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Damned If You Don’t: Rich Attonito Fired by UFC for Backing Out of Gunnar Nelson Fight

(He beat the crap out of Jamie Yager, so he’ll always be a legend in our book. Photo props: Justin M. Bowen/ Las Vegas Sun)

When UFC matchmaker Joe Silva calls you to fight on short notice as an injury replacement, sometimes it’s better to not even answer the phone. That’s the lesson we’ve learned from a contradictory pair of recent firings that seem to define the phrase “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

As confirmed by, welterweight contender (and former CagePotato guest-blogger) Rich Attonito has been released by the UFC. Attonito had an official record of 3-2 within the Octagon, and last competed at UFC 140 in December 2011, where he was TKO’d by Jake Hecht. Here’s the sequence of events that led to Rich’s firing, from the MMAFighting report:

When [Pascal] Krauss pulled out of UFC on FUEL TV 5, [Joe] Silva offered Rich Attonito the fight against [Gunnar] Nelson via Attonito’s manager Dan Lambert. Lambert spoke to the American Top Team fighter, who agreed to take the welterweight bout. The next day, Lambert called Silva to tell him Attonito said he would not be able to make the 170-pound weight limit on short notice. Silva then offered him the opportunity to take the fight at a 175-pound catch weight, which both Attonito and Nelson, through his manager and father Haraldur Nelson, agreed to. The next day, Lambert called Silva back again to inform him that Attonito would not be able to make the 175-pound catch weight either. As a result, Silva decided to release Attonito from his contract.

Here’s the deal: When the UFC offers you an opportunity to come in as a replacement fighter, you generally don’t get a day or two to think about it. Attonito’s crime was speaking too soon — agreeing to a fight before he realized that making weight would be impossible. But at the time the fight was offered to him, saying “no” to Joe Silva probably seemed like the bigger sin.

Anyway, Attonito changed his mind and got fired for it. And you probably remember what happened next…

DaMarques Johnson was then offered (and accepted) the fight against Nelson, and as we previously told you, he was swiftly cut by the UFC following his first-round submission loss. We figured it was because he missed the 175-pound catchweight by a full eight pounds, and we weren’t wrong. Here’s what Joe Silva had to say about it:

I thought it was incredibly unfair to Gunnar Nelson to fight someone that much larger than him,” Silva said. “Johnson told me he could make the weight. He’s not doing me a favor if he missed weight because I could have gotten someone else who would have made the weight. I never pressure anyone to take late notice fights. I got a bunch of guys who want to fight. If one says no, I will find someone else. No problem.”

So in other words, don’t accept a short-notice fight unless you’re 100% certain you can make the weight, at the moment the fight is offered to you. Otherwise, you could be fired if you take the fight, or if you end up not taking the fight. And as Ben Fowlkes points out in his latest MMAJunkie mailbag column: “If the UFC has ‘a bunch of guys who want to fight,’ why was Johnson, whose medical suspension ended less than two weeks before the Nelson fight, No. 2 on the list of possible replacements?…[The UFC] should have known that Johnson – who’d been medically suspended for 45 of the 56 days between his knockout loss to Mike Swick and his submission loss to Nelson – might not have been in tip-top fighting shape just then.”

With so many UFC fighters getting injured lately, Joe Silva has had to scrape the bottom of the matchmaking barrel to find warm bodies. That’s what led him to DaMarques Johnson, who simply would not have been an option under ideal circumstances. The truth is, Johnson was doing Joe Silva a favor by saying “yes” to the Nelson fight. And that favor was repaid with a pink slip. Let that be a message to the UFC fighters who want to improve their standing in the promotion by taking short-notice fights that are against their best interests: Just say no.

Cagepotato Comments

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godspeed- October 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm
It seems just like yesterday gunner nelson was singing after the rain now hes fighting mma!!!!!!
J-Dog- October 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm
Or just walk around within a few lbs of fighting weight....
Mr_Misanthropy- October 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm
Let's go caroling!

Deck the hall with pink slips so dire
Fa la la la la la la la la
Tis the season to get fired
Fa la la la la la la la la
Don we now our gay Affliction
Troll the ancient Cagepotato comment section
Fa la la la la la la la la

See the unemployment line before us
Fa la la la la la la la la
The UFC axes fighters who lose and bore us
Fa la la la la la la la la
The Bald Father fires at his leisure
Do not lose decisions or have seizures
Fa la la la la la la la la

Fast away the old trash it passes
Fa la la la la la la la la
Hail the new hype ye lads and lasses
Fa la la la la la la la la
Sing we drunken altogether
Heedless of the fate of those who trade leather
Fa la la la la la la la la

(Yeah I'm recycling but I'm severely hungover. Cut a brother some slack.)
RaginAsian- October 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm
munche- October 12, 2012 at 10:24 am
Attonito accepted then backed out of the fight TWICE in two days. If you're a matchmaker, and some middle of the road fighter is jerking you around when you're in crunch mode trying to make a fight, do you want to deal with that shit? They start the process of making the fight, then the guy says "wait wait, nevermind"...he accepts the fight AGAIN under different terms, they start drawing up paperwork, "Wait wait, nevermind!!"

Nevermind indeed.

As for Johnson, it is a surprise that he was released since they usually give freebies for guys taking late notice fights. But don't tell your boss you can make weight (a special, higher weight, just for you) and then not show up.

Let's not forget this is also his third consecutive loss and he doesn't look like a guy capable of competing at UFC level.
Flying Wristlock- October 12, 2012 at 8:43 am
Maybe Gunnar should be called Gunnar "Pink slip" Nelson?
FightZen- October 12, 2012 at 7:38 am
This is absolute bullshit!

Rich Attonito is NOT a WW contender!
Pen Fifteen- October 12, 2012 at 7:11 am
How exactly does this make Jon Jones' decision look less selfish? His situation has absolutely nothing in common with that of Attonito and Johnson; he had a full training camp and was coming in on-weight, plus he had at least two people who agreed to fight him and could have made weight. Perhaps if Nelson had refused either opponent, you'd have a relevant comparison.
doowm- October 12, 2012 at 6:53 am
its stuff like this that's starting to make Jones' decision less and less selfish.
damn you joe silva for making jon jones seem less hateable!
El Famous Burrito- October 12, 2012 at 6:49 am
Do you want to be a fucking doormat!?!?