At UFC 101 Danillo Villefort lost via TKO to Jesse Lennox following a deep cut opened by an accidental headbutt. It was a fairly evenly contested fight up to the end and just seconds before the stoppage Villefort was close to finishing the fight with an armbar. While the fight did feature a lot of backpedaling on the part of Danillo I was shocked to hear that he had been cut from the roster. Judging by this piece over at MMAJunkie the ATT fighter felt the same:
"I thought my manager was kidding me," Villefort said. "I was already really sad due to the loss. I know it wasn't my best day inside the cage, but from my perspective, the fight wasn't that bad. I have seen worse fights without the participants being released."
"This was a huge shock for me," Villefort said. "I didn't even have the courage to tell my family at first, but I told them after a week. That was a hard week.
"I had tears in my eyes, and I had the feeling that I failed my mission, my friends and my team. But I know I will be back, and I will not make the same mistakes."
The last quote is hard to read. It was very possible if the accidental headbutt doesn't occur that Danillo takes the fight on the judges scorecards. Instead a misstep by the ref results in his receiving the loss and then getting the call from the UFC that he had been let go. This is the reason why the new instant replay rules are so important. In the end this call by the ref will cost Villefort a large amount of money. But it's more than simply taking a loss that has Villefort on the market as a free agent and he is aware of it:
"Alex told me that Joe does not like to have to cut people, but this is a tough business – tough for them, the promoters, tough for us, the fighters," Villefort said. "Like in any other business, you need to please your customers. If you don't, you will not have them; you will not make money and stay alive.
"I understand that as a professional fighter, its not always enough to win; you also need to entertain. I tried to do some different things like spinning back kicks, elbows, and a couple good knees. Next time I will just try to finish the fight as fast as I can."
Of course this raises all the old questions about forcing a certain "promotional style" on UFC fighters. Was Villefort in the wrong for fighting as he did rather than going balls out for an early finish? Was the fight so bad as a curtain jerker for the card that Danillo shouldn't have been given another shot to prove himself? Does the fact that he was close to finishing the fight in the third mean that maybe his strategy was actually working?
The truth is, the UFC answered all of these questions with their decision to release Danillo and fighters need to take it as a warning that, right or wrong, in the days of big PPV numbers the promotion doesn't have time for fighters that they feel don't deliver for the fans.