What Is Catchweight in UFC? (Simplified With Examples)

Among the many confusing terms in the UFC, have you heard the term catchweight and are wondering what it means?

In this article, we’ll look at what a catchweight is, how they’re different from the current UFC divisions, what causes a catchweight to happen, and more.

What Is Catchweight in UFC?

Catchweight in the UFC, is a fight where both fighters agree to fight outside of their normal weight class’s upper weight limit.

A catchweight fight is not limited to the upper weight limits of the 12 different UFC weight class divisions, and its new weight limit is normally the heavier fighter’s weight.

The UFC doesn’t have a catchweight division or a catchweight champion, and they’re seen as one-offs.

To understand a catchweight more fully, we need to first look at the current UFC weight class divisions, and see how a catchweight fight would fall outside of these weight limits.

What Are the Current Weight Class Divisions in the UFC?

Weight DivisionWeight Limit
Strawweight (women only)105 to 115 lbs
Flyweight (men and women)115 to 125 lbs
Bantamweight (men and women)125 to 135 lbs
Featherweight (men and women)135 to 145 lbs
Lightweight (men only)145 to 155 lbs
Welterweight (men only)155 to 170 lbs
Middleweight (men only)170 to 185 lbs
Light Heavyweight (men only)185 to 205 lbs
Heavyweight (men only)205 to 265 lbs

The Official Rules of MMA recognize 15 total weight class divisions, whilst the UFC only has 12. The UFC’s weight classes are separated by men and women, with men fighting in 8 divisions (flyweight to heavyweight), and women fighting in 4 divisions (strawweight to featherweight). 

How Does a UFC Catchweight Differ From the UFC’s Official Weight Class Divisions?

The first thing to know is there are two types of UFC catchweight fights, and these are:

Weight miss catchweight – This is caused by a fighter missing the contracted weigh-in weight of an official UFC weight class division, resulting in the two fighters being in different weight classes.

For example, in the welterweight division, the maximum weigh-in weight is 171 lbs (nontitle fight). So, if one fighter weighed in at 174 lbs, they’re now in the middleweight division, whilst their opponent who made weight is a welterweight.

As fighters cannot fight when being in separate divisions, a catchweight fight is offered to the fighter who made weight successfully, and they can choose whether they want to proceed with the fight or cancel.

In the above example, if a catchweight fight can be agreed to, it’ll be referred to as a catchweight bout of 174 lbs; referring to the heaviest fighter’s weight.

Contracted catchweight – This is an agreed-upon contracted catchweight arranged in advance, usually a week or more before the weigh-in date. 

There are no rules on when they can be offered and accepted, and are mostly used when a fighter realizes they’ll be unable to weigh in under the upper weight limit of the originally contracted division.

A contracted catchweight has no spread allowance, meaning either fighter can weigh in at any weight as long as they’re below the agreed-to weight limit.

As an example, one or both fighters are way above their normal weight class of 185 lbs and offer their opponent a catchweight bout at 195 lbs; which they can agree to or decline.

If both fighters aren’t able to agree to a contracted catchweight, then the original weight class division weight limit will be used as per their contracts.

What Are the UFC Weigh-in Rules Concerning UFC Catchweights?

There are different weigh-in rules for different UFC fights, which can determine whether a fight becomes a catchweight.

For title fights, fighters cannot be over the upper limit of the weight class division, and no lower than the lower limit of the division.

If it isn’t a title fight, fighters can be up to 1lb heavier than the upper limit of their weight class division, but no lower than the lower limit of their division.

With this in mind, the Official Rules of MMA state, that for a weight-miss catchweight fight to be arranged the heavier fighter cannot be more than 5 lbs heavier than the lower-weighing fighter.

For example, 176 lbs would be the maximum weight if the lighter fighter weighed in at 171 lbs.

If a fighter did weigh in more than 5 lbs heavier than their opponent, fights are usually moved up to the next weight division and are no longer a catchweight. 

As an example, William Knight vs Maxim Grishin was scheduled as a light heavyweight bout but Knight weighed in at 218 lbs, 12 lbs heavier than Grishin; therefore the UFC moved the fight to heavyweight (as agreed to by Grishin) which has an upper weight limit of 265 lbs.

Other rules include commissions having the power to cancel catchweight bouts if they feel the weight disparity is large enough to make the fight unsafe for the lighter fighter.

