This is something that I wanted to write for a while ever since I heard about the Nik Lentz vs Tyson Griffin match being made at UFC 123, but the recent cut of Gerald Harris by the UFC has kind of forced my hand. One of the great things about other sports (such as the NFL) is that the team owners (and even the league commissioner) have the ability to run the team without making decisions based on personal feelings. Now there are times that this is not true (See Bud Adams and Vince Young or the Vikings and Brett Favre) and when it does happen, you can see the negative consequences it has. Thus is not the case in the UFC. Personnel moves are based primarily on the thoughts and whims of Dana White and the Fertitta Brothers.
You can look at some recent cuts made by the UFC to highlight exactly what I am speaking of. Todd Duffee, an exciting Heavyweight prospect, was recently cut basically for what has been said is a "bad attitude". Now, Terrell Owens has been cut for a bad attitude before and Randy Moss has been traded 3 times for such, but those guys were a distraction to the team, Todd Duffee complaining that the UFC was joking about him working at Dairy Queen did not. Bringing back Karo Parisyan was clearly a decision marred by personal feelings. Karo was clearly not ready to be in the UFC, he was out of shape and seemingly not there mentally. I am not against giving guys 2nd (or in his case 4th) chances, but the guy flaked out on your twice already, the latest time less than a year ago. Allowing Chuck Liddell to fight again after the Shogun fight was another personal personnel decision. After stating emphatically that Chuck would never fight again, he was allowed to and was again brutally knocked out. I don't know if it was to squeeze another buyrate out of him, but I believe it was primarily because Dana White and Chuck have been friends for so long that he couldn't say no.
So we come to Gerald Harris which is the current iteration of this phenomenon. Even going back to the beginning of his association with the UFC, he was on The Ultimate Fighter and lost to the eventual winner Amir Sadollah. You would expect that he would've gotten a fight on the Finale. Nope. So Harris goes out on the independent circuit and racks up several victories in a row and is finally offered a UFC contract. He puts on good exciting winning fights even scoring an ESPN Top Ten Plays of the Week winning KO slam against Dave Branch at UFC 116 and two KO of the night awards. He puts on one boring performance and he's cut. I repeat, a two-time KO of the Night winner and a guy who's slam KO was repeated on ESPN giving the UFC cache and even had Lebron James getting in on MMA got cut for one bad performance. Someone tell me how that happens.
Now, I'm sure Ariel Helwani or someone will catch up to Dana White and he'll have some explanation of Harris having a bad attitude or something, but the facts remain. Gerald Harris was cut after going 3-1 in the top MMA organization in the world. Cutting someone because of "boring" performance (which is subjective) is not the way a so-called sport works. I would wager that if Harris had been choked out in the 1st round, he would still have a job. This whole thing seems like a "I put you on the main card and this is how you repay me? With a boring fight?" type personnel move. Doesn't seem like the right way to run a business. Now, in the big picture, the Harris cut seems insignificant, but moves like these add up over time.
The Harris cut for a "boring" fight also ties into my other point of vindictive booking. Let me state outright vindictive booking has no place in any sport. The NFL or NBA schedulers don't make matchups trying to obtain a certain outcome. It seems like the UFC is doing this more and more. The most obvious recent case of this was the Nik Lentz/Tyson Griffin fight. It was obvious to anyone with sense that fight was booked with the hopes of Tyson being too much for Nik and defeating him, thus allowing the UFC to cut Lentz after a loss. Why? Because Nik Lentz got in trouble with the law badmouthed the company had the audacity to put on a boring fight on national television. I can't wrap my head around that train of thought. He won. Right. The goal of any sport is to win and he formulated a gameplan to win and did. Yet, because his method was "boring", he's seen as a pariah and booked to lose. Well, he didn't lose and the guy who he beat has now lost 3 in a row.
Some question the BJ Penn/Jon Fitch matchup as well. It was made almost instantaneously (reminiscent of White cornering Shogun in the locker room and pressing him to fight Chuck Liddell) after BJ's devastating KO of Matt Hughes. We are all aware of the history between the UFC and Jon Fitch. He is a "boring fighter", however he is a "winning fighter" and has the best win percentage right behind Anderson SIlva with his only loss coming at the hands of the champion. Now the UFC has delayed giving him a rematch for as long as possible (I don't necessarily agree that he deserves one right now, but his fight at UFC 117 was a number one contender fight) primarily because of his style. I have almost 100% certainty that the UFC would cut Jon Fitch after his next loss. You can't put him on the prelims, so he makes the main show "stinking it up". Not only that but he's killing all the prospects for GSP. And he won't even do what the UFC says and fight his own teammate in Josh Koscheck. Enter BJ Penn.
It's a win-win situation for the UFC. BJ won't allow for a boring fight, win or lose. He also has good enough takedown defense to prevent Fitch from grapplefucking him for 3 rounds. He also has extremely good BJJ so he will be threatening Fitch with submissions and sweeps at all times. He also clearly is a far better fighter on the feet than Fitch is. If Penn wins, it allows the UFC the legal ability to cut their losses with Fitch and release him. It also builds Penn up for a potential title shot. If Fitch wins, he finally won a non-boring fight and beat a top name in BJ, giving him more credit in his title shot (if he ever gets one). Penn's draw isn't going to be hurt by the loss, but it's certain that the inside circles of the UFC would be hoping that he win.
While personal personnel moves and vindictive bookings aren't as tangentially harmful as Joe Rogan's slur usage, their effects can be far greater. With each passing move, you lose credibility. Credibility with your hardcore fans and eventually credibility with casual fans and media. Imagine if UFC cuts were covered as closely as NFL cuts. Could you imagine if an exciting QB was cut from a team following a loss where he went 23-37 for 198 yards all short little slants and outs after several games of exciting winning gameplay? There would be an uproar. As we move towards mainstream appeal, we will get mainstream coverage and that means that things like this that aren't examined by the current MMA "media" won't be overlooked.
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