Last Updated on September 28, 2022
Some UFC fights are so short you have to watch the replay striking your least favorite fighter down. On the other hand, some prelims are so long you end up thinking if the main event had finished already.
So, how long are UFC fights?
If it's a three-round match, it runs for 15 minutes. On the other hand, if it's a championship UFC fight with five rounds, its duration is 25 minutes.
Nevertheless, that's not the duration the UFC fight airs on television, as there are several breaks in between. Let's discuss this and other factors below.
How Long Do UFC Fights Last?
Let's look at the past to understand current rules.
The UFC Timing History
The history of MMA takes us back to cage fighting, a period when some combat sports were more violent and with little to no restrictions on how long a match lasted. Initially, this MMA organization, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), didn't impose time limits as they weren't necessary.
It had unlimited five-minute rounds in its first fight in 1993, and fighters would rest for a minute. That event was UFC 1, and it was as savage as cage fighting because even the referee couldn't stop the matches.
A bout could only end through a knockout, a fighter tapping out, or when one corner gave in.
None of the UFC fights that night were over five minutes long. Now you know that earlier bouts had five-minute rounds (although fighters were free to compete as long as possible).
The shortest, between Gerard Gordeau and Teila Tuli, ended in a technical knockout in 26 seconds. Royce Gracie faced off with Ken Shamrock in a semi-final match that catapulted Gracie to the finals because of his rear-backed choke that had Shamrock submitting in 57 seconds.
You'll come across claims that this MMA organization started without limits because of the unlimited duration policy of the UFC 1 bout.
UFC Fight Time Today
Things changed soon after, at UFC 5, when Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock met again. There was a 20-minute time limit for the quarter and semi-final rounds, while the final and the Superfight had a 30 minutes-limit.
But, the fight between Shamrock and Gracie went beyond its 30 minute-limit, and a quick decision had it extended by five minutes to find a winner, although it still ended in a draw.
The two spent half an hour grappling until the referee had to stand them up to fight in the additional five minutes. It must have been such an anticlimax for fans waiting for the two to get up and at least give them some action.
The five-minute rounds for championship bouts started at UFC 21 in 1999. With the new rules, prelims lasted two minutes, while the main event fights lasted three minutes.
The UFC follows the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts developed by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board. However, even though UFC follows these guidelines, it doesn't follow a fixed round system.
Hence, a UFC event match can last between 15 and 25 minutes, depending on whether it's the main card event, non-championship, or championship bout. When you add one-minute breaks between rounds, a UFC event fight is either 17 or 29 minutes long. If it has to go the distance, it gets an additional 10 minutes to find a winner.
Rarely do all events in a fight last a night long.
How Long Are UFC Fights In One Event?
Generally speaking, UFC events have early preliminaries, preliminaries, and main event bouts. The importance of the fights increases as you ascend the sections, so more money comes from the main card matches than early prelims.
You might never even know the fighters in the early prelims as UFC doesn't televise them.
There are usually about four early prelims, and these fights rarely have an audience because the fighters are either debutants or upcoming talent.
The next section of UFC events, the prelims, is about five matches. Some of the minutes in the prelims go to announcing fighters and interviews. The main event has about five bouts of highly-anticipated events with a large audience.
UFC events are about six hours long, including the breaks between when the fights last all three or five rounds. If the early prelims start around seven in the evening or earlier, the whole UFC event runs until past midnight.
The prelims UFC fights last an hour and a half, and the main card fights start from 10 p.m. to half an hour past midnight. The six hours aren't for the fights and breaks alone as there are interviews and advertisements between bouts.
Some fights are shorter because they end before the third or fifth round, where the judge's decision finds a winner. For example, a technical knockout can end a match prematurely. But, most UFC fights end via a judge's decision, which means those bouts may last 15 or 25 minutes for the three or five rounds limit.
When you find an average time of all fights in one event, you may get an average of under ten minutes. There are clock pauses after a foul, or an injured fighter needs a ringside doctor's examination before continuing the bout. A bout may be longer than 17 or 29 minutes in such cases.
