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Is the UFC’s expansion actually hurting their business?

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Ryan Bader vs. Vladimir Matyushenko

Pic by SHERDOG.COM -click for source- Credit: Dave Mandel

A lot has transpired in a very short time frame but could have massive implications for not only the UFC, but mixed martial arts as a whole in the long run.

Let’s begin with Strikeforce. Now I understand that the doors closing on the promotion was on the horizon ever since Zuffa purchased them, and the timing seemed right with the decreasing talent pool and the two canceled events.

However, let’s take a look at those two events a little more closely, shall we? The talent pool decreased for one reason and one reason only: Zuffa. Once purchased, the heavyweight division was picked clean of fighters the UFC wanted and the rest were given walking papers during the so called “Heavyweight Grand Prix.”

I understand the releases given some poor performances, most notably by the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, who’s 1-3 record with the company did not live up to his legendary reputation. After the tournament was over, there were only 2 heavyweights actually employed by Strikeforce in Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett. The division was completely dissolved.

Along with the heavyweights, the other divisions suffered from their talent being crossed over to the UFC or being released outright. Now that Strikefore is gone, the remaining fighters crossed over to the UFC or were cut and left up to other promotions to fight for. It was a tragic issue, but perhaps it was unavoidable, there is no real need for Zuffa to own two MMA companies when they could merge into one giant company.

Now on to the cuts, since many Strikeforce fighters were offered contracts with the UFC including the women’s division, the roster is overflowing with many fighters that may not be able to secure steady fights within the UFC, so cuts were inevitable.

The UFC stated they wanted to cut over 100 fighters in the coming year according to multiple sources. A list was recently released of many fighters who were already given their walking papers. Among them were big names like Jon Fitch and Vladimir Matyushenko, two very well-known and respected fighters in the UFC.

Now Matyushenko, also known as “the janitor” did not have the best record, losing 3 of his past 5 fights, and he’s been on the shelf with injuries for the past year before losing to Ryan Bader recently. His release may have been warranted due to his increased age and lack of a decent record.

It is unclear at this time if he will remain fighting for a different organization or retire form MMA altogether. The big name that seems to have rocked the MMA world is Jon Fitch. Although his record has not been stellar either, Fitch was coming off of a win in a “fight of the night” against up and coming fighter Erick Silva. His last outing against Demian Maia was not as exciting and he did lose very decisively, however, when the UFC released their official rankings last week, Jon Fitch was listed in the top ten! No doubt he will be picked up if he wishes to continue fighting.

If a fighter can come off of a fight of the night, and still get cut based on one lackluster performance, or even worse, a losing performance no matter how exciting, what does this do for the sport? What does it do for a fighter that gives the performance of his career, but loses and gets cut?

I personally believe this is going to lead to less exciting fights because you have fighters who will fight safe just to win a fight rather than get cut. Cuts like the one Jacob Volkmann just received are very contrary to what UFC President Dana White has gone on record as saying so many times; “Make the fight fucking exciting!” This of course remains to be seen how the fighters react to this, but it does put an added strain on them none the less.

No matter what the case is, the way fighters are finding out about these cuts is unacceptable. Ulysses Gomez, who recently lost a fight to Phil Harris, was cut and found out from Ariel Helwani on Twitter. This is completely unacceptable and before a list is even released the fighters or their respective agents should be notified. Maybe it’s an old fashioned way of thinking, but if someone puts their life on the line for a company, the least they could get is a respectable notification.

The issue is if the UFC has such a massive roster that they can’t keep stable fighters such as Fitch or The Janitor, then what is the point of entertainment? I understand that the roster is always expanding and new talent is breaking onto the scene that the UFC must snatch up in order to stay competitive, but at what cost?

How are fighters going to entertain and do what they do best when they are worried that losing could cost them their job? Should every fighter hope to just play it safe and win fights? Jon Fitch tried that for many years and was successful, but are boring fights worth it? Maybe this is too many questions, but someone has to ask them. Hypothetically,  as a hopeful fighter one day, I would like to know that losing a fight isn’t the end of my career, but rather a learning experience to make myself better.

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tmacklem (have 5 posts in total)
I've been a fan of MMA for a few years now, I follow all that I can and have a working knowledge of mixed martial arts and the fighters surrounding it. I have recently taken an interest into writing and I hope to become an MMA writer full time one day.