In a move that many observers saw coming, President of the UFC, Dana White, has cut 14,000 people from the ranks of the UFC's fans. "After a string of disappointing performances," said White, reading from a prepared statement, "we have concluded that we no longer wish to retain the services of 14,000 fans in the United States in watching any further UFC events for the foreseeable future."
White made it clear that, in most cases, it was the caliber of fans' performances that led to their cuts from the promotion. "If you pay $60 for a pay-per-view event in order to cheer on Jon Jones, Georges St. Pierre, or Anderson Silva, then you're doing an awesome job as a fan", said White. "But when you root for fighters such as Cheick Kongo, Leonard Garcia, or, God help us, Phil De Fries, then you take your chances. If they go, you go. And I'm sorry to say, they have gone."
In other cases, some of the fans were cut because of contract disputes. "In the cases of Jennifer Pickett of Jersey City, New Jersey, Jonathan Coleman of Washington, D.C., and Steven Kime of Ann Arbor, Michigan, we could not arrive at mutually beneficial terms in using their likenesses as audience members in our upcoming game, UFC Undisputed 4, so we had to part ways."
A final category of viewers was let go because of their use of performance-enhancing substances. "We in the UFC make it clear that we want all our fans to watch our events on a level playing field. So, when some fans use alcohol, marijuana, or Hooters Buffalo wings, that puts other fans at an unfair disadvantage."
One of the cut fans, Steve Petersen of Buffalo, NY, claimed that he is not worried about his cut from the UFC. "Look, there's a lot of fighting organizations out there. Frankly, I haven't had enough time to watch Bellator, and now that I'm not allowed to watch the UFC, I can take a look at some of the fights that they're putting on." Bjorn Rebney, the CEO of Bellator, quickly nixed that idea. "We're not interested in getting the viewership of fans who are UFC cast-offs. We have a plan for attracting fans to our programming, and it's basically just: get Russians. Frankly, we're very pleased by how it's working out."
For many fans, then, their future as watchers of mixed martial arts is in doubt. "I really like MMA, but unfortunately I can't watch it anymore", lamented Mike Yates, of Los Angeles, CA. "So I'm going to pursue something that doesn't require me to watch any MMA or boxing at all: judging MMA and boxing."