With nine divisions and an ever-expanding roster, the UFC has seen its fair share of releases in 2013. UFC president Dana White warned fighters that contracts were most certainly going to be terminated.
There's 100 more guys that are gonna go. It's not over. We have 475 guys under contract. We have over 100 guys too many. We have over 100 guys too many on the roster right now. What's going to happen is, if you lose, the blood has not all been spilled yet. There's more coming.
While lots of the cuts that occurred were expected, a few names that landed on the chopping block raised more than a few eyebrows. When those sorts of firings occur, our comment sections are lit up with fierce debates between fans who can't agree on whether or not someone received a pink slip unjustly.
Here is a look at eight fighters whose promotional release was debatable.
Heading into his UFC 123 scrap with Maiquel Falcao, Gerald Harris was a bright prospect in the UFC middleweight division. With a 3-0 record inside the Octagon and a pair of Knockout of the Night bonuses to his credit, no one expected that "Hurricane" was on the chopping block.
However, after surviving devastating trouble in the first round, Harris devoted the rest of his energy into making it to the end of the fight in one piece.
That didn't translate into much of an exciting fight, and Harris was made an example of with his quick release.
The Ultimate Fighter has produced some of the biggest stars that the promotion has ever seen. To be fair, the show has also produced some less-than-recognizable fighters whom fans seem to overlook.
Jon Madsen likely falls into the latter category, which is why he seemed expendable to the UFC brass after a loss to Mike Russow in early 2011.
Before the loss, Madsen was 4-0 inside the Octagon and held a flawless 7-0 record as a professional. And while his grinding style had its fair share of critics, Madsen caught on and swore that he would have no more boring fights.
One fight prior to his release, the wrestler scored a TKO victory over Gilbert Yvel in less than two minutes.
To this day, Madsen's release strikes me as the most baffling I've ever seen.
It was announced last year that Madsen had signed with Bellator for a heavyweight tournament. However, the TUF alumni never appeared in the organization. In fact, he has not fought since his release from the Octagon at Fight Night 24.
Thales Leites was released by the UFC following a controversial decision loss to Alessio Sakara. When I say controversial, I don't mean "close fight that some people disagree with." We are talking about a fight that was nearly unanimously scored in favor of the Brazilian, but two of the three judges got it wrong.
Leites is best remembered by fans as "that guy who flopped in front of Anderson Silva and refused to fight." However, his release has been enough of a puzzle that UFC president Dana White told the press that he planned to reverse the firing after hearing about it.
And now, four years and seven fights later, a report has recently surfaced from Ana Hissa of Globo that Leites has been brought back into the UFC.
Very few fighters are released from the UFC while coming off a win. Count Maiquel Falcao as one of them.
Reportedly, Falcao's release had nothing to do with performance or attitude issues. Rather, it was the result of a December 2010 arrest that stemmed from a 2002 assault charge.
Falcao's release was confirmed in a letter from Falcao's manager to Tatame, which was translated by Sherdog.
We’ve received an e-mail from Joe Silva yesterday saying that the UFC decided to end Maiquel Falcao’s contract. They decided to do that because of some legal problems Maiquel got involved [in] recently. This news got us by surprise and left us very shocked, mainly after we signed to fight at UFC 'Rio.'Anyway, we’re very grateful for everything the UFC [has] done for Maiquel,
Falcao's release is debatable based on the fact that he is not the only UFC fighter to be charged with a crime while under contract. Jeremy Stephens was arrested last year on an assault charge, and current lightweight Reza Madadi was arrested on suspicion of burglary earlier this week.
The release of Todd Duffee is an interesting tale. After breaking the record for fastest knockout in UFC history in his promotional debut, the heavyweight dominated Mike Russow for two-and-a-half rounds before getting shocked with a one-punch KO.
Duffee was booked for a follow-up fight with Jon Madsen at UFC 121 but pulled out due to a lingering knee injury. Shortly after, it was announced that he was released.
In an interview with Ariel Helwani, UFC president Dana White announced that Duffee's release from the organization stemmed from attitude problems possessed by the big man.
MiddleEasy updated the story one month later with an interview from MMA Scraps Radio. Considering that the interviewed party did not reveal his source, you should take his testimony with a grain of salt.
Original fight (before Russow) was McSweeny but Duffee turned it down for a "bigger named opponent" He fights and loses, but that isn't that big of a deal. He accepts fight with Madsen, but then pulls out after mentioning that he needed time to do a movie.
Apparently after that, he then said he was injured. UFC asked for paperwork from his doctor and it was sent, so he was covered there. He was given the go ahead to do the movie He tweeted some stuff about being broke and made comments about needing money.
The final straw was when he talked a bunch of crap about the UFC to one of the UFC employee's wives and Dana found out about it. That sealed the deal. Dana ordered him fired.
In the summer of 2011, Alistair Overeem was the Strikeforce heavyweight champion and on his way into the semifinals of the Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Since he was one of the biggest stars in the company, no one expected the "Reem" to be released from his contract. However, when a toe injury prevented him from competing on a September card for the semifinals, not only was he removed from the tournament, but he was also fired by the company.
Many chalk this up as a thinly veiled ploy to get Overeem out of Strikeforce and into the Octagon. Those suspicions were confirmed when the UFC signed him shortly after and put him into the cage against Brock Lesnar for a hotly anticipated matchup.
However, there is more to the story.
Just days after the shocking firing of Overeem, fellow Golden Glory teammates Marloes Coenen, John-Olav Einemo and Valentijn Overeem were released from their Zuffa contracts.
Reportedly, the UFC made a decision not to work with the team based on a policy regarding how their fighters are paid.
When the UFC was building the roster for the video game UFC Undisputed, anyone who refused to play by its terms quickly found out that messing with Dana White doesn't end happily.
American Kickboxing Academy fighters did not sign over lifetime likeness rights to the game without negotiating terms, and they were removed from the UFC roster.
Jon Fitch and Christian Wellisch were immediately released, with pending releases for Josh Koscheck and Cain Velasquez along the way,
Within 24 hours, the situation was remedied and Team AKA was back in good standing with the UFC, but the fact that these firings occurred in the first place caused a major stir among fans.
On Tuesday, February 19, the UFC released a batch of 16 fighters. Most notable of them was former welterweight title challenger and longtime No. 1 contender, Jon Fitch.
After the UFC 157 press conference, Dana White gave an impassioned speech in defense of Fitch's release. Some of my favorite excerpts include:
Jon Fitch is ranked number nine. He was ranked number one, he fought for the title, he was ranked number two, he was ranked number three, six, seven and now he is nine. That’s called the downside of your career. He’s on the downside. He’s lost two fights, one draw and won one fight.
Viacom [Bellator MMA] has got plenty of money. It isn’t hurting for f***ing cash. And, there is a lot of other places where this guy can go and he can make some money. Jon Fitch can go get a couple more fights and come back to the UFC. It happens every f***ing day all the time. But, I can tell you this: Jon Fitch isn't cheap.
Fitch is currently signed to World Series of Fighting and will compete on June 14 against Josh Burkman in the evening's main event.