What is Catchweight in the UFC? | Easily Explained
Catchweight fights don't occur often in the UFC, so when they occur, many fans are rightfully confused.
In this page, we will explain what a catchweight fight is, when they occur, and which fighters have been a part of catchweight fights in the history of the UFC.
What is a Catchweight Fight in MMA?
A catchweight fight is a term used to describe a fight that occurs at a weight class that does not currently exist in the UFC.
Catchweight fights usually occur when there is a late notice replacement that cannot make the weight that the bout is scheduled for.
UFC has a set of different weight classes where fighters typically must be within range of one of them, to compete.
The one exception occurs when in rare moments a catchweight fight is agreed to by both parties (and the promotion).
Catchweight Fights That Happened in the UFC
Darren Till vs Stephen Thompson
Till ended up coming 3.5 lbs overweight to the main event in his hometown. Thompson ended up taking 30% of his purse due to the missed weight cut.
Anthony Johnson vs Rich Clementi
Johnson ended up coming at 177 lbs, whereas Clementi came in at 169 lbs.
Clementi ended up winning in the second round vs a rear naked choke.
Johnson has had a well-documented problem cutting weight as he was known to cut up to 50 lbs for a fight. He at one point was even cut from the UFC after coming in 11 lbs overweight to his middleweight bout.
He had a career resurgence once he moved up to a more natural weight class at 205 lbs.
Catchweight Fights That Did Not Materialize in the UFC
Jon Jones vs Israel Adesanya
These two have created a well-documented feud, as they are not each other's biggest fans.
“I’m not ready for heavyweight yet...” - Jon Jones. #definitely 😂 pic.twitter.com/pxv0biZVE4— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) October 6, 2020
Adesanya is the Middleweight (185 lbs) champion, whereas Jones was the Light heavyweight champion (205 lbs) before willingly giving it up.
Jones is a natural 230-pounder who cuts down to 205 lbs, whereas Adesanya is a natural 200-pounder who cuts to 185 lbs. Seeing as it's unlikely that Jones would ever be able to make 185 lbs, the only choice is for Adesanya to move up in weight.
You can already see where this is going. If Adesanya moved up to 205 lbs, after weighing in he could be giving up 30-40 lbs to Jones, once Jones rehydrates.
That's a massive size disadvantage and it's one of the reasons why many fans proposed a catchweight fight for the two of them.
Jones ended up giving up his lightweight belt to move up to heavyweight. This fight can still occur at one point, but for now, we wait.
GSP vs Khabib
GSP the greatest welterweight (170 lbs) of all time has always been linked to a super fight with Khabib. Khabib's father's dream was for Khabib to retire at 30-0 and beat GSP as well.
Khabib's father's unfortunate death prompted enhanced speculation of this fight taking place, as fans believed that Khabib would want to complete his dad's dream.
As that speculation increased, GSP suggested fighting at a catchweight fight. He pointed out that he was now 39 and hadn't cut weight in 3 years, and Khabib was used to it (cutting weight) at this point, so GSP would be compromising his performance by cutting all of that weight. On top of that, GSP has never cut to 155 lbs in his career.
Khabib on the other hand has fought his entire career at 155 lbs and wanted to finish his career at 155 lbs, as fighting at a catchweight would not count as a title defense.
Both sides made great points.
Unfortunately, this turned out to be one of the greatest "what if" as Khabib ended up retiring in his prime shortly after mauling Justin Gaethje.
Which Catchweight Fighter Has the Advantage?
This is a case-by-case basis where there isn't a 'true' answer.
Fightmatrix did a case study on the outcome of fights where a fighter missed weight.
Out of 5,719 fights, the heavier fighter won 54.55% of the time.
As you can see by the data, it's still a toss-up on who has the advantage. The data tells us that the heavier fighter has a slight advantage, but it's not a clear-cut situation.
Is There a Catchweight Champion?
No, as this is an unofficial weight there is no champion. The only champions exist from the existing UFC weight classes.
Fan Thoughts on Catchweight Fights
Every once in a while two dominant fighters are a bit far apart in weight.
In this case, fans become very interested in the possibility to see two of the best go at it and also be able to see who would give up a size or weight advantage to prove themselves.
In most other cases, fans acknowledge that a catchweight has been made to save a fight to stay on a card. More fights in a card are always great news for fans.
Dana White’s Thoughts on Catchweight Fights
Recently, before the bout Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier had a back and forth where they suggested that their fight should take place at welterweight or even a catchweight bout.
Dana White wasn't too receptive to that when asked by reporters.
"It's 155 pounds," White told BT Sport. "I'm not putting on a freaking multi-million dollar fight at a catch weight that means nothing. … That fight means nothing at 170.
Neither one of those two is ranked at 170 pounds and it doesn't do anything in the -pound division if either one of them win cause they're fighting at 170. It literally makes no sense."
So, it's safe to say that Dana White isn't the biggest fan of catchweights, and his track record reinforces that thought as almost all catchweights that are made in the UFC are to save a fight with a last-minute replacement opponent.
To be fair, it's hard to get a 'casual' fan who doesn't know much about the UFC interested in a pay-per-view if there isn't even a belt on the line for the main event.
At the end of the day, the business is about making money while putting on great fights, and those fights need to attract casual viewers to reach their potential.
Why Else Make Catchweight Fights?
Keeping the Competition Honest
Many times in the history of the UFC, there have been instances where fighters were looking to make super fights, but the size disparity was too great to overcome for one of the fighters to make the weight class, so they proposed a catchweight.
.Good luck to @aleshazapp & all the ladies fighting tomorrow on @InvictaFights. I'm filling in for @laura_sanko while she's off covering #UFCMilwaukee— Megan Anderson (@MeganA_mma) December 15, 2018
Make sure to tune in to Invicta's FB from 7.30CT for the prelims & switch to @ufcfightpass at 9 for an action packed main card! pic.twitter.com/60bYwmnnny
How a Catchweight Can Occur
If I am a fighter, and I've been training for 8 weeks to fight at 185 lbs scheduled to fight another fighter, but 3 days before my opponent gets hurt.
The UFC will try to find a last-minute opponent for me to fight (as long as I agree with who the replacement opponent will be).
If the UFC ends up finding you as the last-minute opponent that decided to fight me on 3 days' notice, but you tell the UFC that you can't make the fight at 185 lbs.
The UFC will ask what weight you can make it at, and you say you can make 195 lbs.
What will happen is the UFC will come back to me and ask "Do you want to fight at 195 lbs in 3 days and receive your full check (and reward your hard work with a potentially great performance), or do you want to decline this fight and possibly not receive any money (maybe your show money)"
So I as the fighter have a choice to make. I've spent x amount of money on my training camp, food, sparring partners, etc for this fight. Do I want to not fight, or do I want to earn my money and take on a last-minute opponent?
Disclaimer: I am not a UFC fighter
Most fighters will choose the option to take the catchweight fight with the opponent, and that is why catchweight fights usually occur.