single combat



Heavyweight women in combat sports

Heavy girls
Episode of the the documentary "Strictly Lady Sumo" on British Public "Channel 4".
Album Channel 4

Русская версия

No doubt, the weight of an athlete is an important factor in any combat sport. Generally, heavyweights have several advantages over lighter athletes. Traditionally, matches in heavyweight categories attract most attention because it is heavyweights who usually determine who is the strongest in any given combat sport and in many cases heavyweights possess absolute titles. However, the concept of heavyweight is not clear in women’s categories.

Two major aspects should be taken into consideration when the role of weight in combat sports is discussed:
- Heavy weight can be related to a big muscle bulk and, as a result, to a high physical strength..
- The athlete’s weight by itself (even as a result of a fat depot) can be an advantage in some combat sport: it increases body stability and makes it easier to countervail the opponent’s efforts.

Apparently, the rose of weight is different in different combat sports. While in Sumo weight is one of the fundamental factors (for a reason Japanese professional Sumotori must be fat and heavy), heavyweights are very rare in such sports as kickboxing. If they exist, they are usually tall, narrow-hipped and stringy.

Now, let’s figure out who can be considered as heavyweights. Men and women have some weight threshold: its exceeding usually takes place at the expense of increasing fat depot, even though there are exceptions. For women, this conditional threshold can be derived by the weight of the heaviest high level athletes in the sports, in which weight is not a big advantage. For instance, the higher female category (absolute) in the World Kickboxing Association is 145.5 lbs (66kg). According to World Professional Muaythai Federation, the highest category for women is 160 lbs (75kg). In Olympics women’s wrestling the heavyweight category is 160 lbs (72.5 kg). In Judo, in which a lot of heavy ladies compete, the absolute category is higher 172 lbs (78 kg). The weight limits are much higher in high school and collegiate amateur wrestling. For instance, in states of California and Washington the heaviest wrestling category for girls is 235 lbs (106.5 kg). The higher category according to National Collegiate Wrestling Association is 200 lbs (90.5 kg). In fact, one of the reasons why fat girls participate in wrestling is desire for losing weight.

Thus combat sports can be classified on the basis of the heaviest high level athletes and higher weight classes. Let’s try to introduce such classification and determine importance of “pure weight” in the most popular combat sports.

Heavyweight sumo

Sumo and other "standing" wrestling forms

Sumo allows only standing contest: as soon as one of Sumotories touches the dohyo by any part of the body except feet or if he/she moves beyond it, the match is announced over. The ability to keep balance is very important factor in Sumo contests, that’s why heavier wrestlers have obvious advantage (all other conditions being equal). Similar situation takes place in ethnic forms of wrestling in which contestants wrestle until a fall: Scottish Backhold, Swiss Schwingen, Brittany Gouren, Luta Canary and some belt forms of wrestling, like Kuresh, Kuras, etc. It is difficult to move a big person and difficult to manipulate with his/her body. No wonder, big fat guys dominated traditional Japanese Sumo.

Heavyweight sumo
A moment before the bout
Photo by Stuart Isett
Stuart Isett Photoshelter

Heavyweight sumo
A bout at the Women’s heavyweight class at the sumo event of the World Games. 2013
Photo by Greg Ebersole

Heavyweight sumo
Olessya Kovalenko (Russia) vs. Olga Davydko (Ukraine)

Heavyweight sumo
Japanese sumotori
Photo by Greg Eebersole. Blog Blog Daum

Heavyweight Judo

Judo and Sambo

In Judo and Sambo throws from the standing positions score winning points, so weight in these disciplines is important too. Besides, in Judo and Sambo you can win immobilizing an opponent, so heavyweights have advantage there as well. The most spectacular throw in Judo which is considered as “Ippon” (highest score) is to throw an opponent to his/her back. However, since contestants often continue a match wrestling on the ground, the weight is less significant, that’s why there are fewer female heavyweights in Judo than in Sumo.

Heavyweight Judo
Female Judo at the London Olympics, 2012
World Press

Heavyweight Judo
Karina Bryant vs. Sonia Asselah (78+ kg)
at the London Olympics, 2012

Heavyweight Sambo
Irina Rodina (Russia) and Julia Barusik (Belarus)
at the Sambo Superbowl, 2010

Heavyweight Sambo
Anastasia Kovyazina (Russia, red) vs. Dacunha Kessler (Argentina)
during the final bout in 80+ kg category at the Universiada, 2013, Kazan

Heavyweight Armwrestling


In armwrestling contenders use arms, while the body is relatively motionless. However, armwrestlers can lower trunk sideways and use their weight as a force component. The heavyweight category for women is 176+lbs (80+kg). Armwrestling – widely popular game and sport in which everyone likes to participate: elderlies, children, women, men? Including stout people who do not experience embarrassment when practice the sport.

