I, like many in the mixed martial arts community, was completely perplexed by Tuesday's announcement that former welterweight top contender Jon Fitch and 15 other fighters were being released by the UFC.
It just boggles my mind that a guy with a 14-3-1 record inside the Octagon on a one-fight losing streak can just get kicked to the curb. But I digress.
While I could spend an entire day going over why Fitch and many others on the list deserve to keep their jobs, the recent cuts speak to an even bigger issue: There are just too many fighters in the UFC right now.
Between Strikeforce's untimely demise and the introduction of the newly formed women's bantamweight division, the world's largest MMA promotion has been inundated with fresh faces in recent months. And with rumblings of a 115 division on the horizon, fans can expect to see even more new names in the UFC.
Now, I'm all for adding new weight classes and giving up-and-comers a shot, but there is simply not enough room on the promotion's roster for everyone. What the UFC needs is a new secondary league to house both its fading and emerging stars.
Before the WEC merged with the UFC, the smaller Zuffa owned promotion acted as a perfect feeder league. Budding prospects such as Brian Stann, Carlos Condit and more honed their skills in its famed blue cage before crossing over to the big stage while fading stars like Jens Pulver found new life in the growing lighter weight divisions.
Should the UFC add a minor league?
But without a sister promotion, the UFC is forced to choose between the moneymaking personalities and the hardworking vets. And with millions of dollars at stake, its understandable that Dana White and company would elect to go with the former.
Not saying it's right, but it's understandable.
This conversation would have likely never have taken place if Strikeforce had not gone the way of the dinosaurs. In many ways, its acquisition by Zuffa sort of turned the promotion into the new WEC before its eventual demise.
After the influx of top tier guys such as Alistair Overeem and Nick Diaz into the UFC, Strikeforce became the destination for both veterans looking to remain relevant (i.e. Keith Jardine, Nate Marquardt, etc.) and prospects looking to make a name for themselves (i.e. Ryan Couture, Tyrone Woodley, etc.).
Without Strikeforce or the WEC, the UFC is placed in the precarious position of housing every fighter from these defunct promotions, an impossible task that has unfortunately cost up-and-comers and hard-nosed veterans like Fitch their jobs.
If Zuffa is to solve this problem before anymore fighters get the boot, it needs to create a minor league of sorts—and soon.