rounds when they weren’t prepared for it.
A recent example of this occurred at UFC Moscow in 2019. The main event was to be a heavyweight fight between Alexander Volkov and Junior Dos Santos.
However, Dos Santos pulled out of the fight citing an infection as the issue, about two weeks before the fight.
The co-main event was a featherweight bout between Zabit Magomedsharipov and Calvin Kattar. However, this was a three-round fight.
With the main event still in question, the UFC decided to move this fight to the main event spot, while keeping it for three rounds, as the fighters would not be prepared for a five-rounder.
In short, UFC fights last either three rounds for a normal bout, or five rounds for championship fights and main events. Every round is five minutes long, with a one-minute rest period between every round.
If you enjoyed this post, consider checking out similar posts on the Martial Arts History page. Thanks for reading!