Deiveson Figueiredo and the Sad History of Fighters Missing Weight for Championship Bouts

Deiveson Figueiredo, who missed weight for UFC Norfolk
Deiveson Figueiredo, UFC Norfolk official weigh-in Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Virginia Beach, VA — There’s never a dull moment in MMA. Deiveson Figueiredo reminded us of that Friday come weigh-in time. Although weigh-ins generally consist of an ongoing stretch of dull moments — fighter after fighter shuffles to the scales, dehydrated and zombie-like — somehow, the mixed martial arts gods manage to keep things interesting.

That was the case Friday morning, when the UFC Norfolk official weigh-ins went down. Joseph Benavidez hit the scales first, making weight with ease. His part of ensuring the card’s main event, a battle for the vacant flyweight title, was done. It was over an hour before the room saw opponent Deiveson Figueiredo, however. Well before he made his appearance, word circled that he was struggling with his weight cut. The fight was in jeopardy. Even in a circle as small as the UFC, media, and fighters themselves, rumors can get wild quick.

While the fight wasn’t off, Figueiredo did not, as is now well-known, make weight. Instead, he came in at a full 127.5lbs — or 2.5lbs over the championship limit. Virginia allows athletes an extra hour to cut weight, and that was the plan for Figueiredo, at least initially. But the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) gives time from the initial attempt, so it would no doubt be a close call. 11:45AM was the deadline for the Brazilian to be on point.

Roughly thirty minutes later, word arrived that Figueiredo’s weight cut had been called off. That was it. The fight would move forward, Deiveson Figueiredo would cough up an extra 30% of his purse, and only Joseph Benavidez would be eligible to win gold on Saturday night in Norfolk.

If you’re going to fail, fail spectacularly, right? In Figueiredo’s time in the UFC, he had never missed weight. He made his first miss at the scales in the biggest fight of his career. It’s probably worth noting that he has never hit championship weight in the past — although of course he didn’t need to. Friday morning, he very much did.

At Thursday’s media day, Figueiredo explained that he was “much lighter” than Benavidez, and that he’d be “faster” than him as well. He told Cageside Press that he had expected a title fight ever since he’d entered the organization. In fact, he “was sure about that.” Then it slipped right through his fingers.

Of course, weight cutting isn’t easy. But it’s a part of the sport — something most fighters accept is what they’re really being paid to do. The job is to make weight. The fight comes after.

Figueiredo now joins a dubious list of fighters who missed weight for title fights. Dishonorable mention goes to Paulo Filho, the WEC middleweight champion in 2008. At least he was champion; Filho missed weight for his title fight against Chael Sonnen at WEC 36. It was an immediate rematch of a bout Filho had won; on this second occasion, Filho not only missed weight, he lost the fight. However, after missing weight, the bout was changed to a catchweight, non-title fight, making Sonnen ineligible for the belt. The WEC was then absorbed into the UFC, its title becoming a thing of the past.

In today’s world, Sonnen might have become champion with the win. In 2016, at UFC 206 in Toronto, Anthony Pettis missed weight for an interim title scrap against Max Holloway. While Pettis, a former lightweight champ, came in heavy for the featherweight fight, Holloway was on point. He dominated the fight, earning the interim belt, and going on to dethrone Jose Aldo. If we’re being honest about it, however, that night in Toronto was  the start of the “Blessed Era.”

Proving that missing weight for a title fight doesn’t hurt your chances at earning another one, Yoel Romero missed weight against Robert Whittaker at UFC 225, resulting in the fight becoming a non-title bout. Heck, Romero missed weight the fight before that, when he knocked out Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 to earn that title shot (in a fight that was itself supposed to be for a belt originally). Since we’re all a bunch of slow learners here in MMA-land, Romero has been given another title shot, at UFC 248 next week opposite Israel Adesanya.

Travis Lutter missed weight against Anderson Silva at UFC 67, while Joe Riggs missed the mark at UFC 56 against Matt Hughes. Just weeks ago, over in Invicta, Jinh Yu Frey missed weight against Ashley Cummins, and was stripped of her atomweight title as a result (she’d go on to defeat Cummins). Well, technically she vacated the belt, but that boils down to a political way of saying stripped.

So don’t worry, Deiveson Figueiredo, you’re in good company. In fact, if history is any indication, you might be right back to a title shot in your very next fight.

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