Powerful things come in small packages. Here are four short MMA fighters who reached the top of their sport.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) have existed for centuries, however it wasn’t until recent times that it became a multi-billion dollar business through pay-per-view and live tickets.
I thought it would be fun to analyze the shorter mixed martial artists that are noteworthy and their various styles / techniques.
The first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) match took place in November of 1993; however, some argue the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) was hatched as early as 1980.
There are a variety of UFC weight classes today. However, it wasn’t until 2006 that smaller fighters (i.e. below 155 pounds) were allowed a chance to compete with athletes of similar stature.
In this vein, there are three men’s divisions below 155 pounds: flyweight, bantamweight and featherweight. Given the correlation between height and weight, these are the classes where men of modest height typically demonstrate their MMA skills.
4 Short MMA Fighters
|Henry Cejudo||32||5’4” (163 cm)||125 lbs (57 kg)||Muay Thai, Freestyle Wrestling, Karate||14-2||knockout 6, decision 8|
|TJ Dillashaw||33||5’6” (168 cm)||135 lbs (61 kg)||Freestyle wrestling, Boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu||16-4||knockout 8, submission 3, decision 5|
|Frankie Edgar||37||5’6” (168 cm)||145 lbs (66 kg)||Boxing, Freestyle Wrestling, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu||23-6-1||knockout 7, submission 4, decision 12|
|Demetrious Johnson||32||5’3” (160 cm)||125 lbs||Freestyle wrestling, Pankration, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu||28–3–1||knockout 5, submission 12|
Let's take a closer look at a few of the shorter MMA fighters who have made their mark in the octagon:
Henry Cejudo: 5'4″
Build: 5’4” (163 cm) // 125 lbs (57 kg)
Style: Muay Thai, Freestyle Wrestling, Karate
Cejudo was born in Los Angeles, CA and his family hails from Mexico. The elite short UFC fighter has earned an estimated $1.1 million since joining the circuit.
The current flyweight champion got his start in freestyle wrestling, earning a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympic in the 55 kg (121) weight class. As of January 2019, he is ranked #5 in the UFC pound-for-pound rankings.
After going 10-0, Cejudo lost two in a row, including a title match against the iconic Demetrious Johnson. It would be 2 ½ years before he’d earn a rematch with Johnson (which he’d win).
Cejudo was clearly jazzed to fight TJ Dillashaw based on this ESPN interview. He makes a case for being the first true “champ champ” given his Olympic gold and UFC belt.
ESPN’s Mike Greenberg hints that Dillashaw may be looking ahead with his eyes set on the 145 pound weight class (featherweight).
For the record, Dillashaw cut weight by about 10 pounds – from 135 to just under 124 – for the matchup versus Cejudo. The match on January 19, 2019 was over in just 32 seconds. A TKO win for Cejudo.
TJ Dillashaw: 5'6″
Build: 5’6” (168 cm) // 135 lbs (61 kg)
Style: Freestyle wrestling, Boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Described as having a dynamic style that is difficult to classify, Dillashaw is known as being a master of angles, constantly moving and a strategic striker.
With a background in freestyle wrestling, the Denver resident was a standout at the State of California during high school. In 2004 he was the state runner-up. Dillashaw’s UFC debut was on December 3, 2011, in Las Vegas, Nevada at The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale.
He is the two-time and current UFC Bantamweight Champion. He is ranked #7 in the UFC pound-for-pound rankings as of January 2019. Since entering the UFC, Dillashaw has earned an estimated $2.2 million.
Dillashaw’s journey to becoming the champ included one of the most epic upsets in the history of UCF when he beat the great Renan Barão in 2014. In a post-fight interview Joe Rogan, said “that was the greatest performance I have ever seen in my life!”
Although he's rebounding from a 32-second loss against Cejudo, Dillashaw is still the bantamweight champ. He must now determine whether a rematch versus Cejudo at 125 lbs (not likely) or 135 lbs (more likely).
If the latter, than Dillashaw’s belt is on the line and Cejudo could become the champ champ (or champ champ champ if you include Olympic gold).
Frankie Edgar: 5’6”
Build: 5’6” (168 cm) // 145 lbs (66 kg)
Styles: Boxing, Freestyle Wrestling, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Nicknamed, “The Answer,” Edgar is an American mixed martial artist who competes as a Featherweight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and is a former UFC Lightweight Champion.
The Answer’s clout includes wins over former world champions Sean Sherk, Hermes França, B.J. Penn, and Urijah Faber.
Each of Edgar’s losses have come versus champions and title contenders, a fact that proves just how talented this short UFC fighter really is.
As of July 26, 2018, Edgard is ranked #3 in the UFC featherweight division. Since joining UFC, he’s earned an estimated $3.8 million.
Demetrious Johnson: 5’3”
Build: 5’3” (160 cm) // 125 lbs
Styles: Freestyle wrestling, Pankration, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Although Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson no longer competes in the UFC, analysts at ESPN, MMA Weekly consider him to be one of the all time greats in UFC history and one of the best martial artists in the world (UFC commentator and president Dana White concur).
He is currently signed to Singapore-based ONE Championship and competes in the flyweight division. From 2007-2012 he fought in the UFC Bantamweight Division, then transitioned to the UFC Flyweight Division.
He was the first UFC Flyweight Champion and still holds the record for consecutive title defenses (11). Known for his quick striking and elusive movement, Johnson’s accolades include being the only fighter to record over 10 takedowns in three different fights.
In addition to quick strikes and counterstrikes, his signature moves included a suplex-to-armlock transition during a title defense match versus Ray Borg.
“I’m not going to come out here and show you I have power…I’m not in the business to get hit and take concussions…” ~ Demetrious Johnson
As to why he left the UFC for ONE Championship:
“I was never the biggest fan of the way people went about promoting their fights over in North America. I saw some athletes use it as a way of bullying, [and] as a way of gaining followers…I’m not a confrontational person. I do mixed martial arts because it’s something I love, and it helps me express my feelings. I’m an artist when I go to compete.” ~ Demetrious Johnson
Basically, Johnson wasn't a fan of how so many fighters “run their mouths” in an effort to drum up hype around their fight and cause unnecessary drama.
He's a purist, a true martial artist, and for that he earns TMM's respect.
Admittedly, I only have limited experience with MMA. In addition to boxing, my training has been limited to a handful of classes at Crunch Fitness in NYC.
A trainer by the name of “Goose” (short for Mongoose) showed me basic combos and a few submission holds.
While I did OK sparring and boxing, my biggest takeaway was that despite being 20 pounds lighter than me, I would not want to get in close quarters with Goose because it would be game over.
Best Martial Art for Shorter Guys?
One reader asked if there is a particular martial art best-suited to shorter guys, a “secret weapon” of sorts. I have an appreciation for all forms of martial arts and from my basic understanding, Krav Maga tends to be one of those in the category of “badass” considering it is used by the Israeli military and Krav Maga is designed to inflict maximum damage.
That said, I think martial arts of choice will depend on the individual and include factors such as their height, weight, athleticism and fitness or other goals.
Of course the octagon is a different world than a real world altercation. With this in mind, a friend with an advanced black belt in taekwondo and a dojo advised me:
“Be vigilant. Awareness of your surroundings is simple, yet powerful. You can avoid situations before they occur. ”
Who are some of your favorite small but mighty MMA fighters that I may have missed? If you are an MMA practitioner, how has learning MMA helped you develop as a person?
Leave a comment below!