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Average Reach of an MMA Fighter: The Advantages of Reach

Robert Green
Published: September 29, 2021
Updated: September 29, 2021

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Reach is an essential element in MMA fights and fighters who are lucky enough to have a longer reach, automatically have an advantage over their opponent. The reach of an MMA fighter refers to the distance between their two middle fingers when their arms are raised outwards at shoulder height.

What is the average reach of an MMA fighter?

The reach of MMA fighters is just as important as their height and it can help fighters land strikes from a bigger distance than their opponent and helps them lock their hands together during takedowns. The average reach should be calculated throughout each weight division.

Generally, a fighter’s reach is the same as their height, offering a usual ratio of 1:1 for their height and reach respectively. Although this is not always the case. Since height usually determines a fighter's reach, calculating an average reach without taking weight divisions into account will not be helpful. 

Since you probably want to know how well your reach would help in your specific weight division, here is the average reach of fighters based on their divisions.

Average Reach of an MMA Fighter

Reach is generally based on the height of a fighter and so each weight division should be calculated separately as the height of a fighter has some relation to their weight. 

Here is the average reach per weight division in 2021 as well as the current UFC fighter with the longest reach and an advantageous ape index. 

  • Flyweight: 67.5 inches
  • Bantamweight: 67.3 inches
  • Featherweight: 70.6 inches
  • Lightweight: 72.4 inches
  • Welterweight: 73.3 inches
  • Middleweight: 74.8 inches
  • Light heavyweight: 77.8 inches
  • Heavyweight: 78.6 inches

While the reach alone does not offer too much of an advantage, when the ape index is looked at, the advantage becomes bigger. The ape index is determined by deducting their height from the reach. Positive ape indexes offer fighters the best advantage over fighters with a lower ape index.

Currently, in 2021, Jon Jones has the longest reach in the UFC at 84.5 inches, while his height is only 6’4’’ (76 inches). This results in a positive ape index of 8.5 inches along with a strong advantage over his opponents.

How Is Reach Measured in MMA?

The reach of MMA fighters is also known as wingspan and offers MMA fighters some advantage during a fight. A fighter’s reach is measured when their arms are outstretched at shoulder height. Taking the length from the tip of the middle finger on one hand to the other hand.

While a person’s arm is the main determining factor of the reach, fingers and the width of the shoulder add on a bit of length. Broad shoulders give shorter fighters an extra advantage and this is why a fighter’s height is not always the same as their reach.

Although broad shoulders won’t offer as much of an advantage as longer arms will. Since the shoulders will only come into play if you punch out to the side, which isn’t a natural position for fighting in MMA.

A fighter’s fingers also add to their reach but don’t always add to the advantage it gives them. When it comes to striking with a closed fist, the length of a fighter’s fingers won’t matter. 

However, when a fighter is attempting a double-leg takedown, having a longer reach and interlocking their fingers can add a small advantage. 

The Ape Index of a Fighter

The main aspect to look at when comparing a fighter’s reach is the ape index. To calculate a fighter’s ape index, you would take their height and deduct it from their reach. These calculations are compared between opponents to determine which fighter has the advantage during a fight.

Many MMA fighters have a positive ape index, while a few have a negative ape index. The larger the index, the more likely the fighter will win. However, it is not guaranteed that the fighter with the higher ape index will actually win. There are many other factors that add to a fighter’s advantage. However, there are benefits to having a good ape index.

Why Is Reach Beneficial?

A fighter’s reach doesn’t add too much of an advantage, but along with other skills such as speed, agility, and proper striking techniques, it all adds up. 

A higher positive ape index lets fighters set up a stronger defense by standing further away from their opponent. This reduces the chances of their opponent landing strikes, while they can still land their own strikes from a distance.

Fighters with a longer reach can also probe their opponent without opening themselves up to attacks. This allows them to properly set up their attacks before moving in for the attack.

A higher positive ape index will be highly beneficial for fighters when they are grappling and initiating takedowns. Not only will it allow them to complete the clinch quicker, but they will also have a better grip when wrapping their arms around their opponent.

Negative or smaller ape indexes may offer a small disadvantage, but fighters can make up for this with their other skills along with well-thought-out techniques and strategies.

Ways to Minimize the Disadvantage of a Shorter Reach

The first strategy of a fighter with a reach disadvantage should aim to close the gap creatively while their opponent does not expect it. This needs to be done thoughtfully as the fighter with the longer reach will be expecting this and will deal heavy blows to counter these tactics.

Another tactic that can benefit fighters with a shorter reach is to take down their opponent and turn the match into a ground fight. Ground grappling reduces the advantage of a longer reach to some extent. 

While getting close to the opponent may be difficult, some fighters disguise a takedown with striking combinations. They may even attempt to take down their opponent when the opponent is committing to an attack, as they could be caught unaware.

Average MMA Reach FAQs

What is a good reach for an MMA fighter?

A good reach will depend on the reach and ape index of a fighter’s opponent. As long as a fighter’s ape index is higher than their opponent’s, they will have the advantage in the fight. 

A long reach will offer MMA fighters an advantage, mostly if their ape index is a positive value. The ape index is calculated by deducting a fighter’s height by their reach.

Who has the longest reach in UFC history?

The fighter with the longest reach recorded in MMA was Dan “The Sandman” Christison, with a long reach of 85 inches and a height of 6’8’’ (80 inches). This gave him a positive ape index of +5.

The Last Stretch

A long reach will benefit MMA fighters as long as their ape index is also high, since you can’t fairly compare two fighters of significantly different heights. Fighters with a high positive ape index need to use this advantage wisely along with their other strengths. 

Fighters with a shorter reach and lower ape index can still win the fight as long as they accept their disadvantage and develop smart tactics during their MMA training to overcome their shorter reach.

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