By Michael W. Herbert for FighterJournal.com
At this point Fight Fans, we all know that Mr. Jon Fitch and 15 other UFC fighters were cut last week by Uncle Dana. While talking to the media about this, Dana indicated that there will be up to 1o0 more fighters cut from the promotion. No doubt, some big names will be on the next list for the simple reason that the UFC has too many fighters making too much money to show. Josh Koscheck is one of the first fighters that comes to everyone's mind. Kos makes $73,000 in show money and has lost his last two fights, including a questionable stoppage this last time out Saturday night against Robbie Lawler at UFC 157. Believe me when I tell you there is a long list of others who could, and probably should get cut for the UFC's point of view.
THE BIG TIME
This cutting of big name stars may be new to the fight world and seem to be red flag of sorts, but it is actually part of the growth process with major sports, and signifies just how well the UFC is doing in my opinion. The first thing to understand is that good business is good business. The fact of the matter is that the Zuffa currently has too many fighters under contract. With all of the clatter over the last year or so that their are too many UFC events and it's a watered down version of the UFC, the fact of the mater is that they simply don't have enough fights to satiate all of their fighters. Any good business, especially after a huge growth period, has to trim the fat.
Now take into consideration that of the UFC fighters under contract, half of them are (obviously) in the lower half of the field of fighters. A percentage of those fighters (maybe a quarter or less?) are veterans that most likely aren't making title runs (either ever, or any more). I'm talking the likes of Thiago Silva, Josh Neer, Sam Stout, and Alessio Sakara to name some. Now take that bunch of fighters and start looking at what it costs to have these guys show, and you're looking at a lot of money - fan favorites or not. So guys like Cheik Congo, Shane Carwin and Cleison Tibau, become very expensive gatekeepers. Yes, they are brand names, but how long can they really hold the public's imagination?
WHAT IS THERE TO LOOSE?
No offense to Jon Fitch, whom I think most of us really respect, but his absence isn't putting the UFC out of business. The Dallas Cowboys traded the great Herschel Walker, and went on to win a slew of Super Bowl's because of it. The absolute best baseball players in the world are often traded or released to free agency (Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jose Reyes to name a few). This is what happens in big time sports. Why pay Albert Pujols 25 - 30 million a year for 10 years when you can pay Allen Craig $500,000 and get very solid numbers. So yes, it's a little shocking to hear about Fitch, and there are gonna be some more big names, but it's the cycle of life. Scorch the earth so that a new generation of fighters can grow.
THE BELLATOR WAY?
Thee is a steadfast rule in sports; It is always cheaper to build and create your own stars than to buy them. Why are Bjorn & Spike putting so much into their new series FIGHT MASTER, because they know the key to success is to build up your own talent from with in. It's the same reason the Mets are unwilling to discuss trading either of their young pitchers Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler. they have the ability to potentially deliver as top pitchers in the league while only costing a fraction of what a Cliff Lee or Sabathia costs on the open market.
In essence, the UFC is doing the same thing. they have plenty of star power to headline a fight card (at least in their minds). Now, they need to clear some space and free some money to bring in and develop the next generation of stars, so we still have something to write about and complain about in 5 or 10 years time...
Bellator has repeatedly said that they are not interested in picking up the UFC's scraps. You can look at this in several ways...If Bjorn singed Fitch and he tore through the tournament and then beat Askren, well, what does that say about Askren and Bellator? I agree that bellator should not scoop up most of these guys, but I think it would be wise to pick up a few - certainly in the weak heavyweight division that Bellator sports. Bellator had some real momentum heading int this season because they had their champs, as well as some exciting additions like King Mo & Paul Daley. The best baseball teams tend to be a mix of strong home-grown talent and solid free agency signings. Bellator can't run their tournament with the fear that a former UFC guy is gonna run the table and make them all look bad. Instead I think they should take that challenge head on. How much money would you bet on Fitch going through the tournament, getting through the likes of Saunders, Lima, and others in a short time frame, and then beating Askren? Something for Bellator to think about.
AND THEN THERE WERE THREE...
It looks as though the newly formed WORLD SERIES of FIGHTING, whose second show, WSoF 2, is set for March 23rd in Atlantic City is going to be more than willing to pick up all the tasty morsels that the UFC is going to be leaving behind. A deal for the aforementioned Jon Fitch has been quasi announced by WSoF President Ray Sefo (perhaps they're negotiating over Fitch's ability to join the Bellator tournament next season?). The main event at WSOF 2 already boasts former UFC heavyweights Andrei Arlovski & Anthony Johnson. I'm all for them singing these cut UFC fighters, because there is still gas in their tank, and as I mentioned, there is still a draw for these guys. it's a great way for the WSoF to continue to grow, and get to a point where they can really grow - you guessed it - their own talent. It should also be noted that the WSoF is bring in young fighters as well, like Chris Wade who will be on the card in Atlantic City. Wade is a product of Lou Neglia's Ring of Combat, and could be a perfect fit for the future of the WSoF.
Bottom lines here Fight Fans, the UFC cutting these fighters is actually a good thing for EVERYONE, just like having three big dogs in the cage is a good thing for all of us. If you have an opinion or want to join the conversation, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Also be sure to check out a great article on Jon Fitch by David Neighbor HERE.