What Is A Catchweight In The UFC? Weight Class Explained

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Occasionally, you’ll see a matchup introduced at the ‘Catchweight’ weight class when watching the UFC fight night. But what is catchweight in UFC?

The Catchweight in the UFC is any pre-agreed weight between fighters before their matchup. It usually happens when one fighter can’t make weight in the week leading up to a fight, and both camps agree to a Catchweight to continue the fight.

There are plenty of occasions when this has happened in UFC’s history and how they happen, so keep reading to learn exactly what those are.

How Catchweight can happen

First, let me tell you about a few ways the Catchweight can happen.

The main reason that the Catchweight exists is to ensure that a matchup still goes ahead.

Usually, matchups between two fighters are booked months ahead to allow both camps to train well and get in fighting shape and, of course, weight.

If a UFC fighter misses weight for that matchup, they’ll often introduce the Catchweight to keep it on the card.

When a fighter agrees to a matchup, they’re signing a contract with the UFC and are expected to be able to make that appearance.

If a fighter doesn’t show up to fight, they don’t get paid. It’s that simple.

So for the fighter’s financial interests, they’ll do everything they can to make sure they can walk into the cage on fight day.

If the fighter backs out of the fight, they miss the opportunity to earn their fight purse and any other bonuses — like sponsorship, winning, or performance bonuses.

When a fighter doesn’t earn any money, this can considerably impact their ability to pay bills, like their coaches, nutritionists, and doctors that get them from one fight to the next.

It’s just one of the harsh realities for MMA fighters, and particularly why many people consider UFC fighters underpaid.

It also could put you out of Dana White and the UFC’s favor if you flake out of your contract and skip a fight. You might just end up with fewer opportunities in the future.

So this is where the Catchweight comes in.

Fans want to see the fight once it’s been booked, and fighters want to get paid. Fighters will agree to a Catchweight, which must be both fighters within 5 lbs of each other.

Let’s talk about some of those common scenarios that involve the Catchweight.

Fighter misses their weight class’s upper limit

The most common cause for a Catchweight fight is when one, or both, fighters miss their designated weight class.

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Let’s say two fighters agree to a Lightweight bout, where the upper limit is 155 lbs.

In the week leading up to the fight, which is when fighters cut weight the most, one fighter could be sitting at 158 lbs and struggling bad to get off the last few pounds.

Some fighters have easier cuts than others, and it can be related to their history of weight cutting, age, and general health.

So being unable to shed the last extra pound or two can be a struggle.

If the camp of the overweight fighter thinks that they won’t make weight, they’ll usually warn the UFC and open the door for either a fight reschedule or a Catchweight.

The UFC will then approach the opposition and offer them options of what they want to do.

No one is forced to fight in this kind of situation, but you’d bet they are encouraged to accept the Catchweight to keep the show running smoothly.

Both sides need to get paid!

If the on-weight fighter decides not to go ahead with the matchup, they could still receive some money from the UFC at their discretion.

Weight class upper limits

Every weight class has a lower limit and an upper limit.

Fighters want to be in that final pound of their limit for most weight classes simply because having the most weight allowed gives them a better advantage in the fight.

Weight Class (Division) Lower weight limit (lbs) Upper weight limit (lbs)
Flyweight >115 lbs 125 lbs
Bantamweight >125 lbs 135 lbs
Featherweight >135 lbs 145 lbs
Lightweight >145 lbs 155 lbs
Welterweight >165 lbs 170 lbs
Middleweight >175 lbs 185 lbs
Light Heavyweight >195 lbs 205 lbs
Heavyweight >225 lbs 265 lbs

But that’s not always the same for every weight class, like Heavyweight.

In the Heavyweight division, fighters can be between 225 and 265 lbs, the broadest weight potential of all divisions.

For example, Jon Jones entered the Heavyweight class recently, weighing around 248 lbs, and his opponent, Ciryl Gane, weighed around 254 lbs.

Take a look at the full range of weights in the Heavyweight division:

Fighter Weight
Jon Jones 248 lbs
Ciryl Gane 254 lbs
Sergei Pavlovich 256 lbs
Stipe Miocic 234 lbs
Curtis Blaydes 262 lbs
Tom Aspinall 251 lbs

That’s a 28 lbs difference from the lightest to the heaviest, which is a lot of extra weight to take straight on your face with a knockout punch.

Forced by the sports commission

The fighter could also be forced to ask for a Catchweight by the state’s Athletic/Sports Commission where the fight is taking place.

Fighters normally have to answer to the demands of the sports regulations, which ensure that competitors are safe and healthy going into combat sports matchups.

Those rules could change from state to state and even country to country. So every weight cut for a fighter could be unique each time.

This can happen if the commission feels that the athlete’s safety or health is in jeopardy.

The commission might require a fight to enter a Catchweight to effectively increase the weight limit for the fight to ensure one or both fighters are going into the fight in a healthy state.

They might do this if one fighter’s history has shown they struggle to make weight for the designated weight class for their upcoming fight.

Or they might enforce random hydration or weight checks on either fighter at their discretion in the lead-up to a fight and may not be happy with their current health analysis.

