By: Rich Bergeron
Although the UFC maintains it is slimming down their roster to "assure fighters can be scheduled more frequently and to avoid long layoffs between fights" the recent torch snuffing of Din Thomas, Tommy Speer, and Kuniyoshi Hironaka seems to be yet another sign of the organization neglecting to put their fighters first. MMAJUNKIE put out an in-depth report on the situation recently, and the story points out that the castoff brawlers all lost recent fights.
The message seems to be: win or go home, literally. It's as if the situation this season's TUF contestants faced when they had to fight their way into the house is part of a new winner take all attitude among UFC decision makers that's now being applied to the league as a whole. For some recently dismissed UFC fighters, the disrespectful aspect of being told to clean out their lockers was enough to get them to come out in the public eye and squawk about mistreatment and unfavorable terms of employment.
Absent the big sponsor deals the top names get, the UFC's contract situations often leave the average fighter footing all the bills for training and medical treatment.
Travis Lutter went as far as reporting that he e-mailed Dana White asking for his 36,000 bucks in past-due sponsor money from Xyience.
Kalib Starnes found himself surrounded by a media circus when he fought one of the worst fights of his life recently. He's felt compelled to set the record straight about his raw UFC deal in recent weeks. He insists he tried to back out of the crooked contract himself before Dana White ragged on him in public and announced his release from the league.
The MMA Junkie article points out other casualties of the past month including Joe Doerksen, Charles McCarthy, and Jake O'Brien. They go on to report, "Additionally, numerous cast members from "The Ultimate Fighter 6" were cut earlier this year, and the majority of cast members from the current season of "TUF" will be released from the organization next month."
Add to the situation the harsh words and lawsuits launched at the organization from well-known UFC fighters who decided to leave the league publicly and voluntarily (Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Tim Sylvia) and it seems there's more than meets the eye to the numerous claims that the UFC is not very fighter friendly. The exclusive contracts of the league and all the restrictions put on fighters can't be healthy in the long run with other MMA leagues starting to make headway and new ones still popping up.
Affliction's league is about to kick off their first event, EliteXC's got the CBS deal to gloat about, and Mark Cuban's HDNet fights isn't going away anytime soon. It's one thing to demand so much from your employees when there's no other suitable place for them to work, but when there's this much competition around that's more open to compromise and providing star treatment for all it's a bad move on the part of the UFC to make any waves that might inspire even more fighter discontent.
On the other hand, the fact that there are so many competing leagues now makes the UFC's recent fighter cuts a bit more forgivable since at least each released fighter will have plenty of opportunities to keep working for comparable pay.
At any rate, there's no doubt the show will go on. There's no evidence yet that any of this competition is really hurting the UFC's bottom line and popularity. It might be making a dent in some respects, but any losses sustained aren't catastrophic, and predictions of the UFC's imminent demise are surely premature.
For every Din Thomas, Tommy Speer, and Kuniyoshi Hironaka there are a hundred other guys itching to take their places and willing to fight just for the exposure and the glory. So all you folks out there saying the CBS deal is the beginning of the end of the UFC as the all-powerful oracle, you just keep waiting for the mother ship to come take you away when the Hale Bopp Comet appears in the night sky.