Lately it seems like being on Dana White's good side is as important as being a credible fighter. After this weekends UFC 146, more news circled around the relationship between fighters and the boss than the actual outcomes of an unbelievable card. Jason Miller was cut after just a second fight in the UFC. Roy Nelson's job was apparently on the line again and Jon Jones, the hero of the organization, plead guilty to charges after a drunken car wreck. Dana White's handling of each of these situations has the MMA world raising an eyebrow.
Jason Mayhem Miller was criticized for being too flashy before his fights. Because his career was established in other organizations, Miller immediately found himself behind the eight ball in the UFC's attempt to show its superiority to the world. In his first fight back, Michael Bisping surprised Miller by beating him up and stopping him in Mayhem's "welcome back" fight. A month later Bisping also surprised Chael Sonnen. Chael who is also irritatingly outspoken, yet seemingly uncriticized by the boss, squeaked out a controversial decision over Bisping.
Miller however, would come back in much better shape for his fight against C.B. Dollaway and with a newfound sense of urgency. In the first round Miller was the aggressor and rocked C.B. with a straight right. Dollaway survived a guillotine attempt and controlled Miller on the ground for the rest of the round. It became apparent just inside the first round that Miller's wrapped knee was worse than it looked. The knee buckled during an exchange and Miller went to his back. His escapes and attempted wall-walks were very calculated. For a man whose bread and butter is his jiu-jitsu, it became obvious Mayhem couldn't use his left leg for submissions. The second round began and the crowd amped up as the two traded punches. Once again, the aggressive Miller rocked his opponent. As Dollaway staggered on weak legs across the ring, Miller limped after him to finish the fight. He couldn't get into position in time and Dollaway managed to get the fight back to the ground. Unfortunately, Miller was dry humped by a doberman for the rest of the second round and a majority of the third. After nearly knocking out his opponent twice and fighting with an injury (two qualities usually worthy of praise), nobody came to bat for Jason Mayhem Miller. He was cut from the UFC later that night.
Roy Nelson was once again called in front of Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta. They don't like his beard. They don't like his mullet. They don't like his weight. When they put him against Dave Herman on Saturday, Roy Nelson (beard and mullet intact) showed the world what he thought, knocking out Herman in fifty-one seconds.
The list of fighters who have gained recognition and popularity because of their haircut is incredible. Jens Pulver, Heath Herring, and Clay Guida are just the tip of the iceburg. There is an ocean of new talent chomping at the bit to fight on the big stage. Fighters enter the UFC through a revolving door. It's hard to fault any of them for using over the top antics or hairstyles to leave a lasting impression on the fans. That aside, Roy Nelson is a lot more than a "people of wal-mart" poster child. The man can fight. Every loss Nelson has is in the UFC is against top ten fighters. Big Country went the distance with UFC champ Junior Dos Santos. He showed a ton of heart against the number two guy in the world when he took everything Frank Mir could hit him with. Fabricio Werdum had just beaten "The Giant" Silva and Fedor Emelianenko when he fought big Roy. All four of Roy Nelson's UFC wins have been by knockout against high caliber guys. Why was he still fighting for his job?
Lost in the names of Uncle Dana's apparent black book, Jon Fitch has had his share of problems with the UFC as well. In 2008 Fitch was cut from the UFC for not signing likeness rights for the Undisputed 2009 video game. Although it seemed clear that since he wouldn't sign he was fired, Dana White said the release was a casualty of the economy. Eventually Fitch was rehired. Following a loss in his title fight with St. Pierre, Fitch strung together five consecutive wins. It is unheard of for any fighter to have that kind of streak and not be considered for a title shot, let alone a recent number one contender. Fitch would eventually fight BJ Penn to a draw and later lose to Johny Hendricks by knockout. Facing fierce rivals inside the octagon and in the UFC offices, his last two fights have blown Jon Fitch completely off the radar.
Guys like Jason Miller, Roy Nelson, and Jon Fitch will always draw pay per view buys. They have made their own marks on the MMA world outside the UFC's good graces. They've done it on their own terms and have been scrutinized for it. How many fighters fall victim to the matchmakers tastes? Why are different fighters given limitless opportunity and others always under the axe?
The balance of equality tumbled even farther when the UFC decided to sponsor it's own fighter, Jon "Conflict of Interest" Jones. Jon Jones recently plead guilty to DUI charges after wrapping his new Bentley around a telephone pole with two people in his car. Uncle Dana immediately came to the plate for Jones and in interview about the situation said, "Everybody was at that age when they jumped into a car, drove home and the next day they said, "I can't believe I drove home last night." I know for a fact Jon Jones has learned from this and hopefully he can educate other people."
Is what's happening behind the scenes in the UFC truly in the best interests of the fighters and fans? Are fighters like Jason Miller, Roy Nelson, and Jon Fitch being given a fair shake in the fight world? Ask Jon Jones.