Heavyweight Armwrestling
Appleton tournament in Wisconsin, USA

Heavyweight Armwrestling
Ten-time world champion, Heidi Andersson (Sweden) defeated heavier Zhanna Chingule (Latvia)

Heavyweight Armwrestling
Flen Armfight 2010 Final Women Heavyweight Left
Felicia Rydstedt vs Zhanna Chingule

Heavyweight Armwrestling
Tournament in Las Vegas (Nevada). Heavyweight match

Heavyweight Boxing


No doubt, weight is a significant factor in boxing: heavyweights have the “hard arm” and the force of their punches is estimated in hundreds of kilograms. The body movement is also involved in a proper punch, so the heavier the body the more powerful the punch would be, due to contribution of the body inertia. Besides, heavyweights are steadier. However, an extra weight owing to excessive fat might decrease mobility which is very important in boxing. In amateur women’s boxing the heavyweight is 175+lbs (79+kg) according to IFBA and WIBA. In female professional boxing the heavyweight is 189+lbs (86+kg).

Heavyweight Boxing
Natalia Ragozina (Russia) attacks Pamela London (Gayana) at the bout in Ekaterinburg, Russia, 2009
Photo by RIA News. VisualRian

Heavyweight Boxing
Martha Salazar (left, 236.5 lbs) attacks Kathy Rivers (198.5 lbs)

Heavyweight Boxing
Sonya Lamonakis (right) vs J-J Jackson, 2011
New York Daily News

Heavyweight Boxing
Sonya Lamonakis attacks Tiffany Woodard. Photo by Sal Ackusita
Female Singhle Combat Club

Heavyweight Grappling

Grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

A grappling match usually lasts long and often quite slow, so heavyweights seems to have some advantage in this sport. However, it is grappling in which lighter contestants quite often defeat heavier opponents which is quite unlikely in other forms of wrestling. The light heavyweight is the highest women’s category in NAGA (North American Grappling Association) – 160+lbs (72.5 kg). Considering grappling, we can conclude that there are some factors beyond athletic attracting big women to some sports (or alienate them). One of them – uniform. In fact, heavyweight female athletes more willingly practice those combat sports which require wearing loose uniform like kimono. Stout women usually prefer wrestling in loose uniform in the public eye – it is no coincidence that Judo became the first combat sport popular among women. By the way, many big women practice amateur grappling privately (see the picture at the left). But in private they usually compete in leotards.

There is a female grappler who stands apart from other athletes; it is giant Gabrielle Garcia from Brazil who competes in the absolute category – always against lighter opponents/ However, despite massive superiority in weight, her victories are hard-fought. The weight of this giantess having height 6'3" (187 cm) is estimated around 240 lbs (108 kg).

Heavyweight Grappling
Emily Wetzel begins the bout against Gabrielle Garcia at a run.
But lost anyway.

Heavyweight Grappling
Gabrielle Garcia has very few oppinents matching her by weight and height.
Against Ana Caroline Vidal, 2009, BJJ tournament

Heavyweight Grappling
Gabrielle Garcia in a "no-gi" match (without uniform 'gi')

Heavyweight Grappling
No woman is capable to withstand man-like Gabrielle Garcia
Neither Marcela Fernandes

Heavyweight Wrestling

Freestyle Wrestling

In freestyle wrestling takedown is usually the beginning of fierce fight in parterre where quick reaction capability, flexibility, dexterity and techniques. That is why excessive fat is not an advantage in freestyle wrestling; you barely could trace body rolls at female wrestlers. In Olympic wrestling women’s heavyweight is 165- lbs (75 kg). Nevertheless, as in other combat sports, heavyweights still have some advantages. Wide massive hips increase equilibrium and help deliver throws. As is said, quite big girls practice wrestling in American schools and colleges; actually, freestyle wrestling is a national popular sport in USA. There is a category 235 lbs (106.5 kg) for High School girl wrestlers, while before 265 lbs (120 kg) existed. In fact, fat is not a big advantage but practicing wrestling allows fat girls to lose weight.

