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5 UFC fighters who looked totally different after bulking up to a heavier weight class

Jon Jones is currently in the midst of a bulk up to Heavyweight.
Jon Jones is currently in the midst of a bulk up to Heavyweight.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 08 Apr 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

The MMA world is currently awash with hype around Jon Jones’ potential move to Heavyweight, with the former UFC Light Heavyweight champ posting numerous tweets showing him bulking up from 205lbs.

Jon Jones isn’t the first UFC fighter to look for more success by bulking up and moving into a heavier weight class, as numerous fighters have done this before.

In fact, some UFC stars put on so much muscle that they ended up almost unrecognizable when compared to their former – smaller – selves.

Here are five UFC fighters who looked totally different after bulking up to move up weight classes.


#1 Alistair Overeem

Alistair Overeem bulked to insane proportions when he moved to Heavyweight.
Alistair Overeem bulked to insane proportions when he moved to Heavyweight.

The majority of Alistair Overeem’s increase in size came prior to his UFC career, but The Reem still stands as the most notable bulk-up in MMA history.

Overeem started life as an incredibly lean 205lbs fighter, becoming known in PRIDE after his fights with opponents like Chuck Liddell and Vitor Belfort.

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At 6’4”, the Dutchman enjoyed a remarkable height and reach advantage over most foes at 205lbs. But his lack of cardio and durability suggested that his weight cut was depleting him badly.

And so, in 2006, Overeem moved up to Heavyweight for the first time, fighting the likes of Sergei Kharitonov and Fabricio Werdum.

He would drop back to 205lbs shortly after, but in 2007, he embraced the bulk and moved to Heavyweight for good.

What happened next was truly eye-opening. Overeem bulked up from around 225lbs in late 2007 all the way to 255lbs by 2009.

Given the nickname Ubereem by his fans, the Dutchman packed on so much muscle that he looked almost cartoonish and achieved massive success – winning the StrikeForce and DREAM Heavyweight titles as well as the 2010 K-1 Grand Prix.

And when he entered the UFC in 2011, he weighed in for his debut fight against Brock Lesnar at an incredible 263lbs.

Overeem would trim down in later years but always remained at Heavyweight. And his transformation a decade ago remains MMA’s most dramatic.


#2 Anthony Rumble Johnson

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Anthony Johnson was nearly unrecognizable after moving up in weight.
Anthony Johnson was nearly unrecognizable after moving up in weight.

Former UFC star Anthony Rumble Johnson entered the promotion in 2007 as a Welterweight – but even then, it looked like the cut to 170lbs was difficult for him.

And when he missed weight at UFC 104, coming in six pounds over the 170lbs Welterweight limit, it seemed like only a matter of time before he was forced up to Middleweight.

Incredibly, though, when Johnson did make the move in 2012, it went horribly wrong.

Evidently, Rumble embraced the bulk a little too far and ended up missing the 185lbs Middleweight limit for his debut in his new weight class – coming in at an insane 197lbs.

The UFC were forced to cut him following the infraction, but Johnson continued to pack muscle on. And after a winning streak on the smaller circuit, returned to the UFC in 2014 as a huge 205lber.

By that point, he was barely recognizable when compared to the smaller, 170lbs Rumble who’d debuted in the Octagon seven years prior.

Johnson would pack on even more muscle after retiring from MMA in 2017 but is reportedly ready to resume his career with Bellator at 205lbs. However, only time will tell whether he’ll be able to trim down to that mark again.


#3 Brandon Vera

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Brandon Vera packed on some serious muscle to move to Heavyweight.
Brandon Vera packed on some serious muscle to move to Heavyweight.

When Brandon Vera joined the UFC in 2005, he came in as one of the smallest Heavyweights on the roster, weighing around 220lbs.

The Truth always claimed his ultimate goal was to become the first man to simultaneously hold the UFC Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight titles.

And while he failed in that quest, it came as no surprise in 2008 when Vera dropped some body fat and easily made the 205lbs Light Heavyweight limit for his debut in his new weight class.

The Truth remained at 205lbs for the next six years until it was announced that he’d be moving back to Heavyweight for a fight with Ben Rothwell at UFC 164.

Eyebrows were raised, though, when pictures emerged of Vera training for the fight.

Rather than simply allowing his body fat to increase to its previous levels, Vera instead hit the weights – hard – and packed on a huge amount of muscle.

And when the weigh-in for UFC 164 came around, Vera stepped onto the scale at a career-high 241lbs.

The Truth left the UFC after losing the fight to Rothwell, but he’s remained a largely muscled Heavyweight in the years that have followed, competing largely in Singapore’s ONE FC.


#4 Gian Villante

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Once a ripped 205lber, Gian Villante didn
Once a ripped 205lber, Gian Villante didn't look in the best shape at Heavyweight.

The majority of UFC fighters moving to a higher weight class tend to hit the weights and attempt to pack muscle on for their move.

However, that wasn’t the case for Light Heavyweight veteran Gian Villante, who moved up to Heavyweight in 2020.

Once a svelte and ripped 205lber, Villante tipped the scales for his UFC Heavyweight debut against Maurice Greene at 255lbs.

And while he’d clearly packed on some muscle, for the most part, it appeared that he’d simply embraced being able to eat more and not worry about having to cut weight or diet.

Essentially, he was unrecognizable.

Villante ended up losing to Greene via third-round submission.

And while he remained at Heavyweight for his next fight – a tight decision loss to Jake Collier – he at least came in looking in better shape, this time dropping to 243lbs.


#5 Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor looked far healthier after moving up from 145lbs.
Conor McGregor looked far healthier after moving up from 145lbs.
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While Conor McGregor never failed to make the 145lbs Featherweight limit during his run to the UFC title in the weight class, it was clear that it wasn’t easy for him to hit the mark.

In fact, The Notorious One often looked downright skeletal when it was time for weigh-ins.

And so when he announced his intention to move up to 155lbs, nobody was really shocked.

But surprisingly, McGregor’s first two fights outside of Featherweight came at 170lbs, as he took a late-notice fight with Nate Diaz at the heavier weight and decided to stay there to face him in a rematch.

The Notorious One would drop to 155lbs for his next two UFC bouts but has also fought at 170lbs too – against Donald Cerrone in 2020.

McGregor has since moved back to 155lbs but remains much bulkier than he was during his initial rise to fame.

Now packing a serious amount of muscle onto his frame, the Irishman is almost unrecognizable from the skeletal figure who debuted in the UFC in 2013 at 145lbs.

Published 08 Apr 2021, 14:48 IST
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