Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport in the world and continues to grow each day. With so many fighters that are up-and-coming, it is difficult to remain in the spotlight.
The UFC has been the forefront of growth of MMA, and to many, represents the majority of what people view as the sport. The UFC boasts some of the greatest talent there is in MMA, but not without its own boundaries.
With so many fighters out there, only the select few can make it, and more importantly, remain in the UFC.
This concept applies to all other sports and organizations, but the UFC is the biggest, so that is the focus. Led by President Dana White and the Fertitta brothers, the UFC has grown exponentially each year. But with much success and attention comes inevitable flaws.
The UFC is notorious for cutting fighters following a series of losses. Typically, the trend has been the “three strikes and you’re out” sort of setup. But this is not always the case.
Some fighters have been cut after one loss; some after two. On the other hand, there are fighters that can go four or five losses and not get cut. Due to limited roster space and limited resources, cuts are certain to happen, but the inconsistency is confusing at times for fans.
But what factors affect who gets cut and when?
A lot seems to do with business moves as time has gone on. One significant factor that seems to be in the mix is a fighter’s nationality. Where they come from can be argued as to why some guys have been let go and why some have stuck around.
Take Dan Hardy for example. Hardy has lost four fights in a row, two of them being by a finish. Typically, by the norm, Hardy should have been cut after his loss to Anthony Johnson, but the UFC kept him around. Dana White went to the media, who were curious if the “The Outlaw” was on the chopping block, and once again after his loss to Chris Lytle. White responded that they would keep him since he always “comes to fight.”
This is a legitimate reason to hold onto someone, in an organization built on the backs of fighters who “came to fight.” However, guys like John Howard who are finishers and come ready to give a good fight, get cut right after the third.
When this situation happens, fans tend to converse over why this happens. It makes sense when you take into consideration what else the fighter brings to the organization besides his skills and technique.
Dan Hardy is one of two huge British ambassadors for the sport; the other being Michael Bisping. England has a strong MMA fanbase and therefore provides a huge business angle for the UFC and MMA in general. Certain guys like Hardy seem to be untouchable, unless they do something in violation with conduct. Bisping is in the same boat, and if he were to lose four in a row, the UFC probably wouldn’t cut him.
Look at it this way. If Georges St. Pierre lost four in a row, would the UFC cut him?
Most likely not, since he is not only a huge star in America, but is the leading fighter to come out of Canada. Canada is known to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, fanbase of MMA in North America. Cutting him would hurt financially to them, largely due to his nationality. If it were any other fighter, four losses would be rather impossible to recover from.
Another individual in this situation is Yoshihiro Akiyama. Akiyama made his UFC debut at UFC 100 and won a controversial decision over Alan Belcher. He then went on to lose three in a row, yet he still is competing and contracted with the UFC. Given two of his losses were “fight of the night” material, it still doesn’t take away the loss in the end of the day.
Early 2012, the UFC is going to Japan and would love to carry with it one of the biggest stars to come out of Asia. Akiyama brings a crowd and would certainly have a huge fanbase at an UFC event in Asian territory. Akiyama has expressed desires to move to Welterweight, and this move helps lessen the burden of three losses. However, it may be correct to say his race is helping him stay in the UFC.
Does nationality play a part? If so, how significant?
While nationality may or may not play a significant role, there does seem to be this luminous ambiguity of what constitutes “cutting” criteria. Sometimes it seems based on how they lose, sometimes on what they have done for the sport. Sometimes it seems guys get cut solely because they lost X fights in a row. But if you look at Tito Ortiz, it contradicts some of them.
Tito has done great things for the sport, but had he been held to the standard some of these others have faced, he would have been gone a long time ago. Keith Jardine is a tough fighter who is interesting to watch, but he hit the four and then was released.
The true nature of why these guys are getting released when they are is unknown, but it is apparent there is a lack of system. This is where fans find frustration and where the organization starts to look more like a business than a sport.
So far, their decisions do not have huge impacts on the sport, but it would be nice to have some consistency of when fighters get released. In the end of the day, it is their organization, and they can do whatever they want, but it makes us all curious.
Sometimes fighters get cut for substance abuse or taking PED’s. But there is inconsistency there are well. Thiago Silva used a urine adulterant in his drug test for UFC 125, and no note of his release from the UFC has surfaced. As far as information goes, he was fined and his win overturned, but still remains contracted with the UFC.
But then, look at cases such as Nate Marquardt. Nate had failed medical requirements, and almost as soon as fans heard about this, he was released from the UFC. Once again, another case which shows that each fighter case is situational and inconsistent throughout.
Fans have different views and responses when fighters get cut, but regardless, the UFC and MMA is thriving. Many have expressed that a system would be nice to have, but we may not see that anytime soon. Until then, everyone can make up their own lists as to what they think matters in the “cutting” decisions.
What kind of system would you like to see? What are your thoughts?
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