Heavyweight Wrestling
Heavyweight girls Monica and Laura wrestle in the famous wrestling club
of Coach Shannyn J. Gillespie, USA Wrestling National Team Coach

Heavyweight Wrestling
Miriam Moreno and Roxana Perez at the American high-school tournament in the category 198 lbs (90 kg), 2011

Heavyweight Wrestling
Miriam Moreno and Kierra Boyce at the American high-school tournament in the category 198 lbs (90 kg), 2011

Heavyweight Wrestling
Three-time world championness in the heavyweight category -72 kg Stanka Zlateva wrestles against Alena Staroduvtseva.
World Championship, Tokyo, 2008

Heavyweight Wrestling
Collegiate wrestling in USA. Heavyweight match
Amateur Wrestlin Photos

Heavyweight MMA

MMA and "no-holds" fights

A MMA contest requires exceptional dexterity; the fighter must be fast in his/her response. Actually, these qualities are not common for stout men and women. However, heavyweights still have some advantages – in both striking and grappling situations characteristic for MMA. In the most popular MMA league UFC, just two women’s categories exist: strawweight and bantamweight – 135 lbs (61 kg). In other MMA leagues the heaviest women’s categories are welterweight (135 lbs/61 kg) and featherweight (145 lbs/66 kg). The most popular, prominent and successful female MMA fighters weigh below 150 lbs/68 kg. Nevertheless, nowadays, more and more female heavyweight athletes try their strength in the MMA octagons. Time to time, some promoters hold contest between them. One of such heavyweights, tall and mighty Abbey Frazier (photo at the left) whose height and weight are 6’1” and 235 lbs wrote in the article “Female Heavyweights: The Struggle to Find Fights” that female heavyweights are still considered by MMA promoters as overweighed ones. But once the resource WMMA (Women’s MMA) helps with organizing MMA fights between heavyweights and their number is increasing. At the same time, Frazier thinks that female heavyweights will be allowed into UFC arenas not earlier than in ten years.

Heavyweight MMA
Fight in an octagon:
Super-heavyweights Summer Torrey vs. Amanda Maxfield

Heavyweight MMA
Fight in an octagon:
Deja Franco vs. Rebekah Turner
WMMA World Rankings

Heavyweight MMA
Fight in an octagon:
Abbey Frazier vs. Staci Bradshaw

Heavyweight MMA
Pioneers of female extreme fights. Natalia Gundarenko

Heavyweight MMA
Pioneers of female extreme fights. Irina Rodina

Heavyweight Karate


Karate stands apart from other striking combat sports, even though it has something in common with Taekwondo, Muay and various forms of kickboxing. Heavyweights come across in Karate, especially in Kyokushin, probably one of the most popular forms of Karate. In Kyokushin punches to head are not allowed. Probably a massive fighter has an advantage when delivering and taking punches in the body. Karate heavyweight are usually tall, narrow-hipped and long-legged. As it was said before regarding grappling and BJJ, female heavyweight fighters willingly practice those sports in which fighters wear loose uniform.

Heavyweight Karate
2010 Tournament held by "National Acceptance Company"
Photo by Kyokushin Uruguay

Heavyweight Karate
2008 Tournament "Rising Sun".
Photo by Jason Aspinal.
Resource Flickr

Heavyweight Karate
Open Catalunya Karate Kyokushinkai Championship, 2009
Photo by Galdric Penarroja

Heavyweight Karate
2008 Tournament "Rising Sun".
Photo by Jason Aspinal.
Resource Flickr

Heavyweight Kickboxing

Taekwondo, kickboxing and its variations

A pass to success in these sports is agility and hair-trigger reaction, that’s why excessive fat is no use there. But the weight owing not to fat but to long extremities and solid build is a good benefit. Unlike Judo and freestyle wrestling, wide hips are not an advantage, rather an obstruction. In the most kickboxing associations, the heaviest category is 143-154 lbs (65-70 kg) whereas in Taekwondo it is 148 lbs (67 kg).Although it is difficult to imagine airy Muay Thai boxers in a heavyweight category, middleweight class in the professional leagues is 160 lbs (72 kg).

