The MMA landscape had a shift earlier this week with the UFC releases of former title challenger Alistair Overeem and former heavyweight king Junior dos Santos. Both were removed from the official rankings and somewhat unceremoniously given their walking papers.
While Overeem was gracious in his departure, fans have been reminded once again of the cruel nature of the sport in which making a certain amount of money and losing a few fights can lead to being cut without warning. But UFC president Dana White wants to let everyone know that there wasn’t any sort of animosity behind the move to let both fighters go.
In an interview with TMZ Sports, White attempted to clarify matters stating that he harbors no ill will towards either of the two lauded heavyweights making their exit (transcription by Jed Meshew of MMAFighting).
“Nothing happened behind the scenes,” White said. “They’re both great guys who have had incredible careers here. First of all, people get cut every week. I think those two are pretty self-explanatory. It’s nothing negative, it’s just part of the sport. If you look up what they’ve done recently, you look at their age, you look at everything that’s going on, it’s pretty self-explanatory.”
When slightly nudged about any attitude shift or problem behind the scenes, he offered the following:
“Not even close,” White said when asked about bad blood playing a factor. “100 percent (this was amicable). We’ve had a great run and love Alistair and the same with Junior dos Santos. Alistair Overeem never said no to a fight. Never turned down a fight, never said no, would fight anybody. And Junior dos Santos is one of the nicest human beings in the sport. So nothing but amazing things to say about both guys.”
It has to sting to be let go like this, but it’s at least some sort of comfort that their character was praised on the way out.
As we know, both fighters had rather substantial payouts on record as they suffered big losses. Those losses often came in devastating manner, and it’s not in the UFC’s modus operandi to keep aging fighters with big knockout defeats around for too long if they’re on the higher end of the pay scale.
Junior dos Santos has faced the toughest names the division has had to offer since his UFC debut in 2008. He’s faced such stalwarts as Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, Frank Mir, Mirko Cro Cop, and his brutal trilogy against Cain Velasquez. Unfortunately, he’s on a four-fight losing streak with career and life-altering stoppage losses against Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, and Ciryl Gane.
As for Overeem, he’s at least had some continued evolution late in his career being more defensively-minded. This led to wins against Sergey Pavlovich, Augusto Sakai and Walt Harris, but horrible losses to Blaydes, Rozenstruik, and Alexander Volkov. At 37 and 40 years of age respectively, Dos Santos and Overeem have a lot of mileage in their extensive careers. And as reasonable as it may be for them to pack it in and retire at this point, it’s not surprising when fighters of this caliber fall from grace but continue their careers elsewhere.
Whether or not that happens for either or both in this case is something we can’t determine yet, but it at least seems like there’s no hard feelings from the UFC’s side.