However, this is unlikely as a weight-miss catchweight bout cannot be scheduled if one fighter is 5 lbs heavier than their opponent, and a contracted catchweight is agreed to in advance so the commissions would’ve already agreed to the fight taking place.

What Causes a Catchweight UFC Bout?

Catchweight bouts are the result of a fighter missing weight, or an early agreement to have a fight at a contracted catchweight.

Many catchweight bouts are also the result of a fighter not being able to fight, meaning a late-notice replacement has to step in. In this way, a catchweight is used by the UFC to save a fight.

As late-notice replacements aren’t always prepared or aren’t given enough time to make weight for a fight below their current weight, they’re much more likely to miss weight, therefore the UFC usually makes the fight a contracted catchweight bout (arranged weight limit).

Lastly, catchweight bouts are sometimes created because an opportunity arises for a great fight, but the two fighters have varying weights. The catchweight limit allows them to come to an agreement and meet in the middle.

What Causes a Fighter To Miss Weight?

The first thing causing a fighter to miss weight is the poor judgment by a fighter and their coaching team. This may be poor diet choices meaning they get too heavy throughout the year, or not giving themselves enough time to lose excess body fat before a fight.

Also, another reason fighters miss weigh-in weight is the poor judgment or execution of a water weight cut. It’s usually fighters that are way too heavy for a weight class, and are trying to lose around 15% or more of their body weight in water.

In addition, missing weight may be the result of ill health, caused by excessive water weight cuts, severe dehydration, and a lack of food.

If a fighter is seriously ill they’re unlikely to fight, but if they can recover, they’ll likely miss weight and rely on their opponent agreeing to a catchweight bout.

Penalties for Fighters Missing Weight

If a fighter misses weight, they’re given 2 extra hours in order to lose extra lbs in an attempt to make weight a second time.

If they’re still unable to make weight, and their opponent agrees to a catchweight bout, the following penalties may occur:

Lose a percentage of their purse – The fighter missing weight faces 20-30% deductions from their total earnings, as determined by the State Athletic Commission in charge of the event. 

In extreme cases, a fighter can lose 40% of their total earnings if they miss weight by an absurd amount (William Knight UFC 271).

Each athletic commission has its own rules regarding purse deductions, and these rules are undisclosed, and sometimes purse deductions are undisclosed too.

Because fighters lose a percentage of their total earnings, they won’t know how much they’ve lost until it’s calculated post-fight.

On top of this, an overweight fighter is ineligible for any bonuses they may win, such as Fight of the Night or Knockout of the Night. Any shared awards mean their bonuses are transferred to their opponent who made weight.

This was the case at UFC Vegas 53, where Rob Font missed weight and his fight with Marlon Vera became a catchweight.

The bout won the Fight of the Night, which gives a shared bonus of $50,000 each, meaning Font’s bonus was given to Vera who went home with an extra $100,000.

Loss of recognition for the title or ranking – If a challenging fighter is overweight, they cannot win the title or move up in the rankings because they’ll be fighting at catchweight or the division above (not in their normal weight division).

If the UFC undisputed champion makes weight, they’re still able to increase their pound-for-pound ranking position, notch title defenses, and receive all of the earnings they’re entitled to.

However, if a champion is overweight they’re stripped of their title, and if the challenger made weight they’re eligible to win the title.

This happened at UFC 274 where Charles Oliveira missed weight and lost his champion status and belt, whereas Justin Gaethje was eligible to win the title because he made weight.

Canceled Fight – If the fighter that made weight declines a catchweight bout with their original opponent, the overweight fighter loses the opportunity to fight and therefore loses 100% of their earnings.

Forced to move weight class or released – If a fighter repeatedly misses weight (3 or more times), the UFC can permanently move them up a weight division.

This infamously happened to Kelvin Gastelum after his welterweight limit miss against Donald Cerrone, subsequently being moved from welterweight to middleweight. 

Not only this but repeatedly missing weight is unprofessional and can lead to being cut from the UFC. This happened to Anthony Johnson as he was cut the day after his fight (UFC142), due to missing weight a third time, and by 12 lbs.

Why Would a Fighter Agree to a Catchweight Bout?

The reasons for agreeing to a catchweight bout are different for the fighter who made weight, the fighter who missed weight, and the short-notice replacement fighter.

The Fighter Who Made Weight

They would agree to a catchweight bout for the following reasons:

Extra pay – They receive a percentage split of their opponent’s pay between themselves and the athletic commission. For the fighter, this will usually be 15 or 20%. They also receive any bonuses their opponent would’ve won for shared awards, such as the fight of the night or performance of the night.