Heavyweight Kickboxing
Fight for the title of Russian kickboxing champion, 2009. Light welterweight.
Elena Kondrateva (right) against Svetlana Kulakova,
Ресурс VivaRomantica

Heavyweight Taekwondo
London 2012 Olympics: Taekwondo women's -67kg category fight
France's Anne-Caroline Graffe takes on Natalya Mamatova of Uzbekistan (red)

Heavyweight Kickboxing
Ilona Wijmans (Netherlands) attacks Chantal Ugi (Italy) in the super-lightweight class bout.
Muaythai Premiere League tournament in Hague, November 2011
Resource World Muay Thai Council

Heavyweight Kickboxing
Valentina Shevchenko (Kyrgyzstan, left) vs. Ilona Wijmans (Netherlands)
in the super-lightweight class bout.
Muaythai Premiere League tournament in Hague, November 2011
Resourse PhotoJoto

Thus a speculative conclusion can be made that only two female combative sports exist – Sumo and Judo in which heavyweights are common, i.e. those athletes whose weight significantly exceeds 165 lbs (75 kg), which probably may be considered as a limit for the most of normal women. Sometimes, heavyweights come across on the boxing rings. In other sports, heavyweight women usually weight less than 165 lbs and do not have substantial fat layer.

Alexei bauman

November 2014



Sumo: 7th Women Sumo World Championships 2008

Sumo: 2009 European Championships. Match for the gold
Kovalenko (RUS) vs Krzemien (POL)

Wrestling. Folk Styles

Canaria Luta. Heavyweight match

Good illustration of importance of weight in "standing" forms of wrestling.
In the first match a solid woman defeats a lighter man, while
in the third one she lost to a super-heavyweight woman.
Bridge of Allan Highland Games

Swiss Wrestling Schwingen, Heiligenschwendi. August 2010.

Cole Slaw Wrestling. Truly American redneck's sport: for women only.


Judo competition in 1996 Olympics, Atlanta. Category +72kg
Christine Cicot (FRA) vs. Svetlana Gundarenko (RUS)

Judo competition in 1992 Olympics, Barcelona. Open Category
Super-heavyweights: Svetlana Gundarenko (RUS), 150kg/330Lbs vs. Beata Maksymow (POL), 145kg/320Lbs


Sambo: World Championships 2008. +80Kg Final.
Irina Rodina (RUS) Red - Natalia Melnikova (BLR) Blue

Sambo Women's +100kg Final. 27th Summer Universiade 2013. Kazan, Russia


Armwrestling: Golden Arm 2011. Final Women Heavyweight Right

Armwrestling: Flen Armfight 2010. Final Women Heavyweight Left


Boxing: Natalia Ragozina knocks out Pamela London.
Ekaterinburg, 2009

Boxing: Candis Sarver vs. Amy Selles Pro Boxing Fight Fest For The Troops.
Candis Sarver vs. Any Selles
Professional Boxing in Kalamazoo, MI. March 23, 2013

Amateur boxing match between two heavyweights
Sandra vs. Ashlee

Female Boxing European Championships.
Turkey-Russia, Super-heavyweights

Freestyle Wrestling

USAW Junior Women's Championship. 90kg/198Lbs
Ryan Gibbons (Washington) vs. Brenna Ramirez (Michigan)

Freestyle wrestling.
Indian National Championships, 2014

USA National 'Body Bars' Women's Cadet Championship, 2014. 100kg/220lbs
Callie Clark vs. Haley Gladden

FILA Cadet Championships. 100kg/220lbs.
Mackenzie Turner vs. Callie Clark

265 Lbs Girls Matchup at the 2012 WIAA Wrestling Championships.
An episode unusual for freestyle wrestling occurred at the end of this match between two quite unskilled big girls. One of them eventually heavily pinned down said uncle desperately tapping the opponent's body while the impassive referee was waiting until legitimate pin.

2014 Womens Junior Freestyle Nationals in Fargo, N.D. Category 198Lbs
Monica Mason decisively pins Rebecka Winton.

Grappling and BJJ

Grappling: Sharn Lenton No-Gi 9th September 2012
Women's final in the Open category
The light girl quickly defeats the big one.

IBJJF Miami Open Women's Super Heavy Blue Belt Final


MMA: Heavyweight women's fight:
Summer Torrey Vs Amanda Maxfeild. Round 1

MMA: Heavyweight women's fight

APEX Fights 3. Light Heavyweight Women's MMA bout
Ivy Wallin vs. Makeya Forney

Remix Tournament, 2000. Absolute category fight.
Irina Rodina (227Lbs/103kg) vs. Erin Toughill (161Lbs/73kg)


Kyokushin Karate: 2012 IKO Matushima 4th World Championship
Women Heavyweight Final

The 5th Karate World Cup, 2013. Women Heavyweight.
Viviana Alexandra Chirila vs. Ekaterina Lebed. Round 4

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