The news that Jake Shields had been axed by the UFC on Tuesday was not taken lightly by MMA fans who had referred to the former Strikeforce champion as “Jake Shieldzzzz” for years prior. Days later, we are still trying to make sense of the decision to cut Shields following his first loss in two and a half years, but it was an easy one to make in the eyes of Dana White, who basically told reporters that Shields was released because he didn’t “WAR!!” enough.
As several publications have noted, the firing of Shields has once again highlighted the UFC’s ever-burgeoning “entertainment over sport” mindset when it comes to the legitimacy of their product. It’s the reason guys like Leonard Garcia and Dan Hardy remained with the promotion after two, three, four losses in a row and why Ben Askren was never even given a shot in the first place despite being a top 10 welterweight on damn near everybody’s list. Where just a few years ago, the Tank Abbotts of the world were ridiculed for their one-dimensional, bar brawler-esque approach to MMA, they are now being praised for their ability to entertain and absorb punishment over actually win a fight.
MMA is a sport. The UFC is a spectacle. White’s belief that Gina Carano would deserve an immediate title shot should she sign with the promotion is proof of this. The signing of Brock Lesnar after one fight is proof of this. James Toney is proof of this. We are living in an era of the UFC where the “Just Bleed” guy has risen from psychotic fanboy to upper management, and unfortunately, the firing of Jake Shields was not the first of its kind…
(Photo via Getty.)
Otherwise known as the UFC firing that opened the floodgates of criticism for an entire week back in 2013, the release of perennial contender Jon Fitch was initially met with shock and outrage by fans and pundits of the sport alike, despite the fact that none of us could sit through an entire Jon Fitch fight without checking our cell phones or throwing pencils into the ceiling out of boredom if our lives depended on it.
Shock was quickly replaced by sadness when it was revealed why Fitch was cut; despite being ranked #9 by the UFC’s own rankings system, Fitch was apparently “too fucking expensive” for the UFC – a multi-billion dollar corporation that paid James Toney half a million dollars to lay down and die — at $66,000 to show. Old Dad said it best:
You’re telling me that Fitch, who’s already had a better career than 90 percent of active welterweights, and who’s been with the same organization for more than seven years, has priced himself out of a job with $66,000 in show money? Seriously? Take away taxes, training expenses, his management’s cut, and all the other miscellaneous stuff that eats into a fighter’s pay, and that’s not a ton of take-home cash for a night of professional cage fighting. If that’s too much for a guy like Fitch, most other fighters should go ahead and start working on that law school application right now because the future is grim.
(Who’s got two thumbs and will be out of a job come Monday? THIS GUY. Photo via Getty.)
Listed as the #6 middleweight at the time of his release, Yushin Okami had scored 3 victories in as many fights until a first round knockout loss to #4 ranked Jacare Souza at Fight Night 28 apparently signified that the times had passed him by. Said Dana White:
He’s been with us forever. He was always a tough guy and was right up there, but it’s almost like he’d become a gatekeeper. I like Okami, and you’ve heard me say this many times, that a win over Yushin Okami meant something. But he was never able to get over the hump and win one of those [significant] fights. We have a lot of guys coming in and I’ve been saying this all year: We have a full roster and there are guys who deserve opportunities. When you bring guys in, someone has to go. That’s why these fights are so meaningful.
“You know, sometimes you just have to cut a guy in the top 10 to make room for the 0-0 yoga instructors who really deserve a shot.”
(Photo via Getty.)
Proof that one underwhelming fight can get your fired regardless of your record, TUF 7 alum Gerald Harris was let go by the UFC following his lackluster decision loss to Maiquel Falcao at UFC 123. The insanity in this decision being that the loss was Harris’ first under the UFC banner, and came following three straight TKO wins, two ‘Knockout of the Night’ awards, and an appearance on the Sportscenter Top 10. Harris has fought seven times since his departure, going a respectable 5-2 in such organizations as the WSOF, Dream, and Legacy Fighting Championships, but will likely never fight in the UFC again because he had an off night that one time back in 2010.
Meanwhile, Jared Hamman, who joined the UFC around the same time as Harris, has been smoked in his past three fights by Costas Philippou (legit), Michael Kuiper (fired) and Magnus Cedenblad (no Wiki page), and is 2-5 in the UFC overall, yet is still listed as an employee of the UFC. Politics, ladies and gentleman.
Come to think of it, you could just as easily swap Harris with Falcao, who was also fired for coasting to victory over Harris at UFC 123 (although it was later revealed that Falcao’s release stemmed from an assault case). In hindsight, it was clearly a good move on the UFC’s part, but at the time it was almost unprecedented to see a fighter booted after a win.