It’s not quite spring yet, but that hasn’t stopped the UFC from getting a head start on some spring cleaning. The organization made some of the most controversial cuts in the promotion’s history over the past few days.
On Tuesday afternoon, we learned that Jacob Volkmann had been cut by the UFC. At 6-2 in his previous eight fights, Volkmann’s release caught both fans and top analysts by surprise—even if his two losses have come over his past three fights.
But even given Volkmann’s status as one of the best in the division, the news of his release pales in comparison to Wednesday’s news that former welterweight No. 1 contender Jon Fitch had joined Volkmann on a list of 16 fighters who were also released.
Although quite a few of the pink slips on that list were expected to be there, the release of Fitch and even Volkmann is a bit of a shock. Over the course of their UFC careers, Fitch and Volkmann's combined records were a combined 20-7-1, with Fitch having been ranked in the top-5 of the welterweight division for the better part of the past five years.
The release of these two upper-echelon fighters has to point to one thing—with an ever-growing roster that now includes women and flyweights, the UFC is no longer as willing to tolerate "boring" fighters.
Of course, the definition of a "boring" fighter is still very much up for discussion. Is it just the smothering wrestling style that both Fitch and Volkmann have used to succeed in the Octagon that would be considered boring? Or should fighters like Chris Leben, who used to be known for his exciting striking game but recently fell short in a relatively uneventful bout against Derek Brunson, be worried as well?
At the end of the day, it appears to be a simple judgment call. And according to Volkmann himself, that judgment call may not be coming from who many expected it from.
Assuming that Volkmann is correct in the situation, UFC fighters now need to be even more keenly aware of what matchmaker Joe Silva is looking for when he's putting fight cards together.
Dan Hardy, who lost four straight bouts from 2010 - 2011, has remained employed by the company because his wild fighting style meant that most of his fights turned into a standup brawl, so long as his opponent obliged. Perhaps this is a style that more fighters need to make use of.
These releases seem pretty harsh on the surface, but hey—when your roster now includes athletes in nine different weight classes and your events typically only feature 10-12 fights, it's only going to get tougher to stay employed.
The message from the UFC, and specifically, Joe Silva appears to be pretty simple—fighters can either start finishing fights that are "entertaining," never lose or start looking for a new job.