Further, when you scrutinize the time in one UFC event, you realize that what happens in each match affects its actual fight time because fighters use different winning methods. Some give knockout punches in the first 10 seconds, and the fight ends.
A UFC event can be short when most bouts have one or two rounds lasting seconds.
For example, Drew McFedries had one of the shortest fight times, as he'd take down his opponents in less than two minutes. He gave Jordan Radev a knockout punch in 33 seconds in 2007 to win the Knockout of The Night Award. When you look at his MMA record, his long fights went to round three.
Other fighters face opponents that are too tactical to take down that a match even reaches round four. An example of such a fight was at UFC 36 when Matt Hughes met Hayato Sakurai, and the bout ended in a technical knockout in round four.
Also, UFC Fight Night 36 had one of the organization's longest matches. It was a fight between Lyoto Machida and Gegard Mousasi, and it went to round five.
Why There Are Time Limits In Mixed Martial Arts
Anyone could argue that a fight should end naturally, without predefined duration limits. Our search for reasons to have time limits gave us the following answers:
1. Prevent Lackluster Performance
As we mentioned earlier, it was one of the reasons for UFC's change of mind after a few years without a time limit. Imagine watching a bout where fighters spend more time on the ground grappling or resting without meaningful action. With time limits, there's bound to be some action as both fighters are eager to win fast.
2. Accommodate Allotted Television Time
Organizations like the UFC give these limits because of the commercial aspect of the sport. They have contracts to adhere to while ensuring fans get quality content. For example, UFC 5 was 40 minutes longer than the allotted time on the pay-per-view show. Fortunately, UFC had three hours of pay-per-view time.
3. Allow For Diverse Matches
Who doesn't want variety in MMA? Since there are different weight classes, it's right to have several events per night. Additionally, it makes the sport more competitive as there's a section for debutants and seasoned fighters, but in different event categories like early prelims and the main card.
Hosting timed bouts lets the organization schedule up to ten matches in one event.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How long do UFC fights last per round?
Each round lasts five minutes, whether an early prelim or the main card bout. However, most of the prominent matches throughout UFC's history lasted between one to three minutes per round. A fight rarely reaches the five-minute mark.
What was the longest UFC fight?
Since the UFC embraced the five-minute rounds, noteworthy long fights include a 2015 bout between Demetrious Johnson and Kyoji Horiguchi that ended a second before the limit. Another unforgettable one was a preliminary bout between Ricky Simon and Merab Dvalishvili that ended in a technical submission at 0:00 in the third round.
When we talk about events, UFC's longest event took place in Australia in 2017, an event that had 13 fights, with six of them on the main event card. Overall, the event lasted seven hours, including all the ceremonies.
What was the shortest UFC fight ever?
At UFC 239 in 2019, in the fight between Jorge Masvidal and Ben Askren. Masvidal defeated Asken with a flying knee in the first five seconds of round one.
This event had three early prelim matches, four prelims, and five main card bouts. Only four of the early prelims and prelim matches lasted the schedule of 15 minutes per fight, as the rest were over in the first round.
Before this match, Duane Ludwig set a six-second record in 2006 when he knocked out Jonathan Goulet. Other fighters with a record under ten seconds include Todd Duffee, Chan Sung Jung, and Ryan Jimmo.
How long do UFC fights last compared with other combat sports?
Compared to professional boxing, UFC events are shorter because a boxing round lasts three minutes, and there are about 12 rounds per fight.
After reading this article, you'll know the schedule of UFC matches and how to differentiate between title and non-title bouts. Title fights have five UFC rounds, while the non-main event fights last three UFC rounds.
Consequently, since a title bout is five minutes long per round, each match is about 25 minutes long for the five rounds. The early preliminary and prelims events have three, each lasting five minutes, so you'll enjoy bouts 15-minutes long. There's a minute break between each round, so add three minutes to any match timing.