How to Measure Reach UFC (Wingspan & Leg Reach)

Have you seen some incredibly long reaches in a UFC fight and are wondering how the UFC measures reach or whether long reach is an advantage?

In this article, we’ll look at what reach is, how to measure reach in the UFC, whether reach is measured accurately, the relevance of the ape index, and more.

What is Reach and How to Measure Reach UFC?

Reach, also known as wingspan or arm span, is the length from the longest finger on one hand, across to the longest finger on the other hand.

Reach refers to the wingspan of the arms and is not a measurement of leg reach. They are completely different and separate measurements.

How many times a fighter’s reach is measured is unknown, but it’s likely to be measured upon the signing of a new UFC contract; typically 3-6 fights which usually last 1-3 years.

To accurately measure reach in the UFC, fighters have to go through a three-step process that’s the same for all athletes.

1. Preparation For Measurement

The first step is warming up muscles by doing light exercise and stretching, focusing on the arms and shoulders. They avoid any strenuous exercise as the goal is to be loose, comfortable, and flexible.

This is done to get a reach measurement resembling a fighter’s reach when fighting; which they are loose and warmed up for.

Upper body clothing is removed as it can prevent an accurate measurement from being taken, although females can wear a sports bra as this doesn’t prevent shoulder and arm flexibility.

2. Measuring Position

The fighter must stand as straight as they can with their back and heels against the wall, making sure to keep their feet flat on the ground. This position shouldn’t feel forced and the fighter must feel comfortable.

They then raise their arms perpendicular to their body, at shoulder height, maintaining a 90-degree angle to the body. Their arms should be against the wall, with the palms facing outwards, allowing for the most stretched but comfortable reach.

3. Measure the Reach

Now the fighter is prepared and in position, the person taking the measurement marks the points on the wall from the longest fingertip to fingertip on each side. This is usually the middle fingertip but isn’t always the case.

A tape measure is then used from one mark to the other, recorded as the fighter’s reach, in inches. This is the reach measurement displayed on the tale of the tape before a fight.

How to Measure Leg Reach UFC

Leg reach in the UFC is measured from the outside of a fighter’s leg, from the top of the hipbone to the heel. If the measurement is not taken from the outside of the leg, it’s inaccurate.

Like how wingspan is measured, a fighter must warm up and stand barefoot in only boxers against a wall, remaining flat-footed and as straight as possible, where the measurement is then taken.

Wingspan and leg reach measurements are now taken together after the UFC started measuring leg reach in 2015 due to many fans asking for the measurement.

How to Measure Reach UFC: Is It Accurate?

Yes, reach is measured accurately in the UFC.

However, there’s the belief a fighter’s reach should be measured from fist to fist, because forward-facing fingers are illegal as they result in eye pokes.

This may be true in terms of striking, but it doesn’t account for the fingertip reach fighters use when grappling or attempting submissions.

Other critics have suggested the UFC should measure arm length to get an accurate reach length, as wingspan incorporates a fighter’s body and shoulders.

Therefore if a fighter has a stocky frame and broad shoulders, their arms are shorter than someone with the same reach who has a thinner body and not so broad shoulders.

The best example is Max Holloway who has a height of 180cms and a reach of 175cms, compared to Alexander Volkanovski, who has a height of 168 cms and a reach of 182cms. 

Despite this, Max has the longer reach with his punches because his arms are longer, whilst Volkanovski has a much wider body and shoulders.

Therefore, you could say the UFC measuring wingspan isn’t the most accurate measure of a fighter’s proper reach.

However, as mentioned before, the wingspan is measured as a fighter’s reach because the UFC is MMA and incorporates more facets than just boxing.

Fighters With the Longest Reach in UFC History

The longest reach in UFC history belongs to very tall fighters, as height and reach tend to be proportional.

Here are the top 10 longest reaches in UFC history:

#FighterHeightReach
1Dan Christison6’8”85”
2Stefan Struve6’11.5”84.5”
3Jon Jones6’4”84.5”
4Sergei Pavlovich6’3”84”
5Francis Ngannou6’4”83”
6Kennedy Nzechukwu6’5”83”
7Mike Rodriguez6’4”82”
8Cheick Kongo6’4”82”
9Johnny Walker6’6”82”
10Daniel Spitz6’7”82”
Longest reach in UFC

Is a Fighter’s Reach Equivalent to Their Height?

It’s often thought a fighter’s reach is equivalent to their height, but this is incorrect.

The average human has a height-to-reach ratio of 1, meaning their height and reach measurements are the same, or not far off it.

If the average male has a height of 69 inches (5 ft 9), their reach is usually around 68 or 70 inches.

On the other hand, UFC fighters have an average height-to-reach ratio of around 1.05 or more, equating to a longer reach of 2 or 3 inches. So most of the fighters that are 72 inches in height (6 ft) will have a reach of around 75 inches (6 ft 2.5).

What Is the Ape Index and What Is Its Relevance to the UFC?

How wingspan and height measurements compare is known as the ape index.

There are two ways to calculate an ape index, but only method 2 is useful when considering a fighter’s reach in the UFC.

Method 2 measures whether a fighter has a positive or negative ape index, whereas method 1 measures a ratio.

Method 2 is calculated by taking height and subtracting wingspan and can be recorded in centimeters or inches.

As an example, Jon Jones has a reach of 215 centimeters and a height of 193 cms, meaning his ape index is +22 centimeters or +8.6 inches.

