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What Does Catchweight Mean In The UFC?

So if you’re on this post, chances are you saw something about a catchweight regarding a UFC fight. And maybe you were left wondering, “what exactly is a catchweight?” So in this post, I’m going to explain everything there is to know about catchweights in the UFC.

What is a catchweight in the UFC?

In short, a catchweight is a weight limit agreed upon by the two fighters competing in the bout. A catchweight falls outside of the limits set by traditional weight classes, and is usually set when the fighters wish to avoid an excessive weight cut, although it also occurs when a fighter misses weight.

In the rest of this post, I will go into detail on why fights are contested at catchweight, and how exactly catchweights are decided.

What Exactly Is A Catchweight?

So I’ve given you the brief definition of a catchweight, but that doesn’t really explain much. If you are a newer fan of MMA, then the short answer might not be of much help. So before we continue, I’m going to break down exactly how a catchweight works.

A catchweight does not fall into any of the UFC's nine traditional weight classes.
A catchweight does not fall into any of the UFC’s nine traditional weight classes.

In combat sports, each sport has its own set of weight classes, under which the competitors fall. In the case of the UFC, there are nine total weight classes, those being:

Strawweight (115 pounds)

Flyweight (125 pounds)

Bantamweight (135 pounds)

Featherweight (145 pounds)

Lightweight (155 pounds)

Welterweight (170 pounds)

Middleweight (185 pounds)

Light Heavyweight (205 pounds)

Heavyweight (265 pounds)

These are the official weight classes of the UFC. A fight is considered a catchweight fight when the weight limit is not one of the ones listed above.

So for example, let’s say there are two Featherweight (145) fighters who don’t want to cut all the way down to 145 lbs. Perhaps they don’t want the fight to be contested at Lightweight (155) for whatever reason, and instead opt for a catchweight of 150 lbs.

This fight at UFC 250 was fought at a catchweight because Dunham is a Lightweight, while Burns is a Featherweight.
This fight at UFC 250 was fought at a catchweight because Dunham is a Lightweight, while Burns is a Featherweight.

The weight limit is considered a “catchweight” because it does not fit any traditional weight limit, as it is over the limit of Featherweight, and below the limit of Lightweight.

So a fight is contested at a catchweight any time the agreed upon competition weight does not fall into one of the official weight classes listed above.

Now let’s look at the different reasons as to why fighters agree to fight at a catchweight instead of their usual weight class.

Catchweight Due To Missing Weight

In the vast majority of cases, a fight is competed at a catchweight due to one of the fighters missing weight. Although the fighter who missed eight will face consequences (which I talk about more in detail in another post), they are still allowed to compete at a catchweight.

To demonstrate how a catchweight works after a fighter missing weight, let’s look at an example. In the first case, we’ll be looking at the Welterweight showdown between Stephen Thompson and Darren Till.

At UFC Liverpool, Darren Till failed to make the 170-pound limit, despite stripping down.
At UFC Liverpool, Darren Till failed to make the 170-pound limit, despite stripping down.

This was a fight that would likely decide the #1 contender for the decision, who would likely get a title shot. The bout was to be contested at Welterweight, 170 pounds. However, on the day of weigh-ins, Till stepped on the scale weighing 174.5 pounds.

I should not that non-title fights allow a one-pound allowance to fighters, meaning that the official limit for this fight was 171 pounds. Regardless, Till missed the limit by 3.5 pounds, meaning the fight could not be contested at Welterweight.

When a fighter misses weight, their opponent has the right to refuse to fight, as missing weight is basically a breach of contract, where the weight is specified. However, in most cases, the fighter simply opts to take a percentage of their opponent’s purse, and continue as normal at a catchweight.

This is what happened with Thompson vs Till, as Thompson took 30% of Till’s purse, with the fight officially continuing at a 174.5 catchweight. Thompson also had a stipulation for Till’s weight on the day after, although this is less common.

Aside from forfeiting 20%-30% of their purse, fighters who miss weight are also ineligible for championship status, such as Yoel Romero at UFC 225.
Aside from forfeiting 20%-30% of their purse, fighters who miss weight are also ineligible for championship status, such as Yoel Romero at UFC 225.

One thing I want to note is that some athletic commissions do require the fighters to be within a certain weight range for the bout to continue. This has happened before, and is noteworthy, because it can cause a fight to be canceled despite a catchweight agreement.

At UFC 205, a Welterweight bout between Donald Cerrone and Kelvin Gastelum was scrapped after Gastelum failed to weigh-in. Of course, if a fighter doesn’t officially weigh-in, then the fight is automatically canceled.