They need to – Fighters only have so many fights in a year, and they have a lot of money to pay out when preparing for a fight. If they don’t fight, they’re likely to be out of pocket as they’ll only receive show money (paid for making weight), as they’re unable to get a win bonus or any other bonus on offer.

They’re entertainers – Fighters are professionals and have worked hard to make weight and train for the fight. They feel that a few extra lbs won’t make too much of a difference and they want to make the fight happen to entertain the fans.

Short Notice Replacement Fighter

Similar to the above reasons, short-notice replacements, like most fighters, usually take as many fights as they can in order to earn extra income, and because they love what they do. The income for a replacement fighter is decided by their negotiation with the UFC.

Any fighter who accepts on short notice is also guaranteed another fight in the UFC, regardless of the outcome. This is because they’re doing the UFC a big favor in saving a fight.

The Fighter Who Missed Weight

If a fighter misses weight, they would agree to a catchweight because they’re the reason the fight is in jeopardy, and if they were to cancel after missing weight, they would not be viewed favorably by the fans or the UFC, and may even be released.

They too need money to cover costs associated with training camp and preparation; especially since they’re now facing a pay cut.

They also now have an advantage, being the bigger, fuller, and more hydrated fighter. In a sport of fine margins, every lb of weight makes a difference which is the reason there are weight class divisions.

However, since the inception of the UFC’s early weigh-in procedures in 2016, in the first 63 catchweight fights, the fighter’s missing weight went 31-32, showing missing weight doesn’t have much effect on the results.

Also, as missing weight is often caused by a heavy fighter attempting an extreme water weight cut, they’re likely not in their best condition after putting their mind and body through extreme stresses; which can negate the advantage of any extra weight they have.

Famous UFC Catchweight Fights

Joseph Benavidez vs Deiveson Figueiredo (UFC FN:169)

Figueiredo became only the third fighter in UFC history to fight in a title fight after he missed weight by 2.5 lbs; causing the fight to become a 127.5 lb catchweight.

The flyweight title was on the line after Cejudo vacated the belt, and while Benavidez was eligible to become champion if he won, Figueiredo wasn’t.

Figueiredo won the fight via TKO, with the UFC eventually rescheduling the same fight for the title down the line. He also had to give up 30% of his purse and give up all bonuses.

Matt Hughes vs Thiago Alves (UFC 85)

The UFC brought in former champion Hughes as a short-notice replacement against Alves after injuries caused other fighters to cancel. Despite this, it was Alves who missed weight due to an ankle injury, with Hughes agreeing to a 175lbs catchweight bout.

It appears dealing with the ankle injury was easy enough for Alves, knocking out Hughes in the second round with a flying knee.

The purse deduction Alves lost as a result of missing weight is undisclosed but likely to have been 20% as the UFC was more lenient before the introduction of weigh-in procedures in 2016.

Wanderlei Silva vs Rich Franklin (UFC 99)

This event is well known for having a catchweight fight as the main event as well as being the first UFC event in Germany and mainland Europe.

The fight was a contracted catchweight of 195 lbs, agreed to because Franklin had recently moved to light heavyweight, and Silva was losing weight to become a middleweight fighter. Therefore they met in the middle to create the fight.

In a close fight, the naturally heavier man in Franklin outscored Silva throughout the fight to win via split decision. There were no purse deductions for either fighter as the fight was a contracted catchweight.

Aljamain Sterling vs Renan Barao (UFC 214)

Originally contracted to be a bantamweight fight, Barao had extreme challenges in cutting weight for his previous fights (admitted to hospital), leading the California State Athletic Commission to mandate the fight at 140 lbs.

As the catchweight bout was mandated by the commission in charge and both fighters agreed to the new terms (contracted catchweight), neither fighter faced purse deductions.

What Is Catchweight in UFC? – To Summarize

The UFC isn’t keen on catchweight fights, especially since they and the commissions became stricter on weigh-ins and water weight cuts.

They have to have this stance on catchweight bouts because missing weight is unprofessional and shouldn’t be excused by the UFC.

Many believe the UFC is too lenient with fighters missing weight, and that the pay cut should be 50% or more. Although, if the penalties are too high, many more fights will be canceled as a result.

Most catchweight fights in the UFC are legitimate MMA weight classes according to the Official Rules of MMA, and in a competitive sport where injuries and weight cutting are rampant, catchweight fights are essential to the UFC in keeping events full of fights.

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