More often than not, taller fighters have proportionally longer reach than their shorter opponents in the same weight class.

However, it’s not overly uncommon to see shorter fighters with a highly positive ape index and therefore a longer reach than a taller opponent.

Since the UFC is divided into weight divisions, the height of fighters in each division is often similar, so a highly positive ape index is an accurate way to measure reach advantage, as opposed to just reach.

UFC Fighters With the Highest Positive Ape Index

When reach advantage is measured in the UFC, it’s important to measure the ape index, as this tells you more accurately the length of a fighter’s reach compared to their height.

Here’s a table of the UFC fighters with the highest positive ape index:

#FighterHeightReachApe Index
1Sergei Pavlovich6’3”84”+9.0”
2Jon Jones6’4”84.5”+8.5”
3Kevin Lee5’9”77”+8.0”
4Dalcha Lungiambula5’8”76”+8.0”
5Uriah Hall6”79.5”+7.5”
6Francis Ngannou6’4”83”+7.0”
7Paul Daley5’9”76”+7.0”
8Miguel Torre5’9”76”+7.0”
9Georges St-Piere5’10”76”+6.0”
10Brock Lesnar6’3”81”+6.0”
11Alexander Volkanovski5’6”71.5”+5.5”
12Tony Ferguson5’11”76.5”+5.5”
13Tyrone Woodley5’9”74”+5.0”
14Conor McGregor5’9”74”+5.0”
UFC fighters with the most positive ape index

Volkanovski stands out in the table and his ape index offers evidence as to why he’s an undefeated and undisputed champion.

Being a shorter fighter with a long reach, he has the advantage this offers, combined with the benefits of a stocky and strong body.

Another thing standing out is all these fighters are of high quality and are well-known names; meaning a highly positive ape index is very beneficial.

What Are the Benefits of a Long Reach in the UFC?

Both tall and short fighters with a highly positive ape index and a longer reach than their opponent benefit greatly.

Jon Jones is the best example of a fighter who knows how to use the benefits of his genetically gifted ape index (+8.6 in), and that’s why he’s so dominant.

Long Reach Striking Benefits

Fighters with highly positive ape indexes such as Jon Jones and Alexander Volkanovski benefit by being able to control the striking range.

They do this by keeping their opponent at a safe distance by using their long reach to feel or grab their opponent’s hands (probing). This is often seen as reading an opponent and allows a fighter to anticipate and evade strikes more easily.

Effective probing is probably the biggest benefit of having a long reach in the UFC, and Israel Adesanya is the biggest exponent of this. 

The defensive benefits of a long reach quickly translate into offensive benefits. If a fighter is secure defensively, they’re able to probe and slip shots, meanwhile connecting the higher amount of strikes from the outside, effectively picking their opponent off like a sniper.

This is the reason long-reach fighters are such great counterpunchers, as it also has the extended benefit of presenting opportunities for well-timed and powerful shots against a fighter that has to lunge in.

On top of this, the fighter with a longer reach can dictate the pace and style of the fight, by keeping constant pressure on an opponent and slipping in and out of range when needed.

Long Reach Grappling Benefits

Long reach helps with takedown defense as the established range control gives them time to sprawl or snuff their opponent who has to shoot for a takedown from far away.

Long reach also helps with offensive wrestling as a fighter can reach around their opponent with ease. This is most useful when attempting double-leg takedowns as it means a fighter can get a secure grip by locking their hands or fingers together.

Long Reach Submission Benefits

A fighter with a long reach has the advantage of having more leverage and longer limbs, giving them the ability to find submissions at angles a shorter reach fighter can’t. One example is being able to easily find d’arce or anaconda chokes.

Also, a long leg reach is most useful in terms of jiu-jitsu and submission attempts as when on your back you have a huge guard and can attack by looking for triangle chokes or armbars; as well as defend extremely well with upkicks and a closed guard.

UFC Fighters With Negative Ape Indexes

Fighters with the shortest reach are the shortest fighters in height, and this is mostly female fighters; especially in the women’s strawweight division. 

Although, with all of the advantages of having a longer reach, it’s possibly not too significant in the UFC, with there being many great fighters with equal or negative ape indexes.

Here’s an interesting list: 

Khabib Nurmagomedov – Height: 178 cm / Reach: 178 cm / Ape Index: 0”
Petr Yan – Height: 170 cm / Reach: 170 cm / Ape Index: 0”
Max Holloway – Height: 180 cm / Reach: 175 cm / Ape Index: -2”
Cody Garbrandt Height: 173 cm / Reach: 166 cm / Ape Index: -2”

These are all former UFC champions and have an equal or negative ape index.

The fighter with the most negative ape index is Russian UFC fighter, Artem Lobov, who has a height of 175cms and a reach of 165cms, meaning his ape index is -4 inches.

To Summarize

Reach in the UFC is measured from the longest finger on one hand to the longest finger on the other hand, and leg reach is measured on the outside of the leg from the top of the hipbone to the heel.

While there are critics of the UFC’s reach measurement, it’s definitely accurate and necessary for the UFC and MMA.

There are definite benefits to the fighter with the longer reach, whether it be in striking, grappling, or some other way, and fighters such as Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou show how beneficial reach advantage can be in the UFC.

However, it’s not going to guarantee a win, and there are many great former champions that have equal or negative ape indexes.

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