Catchweight fight already agreed upon

Sometimes a Catchweight happens simply because that’s what both fighters want.

This usually happens when there’s a lot of encouragement from fans and the MMA community to see two fighters throw down, but their natural weights may be too far from each other.

So to help the fight go ahead, both might agree to a Catchweight fight at a specific weight in pounds.

Effects of a Catchweight fight

So a Catchweight matchup is going ahead, but there can be a few effects from it. Let’s go into more detail about them.

Lose a portion of earnings

If one fighter has been unable to make the originally planned weight, and the fight gets moved to a Catchweight, then the offender has to give up around 30% of their fight purse to the opposition.

But that’s not all, because the overweight fighter will also lose the opportunity to win any of the fight bonuses, which will instead be given to their opponent.

That includes sponsorship money and performance bonuses like ‘Fight of the ‘Night.’

It’s another incentive for the fighter who made weight successfully to continue with the fight because even if they lose, they’d still be getting out a juicy pay packet from it.

Fight doesn’t affect rankings

If a Catchweight fight goes ahead, it won’t be an official fight for the original weight class.

This means that it won’t affect UFC rankings, but it’ll give both fighters a fight purse which is often the biggest incentive for fighters.

It also means that if the original fight was for a championship belt, it completely negates that opportunity. Instead, it’s just a fight for glory, money, and for the fans.

Famous Catchweight bouts in the UFC

I’ve picked out some of the best Catchweight matchups we’ve seen in the UFC for your entertainment. Check them out below.

Marvin Vettori Vs. Paulo Costa (UFC Fight Night 196)

A fight which was originally contracted at Middleweight (185 lbs), the Vettori Vs. Costa matchup in 2021 was abruptly changed when Costa was unable to make the weight.

Instead, the fight was agreed to continue at a Catchweight of 195 lbs, with Paulo Costa giving up 20% of his fight purse to Marvin Vettori.

MMA fans know all too well how both these athletes like to lock in by standing firm to the ground and throwing absolute wild swings at their opponents.

So we were hoping for quite an exciting matchup that had knockout written all over it.

But how things often go in these matchups, fighters cancel each other out and the style and pace completely changes.

This fight had plenty of big whacks and even spinning head kicks, but in the end the battle went a full five rounds of slugging it out.

Vettori edged it with a unanimous decision victory and put himself back on the hunt for a contender spot in Middleweight.

Quinton Jackson Vs. Ryan Bader (UFC 144)

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson missed weight for the first time in his matchup with Ryan Bader, originally intended as a Light Heavyweight (205 lbs) fight, in 2012.

Bader did the respectable thing to keep the fight going and agreed to a Catchweight at 211 lbs.

Ryan played his strategy smart for the fight and kept Quinton at enough distance until opportunities opened up to rush him against the cage and tally up lots of grappling control time.

A few shaky moments for Bader, as was always to be expected with the powerful hands of Rampage.

But Ryan Bader got the job done and won by unanimous decision.

Plenty of fans for Quinton Jackson say that prime Rampage would have demolished Ryan Bader — but it’s all in the past now as it’s unlikely to see that matchup ever again.

Alexander Volkanovski Vs. Shane Young (UFC Fight Night 121)

Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski faced the UFC-first-timer Shane Young at a Catchweight of 150 lbs in 2017.

Shane stepped in on a week’s notice to make the fight, which is probably why it was made into a Catchweight so that he could be fight-ready within such a short time.

Shane weighed in at 147 lbs, and Alexander at 149 lbs. So despite the Catchweight, Volk still had the upper hand on weight.

Alexander was the biggest favorite on the entire card that night. But Shane still went toe to toe with him for three full rounds, forcing out a decision from the judges.

But Volkanovski won by unanimous decision, having controlled Young with a clinical display of striking and grappling against the cage.

Anthony Johnson Vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida (UFC 104)

Back in 2009, the great Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (RIP) took on Yoshiyuki Yoshida at a Catchweight of 176 lbs.

But this was because Anthony came in over the weight limit of what was supposed to be a Welterweight fight of 170 lbs.

Yoshida agreed for the fight to continue at the Catchweight, but he likely couldn’t put on more weight with little time for it.

Rumble came in already overweight, and he was always a thick and muscular fighter who carried extra pounds easily.

This probably put Yoshida at a considerable disadvantage in this fight. Rumble knocked him out within the first minute of the first round.

Wanderlei Silva Vs. Rich Franklin (UFC 99)

Back in the early days, Silva was fighting in the Light Heavyweight division (205 lbs), and Franklin was commonly fighting in the Middleweight division (185 lbs).

But leading into this fight, both they and the fans wanted to see what would happen when the two locked heads.

So to make it possible, both fighters agreed on a Catchweight of 194 lbs and successfully weighed in at 194′ for their weigh-in.

It was an absolute slugfest of a fight where both struck their hearts out, landing all kinds of head strikes throughout.

Wanderlei Silva won unanimously on the judge’s scorecards, but both created a special moment for us in UFC history.

What to read next

Now that you know all there is about Catchweights in the UFC, these next articles will be right up your alley:

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