For years, the UFC cultivated a reputation as a notably cutthroat organization when it came to managing its large roster of talent. Fighters would get two fights (sometimes only even one) and if they didn’t get a win, more often than not they were gone. Even after long stretches of success, fighters who lost two or three bouts in a row were expected to be on the chopping block.
Gradually, that reality has changed, however. Whether in response to pressure from the ongoing class action lawsuit – driven by former fighters who claim that the organization wields unchecked monopsony power – or simply the natural evolution of an increasingly busy fight calendar and a desire to control as much of the world’s rising MMA talent as possible, the UFC roster has ballooned and their constant stream of cuts dwindled away.
However, with the roster approaching 650 fighters and an especially busy summer of new talent signings, it looks like the world’s largest MMA organization is once again trimming back. Fighters have recently taken to social media to report their contracts have been terminated, with a few surprising removals.
MMA Junkie reports that Curtis Millender has been released from his UFC contract, along with Derrick Krantz, Nohelin Hernandez, Andre Soukhamthath, Maia Stevenson, and Kyle Stewart. They join other various releases announced, including Henry Briones, Manny Bermudez, Yoshinori Horie, Thomas Gifford, and Danilo Belluardo. As well as Azamat Murzakanov, who was announced as part of an upcoming BRAVE CF tournament, where once-reported UFC signing (and former disgraced Olympian) Amir Aliakbari was also tabbed as a potential competitor. Akbari’s UFC contract was apparently terminated due to an ongoing sanction from an outside athletic body.
They’re joined by the notable recent departures of Sergio Pettis, Ruslan Magomedov, and Cain Velasquez—with Pettis and Velasquez leaving the promotion for more fitting offers. Magomedov’s restarted fight career under the ACA banner is perhaps the most surprising, considering the Russian heavyweight was the first fighter to receive a ‘Lifetime Ban’ under USADA’s drug testing program.
Of all those listed, the releases of Millender, Bermudez, and Horie are somewhat puzzling. Exciting fighters who had already shown some good success fighting in the Octagon (or in Horie’s case, only got one chance). Still, after signing 30 fighters from Dana White’s Contender Series alone, between June and August, it looks like the UFC is looking to make space on an already crowded roster.