However, even if Gastelum had shown up to the weigh-in, the bout would not have continued. This is because Cerrone weighed in earlier, making the limit at 170.4 pounds. It is unkown how close Gastelum got to the limit, but Cerrone said that he heard Gastelum was 180 pounds!

Significantly over the limit. So much so, that even if Gastelum had weighed in, the fight would not continue, even at a catchweight. This is because the New York Athletic Commission has rules regarding weight differences between fighters. The maximum weight difference for a Middleweight bout (because Gastelum was too big to be considered a Welterweight) is 9 pounds.

Kelvin Gastelum has had an issue with making weight previously, and was forced to move to Middleweight by the UFC after missing weight for UFC 205.
Kelvin Gastelum has had an issue with making weight previously, and was forced to move to Middleweight by the UFC after missing weight for UFC 205.

Their weight difference was 9.6 pounds (unofficially, as Gastelum’s weight of 180 is hearsay), and so the fight would not be sanctioned, even at a catchweight. Cerrone expressed frustration at the fact that the fight might have continued if Gastelum had weighed in and notified Cerrone that he would miss weight.

In an interview with Karyn Bryant, Cerrone said, “Had I known, I would’ve just blown weight too.” Karyn also noted this, as the fact that Gastelum no-showed was a bigger factor than his missing weight.

So all this to say that catchweights most commonly occur when a fighter misses weight, but the catchweight won’t always be accepted by an athletic commission.

Catchweight Due To Commission’s Intervention

The second most common reason for why a fight might be contested at a catchweight is on orders of the commission. I say “second most common”, but note that these last two reasons for a catchweight are not nearly as common as catchweights from missing weight.

Anyways, a commission can basically order to be fought at a catchweight if there is something that they don’t agree with. The most memorable example is probably when a fight between two Bantamweights (135 lbs.) Aljamain Sterling and Renan Barao was set at a catchweight of 140 pounds.

Despite this fight being between two bantamweights, the commission ordered the bout to be fought at 140 pounds,
Despite this fight being between two bantamweights, the commission ordered the bout to be fought at 140 pounds,

The fight was to be fought in Anaheim, California under the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC). However, the CSAC would not license Renan Barao to fight at Bantamweight due to his failed weight cut at UFC 177, where he pulled out of the fight due to complications.

For this reason, the CSAC said that it would only allow Barao to fight at a 140-pound catchweight, to ensure his safety during the weight cut. A representative of the CSAC stated that once Barao could make 140 safely, they would license him to fight at 135.

This doesn’t happen too often, but it is one of the reasons for why a fight may be contested at a catchweight. Finally, let’s look at the last reason for why a bout is fought at a catchweight.

Catchweight Agreed On Prior To The Fight

The final reason for why a fight is contested at a catchweight is simply because the fighters wanted to. This just means that the two fighters wanted to fight at a catchweight, and approached the UFC asking to do so. Of course, this can also occur for bout that the UFC scheduled themselves, where the fighters choose to fight at a catchweight.

This fight was held at a catchweight due to the fighters being in different weight classes, as well as the one-week notice.
This fight was held at a catchweight due to the fighters being in different weight classes, as well as the one-week notice.

An example of this occurred at UFC 250, when the UFC decided to book a fight between Herbert Burns and Evan Dunham. However, this fight was set to be a 150-pound catchweight bout since it was announced. There are a couple of reasons as to why that is.

Firstly, the two fighters are in different weight classes. Evan Dunham is a Lightweight (155), while Herbert Burns is a Featherweight (145). This means that either Burns would take a big risk moving up to 155, or Dunham would have to ut an excessive amount of weight to make 145. In cases like this, it simply makes sense for the fighters t meet in the middle.

However, another reason for why this fight was announced at a catchweight was the short notice. As you probably know, MMA fighters cut a lot of weight to meet their respective weight limit, and it takes some fighters several weeks to be on weight.

This fight was set one week before the event. So of course, the fighters did not have a lot of time to make weight, particularly the 145-pound limit. However, Dunham had been training for a fight previously, and so he was in fighting shape, just not enough to make 145.

And because Burns was not preparing for a fight prior to this one, he likely would have had trouble making the 145-pound limit as well. For these reasons, the fight was set at a catchweight.

I hope this post helped explain exactly what a catchweight is in the UFC, and why catchweight fights occur. Here’s a quick summary of the post:

In short, a catchweight is an agreed-upon weight for a fight that does not fall into one of the UFC’s nine official weight classes. A catchweight may occur when a fighter misses weight, or when fighters from different weight classes wish to fight each other.

If this post helped you understand how the UFC’s catchweight fights work, please consider checking out the Fan Questions page, where I answer common MMA questions. Thanks for reading!

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