Dana White said the UFC released Elias Theodorou and Justin Willis — two top 15 fighters in their respective weight divisions — due to a lack of potential in both of their careers.
White said he sometimes has to cut fighters who he believes will never be UFC champions or top-five contenders to make room on the roster for others.
“There’s a ton of guys and girls that fight here. We have like 600 people under roster,” White told TSN. “There’s always times when we release people and they question, ‘Well, why, why were these people released?’ I’m looking for people that can break into the top five or possibly become world champions.
“The real question is, ask me how many times I’ve been wrong? If you look at me when I’ve released people and who I’ve released, how many times have I actually been wrong about that?”
Many fans were surprised to hear that Theodorou and Willis were both recently released. Theodorou is coming off an uninspiring loss to Derek Brunson, but prior to that the Canadian middleweight was on a three-fight winning streak. Theodorou, often criticized for his not fan-friendly fighting style, went 8-3 in the UFC.
Willis was last seen in a one-sided defeat to top heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes, which was his first UFC loss and snapped an eight-fight winning streak. Willis recorded a 4-1 record in the promotion.
White said some fighters will stick around despite a skid because they “put on unbelievably exciting fights.” When asked if one can consider MMA a sport when fighters with a lower win rate stay on the UFC roster over fighters with a higher win rate because they are more entertaining, White said: “Yeah, I can.”
“It’s based on your fighting abilities,” White said, denying the idea that entertainment dictates who gets to fight in the UFC. “And while they might be decent fighters, they’re never gonna break into the top five, they’re never gonna become world champions. And I need to free up spots on the roster for people who will be.”