UFC chopping block: What the massive cuts by Zuffa mean to the rest of the MMA landscape
With the addition of Women’s MMA, and weight classes south of 135 lbs, the UFC is going to purge some of their less successful fighters. This was bound to happen as there are only a certain number of cards each year the UFC can put on, so the cutting of some dead weight was a necessity. However, some of the fighters that were let loose are not exactly below the UFC curve. Hell, one of them is still a top ten fighter in one of the most talent ridden divisions in mixed martial arts. With that said, some questions need to be asked. Is this situation the best for fans? Will the fact that some of the fighters cut are labeled “boring” effect the fighters still in the UFC in a positive (or negative) way? What does this incredible turnover in fighters mean to the rest of the mma world? Let’s explore them, shall we?
What this means to us, the fans.
We are given a crash course in the UFC‘s fighter policy. Winning streaks mean little for long-term employment, and being exciting is the new holding factor (if it ever really wasn’t). But is that a good thing? Excitement is wonderful, and it puts butts in the seats. There’s no disputing that. What it doesn’t do though is give a prospect a test that he (or she) needs to reach that next level. Rory MacDonald is a great fighter, but he has been on an absolute terror since Carlos Condit took him into deep waters a couple years ago. Carlos wasn’t able to do this because he’s exciting (although he very much is). He was able to withstand the blitzkrieg of takedowns, striking, and ground and pound because he’s a great fighter (and because he’s been fighting for a long time). There’s something to be said when a gritty veteran takes a prospect to school to show them they still have a little ways to go, because if that neophyte gets a win they announce themself as a contender to the world. The UFC has many great fighters, so there will usually be somebody around to test a youngster like Rory. However, Dana citing Fitch’s price tag as one of the reason’s he was released might make that guy making a decent paycheck from years of wear and tear in the UFC a little concerned with taking on a new killer. Especially if he has had a tough run prior to that.
How will fighters react inside the cage?
When a combatant enters the octagon will he be thinking, “should I worry about winning, or just being exciting”? Winning in an entertaining fashion is tough in mma. Especially at the UFC level. Some guys have the skill-set of a grinder, and benefit from imposing their game-plan on opponents. Should these people completely change their style. Should they pull a Jorge Gurgel, and completely go away from what got them to the show in the first place? It just might be going through some of their heads considering Jon Fitch, Mike Russow, and Jacob Volkman were all highly skilled fighters, just not the most exciting.
Is it a good idea to pick up a guy “not good enough” for the UFC?
Lets get one thing straight first and foremost; Zuffa has been doing this for a long time, and it shows. The UFC has been stacking talent over the past year, and one can’t help but wonder if this (and the rumored larger cuts down the line) was somewhat of an endgame to it. Smaller promotions like Bellator and WSOF (World Series of Fighting) could give their up and comers some tough fights with some of the guys let loose. However, what would it mean for their talent pool if a UFC “cast-off” were to come in and run through the fighters. Is it worth the risk to pick up, say, Josh Grispi for Bellator to add some more depth to their featherweight roster considering he’s still young and showed flashes of brilliance earlier in his career? Or is it not even worth it as he could very well get his game back, but still be thought of as lower in class because he was cut from the big leagues? These are questions that will drive promoters crazy for the next month or two, and whenever the UFC drops the news about more guys. Lorenzo, Dana, and the guys played this game perfectly. They have essentially put other promoters in a situation where they’re damned if they do, and vice versa.
This is a tough situation to analyze. The men released aren’t title contenders at the moment so they are expendable in an ever growing community of fighters employed by the UFC. Plus, they weren’t the most exciting athletes in the world. Though, it is a little disheartening to see Jon Fitch get released for the reasons specified by White. He is 1-2-1 in his last 4 fights, but those were all against top tier guys in fights that were mostly entertaining (outside of the Maia fight). He was clearly making an attempt to become more of an exciting fighter, and while doing so gave a lesson to a possible future star in Erick Silva. As for pay, Jon reportedly made $66k to show and the same for a win. That might sound like a good amount of money, but lets go over Jon’s numbers: 18 fights in the UFC, 14 of those wins, was on the main card in his last 6 pay-per-views, where he was a main-event in 1 of them. At 35, with all the costs of corner men, camp, and everything else that goes along with being a fighter; $128k two or three times a year isn’t that much. Especially when you consider everything the body of a top tier mixed martial artist goes though in their career.
In conclusion, this mass exodus could mean more exciting fights for us fans. That would be absolutely fantastic, and I hope that’s what the UFC is striving for in introducing new weight classes (while also cutting some fighters). However, it has the danger of the opposite happening also in that some guys could really start trying to win at all costs. Deciding their chance of winning is a little bit better than looking exciting to the crowd (while also saving a few brain cells). If that’s the case, then hopefully they hold on to more qualified vets than they let go of.
Let me know what your thoughts lowkickers.