If a fighter who's never gone on a losing skid like Jon Fitch receives walking papers without ever experiencing a personal problem, then few in the UFC can claim the luxury of job security.
A former welterweight title challenger, Fitch went 14-3-1 in nearly eight years with the UFC. In that span, Fitch, unlike many contracted UFC fighters, never got arrested, failed a drug test, missed a press conference or showed up overweight for a fight.
Fifteen additional fighters with clean records got axed alongside Fitch, including UFC mainstays Jacob Volkmann and Vladimir Matyushenko.
So with the exception of attempting to win consistently, which Fitch obviously did for almost eight years, what measures must a UFC fighter take once inside the Octagon to preserve his or her contract?
Furthermore, what, if any, advantages or detriments accompany a fighter who's competing on the brink of dismissal?
Although an exact criteria for maintaining long-term career stability doesn't exist, UFC president Dana White tried to offer a blunt explanation on the subject while talking with reporters after the pre-fight press conference for UFC 157.
"Any guy out there. Let me tell you what you better do—you better fight your f***ing ass off and make it good and win. That's the only way people want to see you."
In the wake of the unceremonious firing of Fitch, White also admitted that more promotional staples will soon get their pink slips.
"We have 470-something guys under contract. We have over 100 guys too many on the roster right now. The blood has not all been spilled yet. There's more coming."
However, White's colorful remarks shouldn't discourage fighters on the cusp of expulsion.
If anything, White's advice should serve as an unofficial black-and-white blueprint for those who are confused about the organization's lofty expectations.
White has made it quite evident both in interviews and through pertinent personnel decisions that enthralling fighters typically take precedence over the conservative variety. So self-aware fighters should always recognize instances when they're on the chopping block, and in those situations, they should perform accordingly.
Thus, if wins and losses come secondary to entertainment value, then a fighter who gets backed into a corner shouldn't feel as much pressure to execute a specific game plan or score a win.
Rather than fretting over prevailing, desperate fighters can simply concentrate on pleasing the UFC's brass, which obviously just entails putting on an action-packed brawl.
As for the fans, they're also in line to benefit from the desperation of bubble fighters. UFC fans seldom yearn to see a cerebral chess match, and if White gets his wish, they'll rarely have to witness one in these cases.
Those on the bubble have many reasons to adhere to White's sentiments and scrap with utter urgency, regardless of the bout's outcome. Truth be told, the UFC seems exponentially more inclined to stick with exciting losers than to part with dull winners.
After all, it's much easier to just try and put on a captivating fight than it is to win one.
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