A gaggle of UFC fighters were released from their contracts today, and it probably had to do with money. With talk of the UFC possibly releasing many more guys, who else might be under the microscope?
The sad news that Jon Fitch and 15 other UFC fighters are now unemployed came as a shock to many, but there is some logic to it. They may have never cut this many guys at once before but with the absorption of Strikeforce and their hefty contracts, it makes some sense. They need to save some money somewhere. According to John Morgan from MMA Junkie, the UFC could be looking at cutting up to 100 members of their roster, which is pretty crazy.
First off, I firmly believe that cutting Jon Fitch is some high-level insanity and that a 14-3-1 record in the organization should buy you a little bit of job security. But the culling of a ranked fighter raises another major question - if they can cut Fitch, they can cut anyone. So who else is on the chopping block? Here are some guys that should be worried about their job security (and maybe should have been cut ahead of the likes of Fitch and Paul Sass).
Note - I'm basing this both on performance and salary. A lot of TUF guys and fighters like Rick Story and Paulo Thiago are on the edge, but they don't really earn enough to make a major difference. These guys do.
Melvin Guillard (30-12-2, 11-8 UFC) - He's 1-4 in his last five fights, and was finished in three of them. He also missed weight for one (his 76-second knockout loss to Donald Cerrone at UFC 150). He made $42,000 to show for his last fight, and would have got another 42k to win. That's a lot of money for a guy that keeps coming up short.
Jeremy Stephens (20-9, 8-8 UFC) - Stephens has lost three bouts in a row, most recently getting knocked out by Yves Edwards. He was brought up on felony assault charges late last year that caused a bunch of drama for the organization. And he makes 24k/24k. The fact that he still has a job while Jon Fitch doesn't boggles my mind.
Leonard Garcia (15-10-1, 2-6 UFC) - He has lost four fights in a row, is 3-7-1 in his last 11 in the UFC and WEC, and all three of his wins were debatable split decisions. While he's known as an exciting fighter, he continues to lose. And he makes 20k/20k.
Josh Koscheck (17-6, 15-6 UFC) - Made 73k to show for his last fight. Kos isn't a likely candidate for termination on the surface, but he has caused a lot of drama in the UFC and has clearly hit his ceiling in terms of title hopes. Much like Fitch, he could be a good gatekeeper but are they willing to keep him at that price? They won't have any choice for a while if he beats Robbie Lawler this weekend at UFC 157, but if he loses? It wouldn't surprise me.
Chris Leben (22-9, 12-8 UFC) - Made 51k to show at UFC 155. He has been suspended twice for failed drug tests, and he has lost three out of his last four. Yes, he's a TUF 1 stalwart like Koscheck, but his performance against Derek Brunson was abysmal and the harsh reality of fighting is that he may be close to done at 32. I don't think they'd dump him because of his style, but you never know.
Mac Danzig (21-10-1, 5-6 UFC) - Made 27k to show at UFC 145 (his last fight with a reported salary, he also fought at UFC on Fuel 6 and lost to Takanori Gomi). The TUF 6 winner is just 3-6 in his last 9 and while he has picked up some performance bonuses, he makes a lot of money for a lightweight and is probably expendable.
Shane Carwin (12-2, 4-2 UFC) - Made 40k for his last fight way back at UFC 131. He hasn't fought since then due to a variety of injuries, most recently pulling out of his TUF 16 Finale bout with Roy Nelson. If the big man can fight again, I definitely don't think he should be cut. But is he physically capable of getting in the octagon again? How long is the UFC going to sit around and wait on him?
Thiago Silva (14-3, 2 NC, 5-3, 2 NC UFC). His last reported salary was way back at UFC 125, where he made $110,000 total (55k/55k). Both of his wins since then have been washed off the books due to test failures. He's still suspended for another two months. And he hasn't officially won a fight since August of 2009. Attention UFC accounting department - this is a prime candidate for culling right here.
Brandon Vera (12-6, 1 NC, 8-6, 1 NC UFC) - Yes, Dana White said he wouldn't cut Vera after his UFC on Fox 4 performance against Mauricio Rua. But 70k to show is a lot of money, and Vera was already cut once. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if they changed their minds here.
Thiago Alves (19-9, 11-6 UFC) - His last reported pay was 33k to show for his loss to Rick Story at UFC 130 (he has fought twice since then). Alves is 2-4 in his last 6, and is currently taking a year off. I think he's definitely still worthy of keeping around due to his style, but he's definitely not going to be back in the title picture again and makes a fair amount for a welterweight (then again, it's half of what Fitch made).
A bunch of Strikeforce fighters - I have a feeling that a lot of fighters that came over from Strikeforce in the merger will be cut after one loss. Obviously the elite guys (Rockhold, Souza, Melendez) won't. But if Robbie Lawler loses to Kos, I think he gets culled. If he's still fighting on that Strikeforce contract, he's going to get in the neighborhood of $95,000 just to show up. K.J. Noons got 41k to lose to Ryan Couture (controversially), and now has Donald Cerrone in front of him. Tim Kennedy's a good fighter and has a unique persona, but making 80k to win (and trashing Joe Silva) makes him expendable. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.