What does catchweight mean in the UFC?

UFC 214 Aljamain Sterling vs. Renan Barao
UFC 214 Aljamain Sterling vs. Renan Barao
Gabriel Colman

The last UFC event of the year will have two catchweight bouts in its preliminary card. But is there such a thing as a catchweight division?

Although one of the most exciting parts of being an MMA fan is to analyze and break down fighters' techniques, the technicalities of the UFC weight divisions can be a nightmare to understand.

And even though we could be referring to the difficulties that athletes have to face in their extreme weight-cutting process ahead of bouts - particularly if they are changing categories - that is not the case.

There are currently nine different weight divisions in the UFC. Men have eight weight classes while the women have only four. The first two categories added to the promotion were 'heavyweight' and 'lightweight', both introduced in UFC 12 back in 1997. The newest addition to the UFC grid is the women's featherweight in 2017.

Here is the complete list of all current UFC divisions:

Strawweight (115 pounds) - women's only.

Flyweight (125 pounds) - men and women.

Bantamweight (135 pounds) - men and women.

Featherweight (145 pounds) - men and women.

Lightweight (155 pounds) - men's only.

Welterweight (170 pounds) - men's only.

Middleweight (185 pounds) - men's only.

Light Heavyweight (205 pounds) - men's only.

Heavyweight (265 pounds) - men's only.

So, where does the UFC catchweight division enter the equation?

Basically, a catchweight bout would happen when a weight limit is determined by the two fighters who are going to compete, instead of the predefined UFC weight classes.

This type of fight usually is chosen when fighters want to avoid excessive weight cut. It also occurs when one or both fighters missed weight ahead of the bout.

A UFC catchweight fight happens when the bout's weight limit doesn't fit in any of the UFC weight classes. Those involved in a catchweight fight don't get points for the UFC ranking system.

In most cases, UFC catchweight fights happen due to one of the fighters missing weight. The bout still can occur but is classified as catchweight rather than its original intended weight class.

When this happens, the opponent has the right to refuse to fight since there was a breach of contract where both fighters agreed to perform under a certain weight. However, most athletes prefer to continue to the event as expected, fighting in the catchweight category and reaping a percentage of their opponent's purse.

The two other ways a UFC catchweight fight could take place are much rarer. Either it is agreed by the fighters ahead of the bout, or a Sports Commission determines it for safety concerns.

Let's take a look at some UFC catchweight bouts as examples.

Fighters that competed in a UFC catchweight bout

Stephen Thompson, who is fighting in the main event of this weekend's UFC Vegas 17, had a catchweight bout before when Darren Till failed to cut weight ahead of their bout in UFC Liverpool.

The fight was planned for the welterweight division, but Till was weighing 174.5 lbs on the day of weigh-ins - the UFC welterweight limit is 170 lbs. Thompson picked 30% of Till's purse and went to the fight regardless.

The recently rumored reunion between Conor McGregor and Anderson Silva is one example of a fight that would be a catchweight event because both fighters agreed upon the weight ahead of the bout.

The most famous UFC catchweight that happened due to a Commission's intervention is probably the confrontation between Renan Barao and Aljamain Sterling in UFC 214 in Anaheim, California.

Although Barao had been fighting in the UFC bantamweight division, he faced severe problems cutting weight for his fight at UFC 177. In a rematch for the division's belt, the former champion had to be admitted to the hospital due to his failed weight-cut attempt.

The California State Athletic Commission said that it would only allow Barao to fight if the bout's weight limit was 140 lbs, instead of the 135 lbs required for the UFC bantamweight division.

The UFC Vegas 17 main event between Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal in the welterweight division will happen this weekend, December 19. The catchweight bouts will have Deron Winn vs. Antonio Arroyo and Christos Giagos vs. Carlton Minus.

Edited by James McGlade


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