(Fitch finds himself on the wrong end of a Fitch’ing against Demian Maia at UFC 156. Photo via Getty Images)
In the wake of Jon Fitch‘s surprise firing during the Great UFC Bloodletting of February 2013, even die-hard Fitch-haters criticized the move. As the general argument goes, how the hell are you going to cut a fighter who’s one of the ten greatest welterweights in the world by your own rankings, and whose last victory over Erick Silva was a Fight of the Night performance that proved he still has greatness left in him?
UFC president Dana White explained the decision to media yesterday at the UFC 157 press-conference in Anaheim, calling Fitch “super f—ing expensive,” then laying out exactly why he’s not worth the money:
“Jon Fitch was ranked number nine, OK, however you want to look at that, he’s ranked number nine, whether it’s right or wrong or the rankings are bullshit or whatever. Ranked number nine right now. Now, this isn’t a case where Jon Fitch was ranked No. 9, No. 7, No. 6, No. 4, No. 2 and then we cut him. He was ranked No. 1, fought for the title and then he was ranked No. 2. He was ranked No. 3, 6, 7, and now he’s 9. That’s called the downside of your career. He’s on the downside…
“He had a draw, then a loss, right, then a win, then a loss. It’s good, he got more money. He got Fight of the Night because it takes two guys to do that. Right? If Erick Silva’s wrestling wasn’t right there, that wouldn’t have been Fight of the Night. At the end of the day, when you really break it down, who did Erick Silva beat? This was Erick Silva’s first real big fight and big test. And it was a damn good fight. That’s called the downside. He’s not buzzsawing through guys, he’s not doing a [Johny] Hendricks. So it’s not like Jon Fitch was on this incredible fucking winning streak and ‘the greatest fucking welterweight in the history of the world and a fucking Hall of Famer. The guy’s never won a fucking title in his life.”
In other words, Fitch is #9 with a down-arrow, and Erick Silva was never that accomplished to begin with, though Silva nevertheless deserves all the credit for how good that fight was. [*I promise this is not a Scanners gif*] But let’s get back to the more important issue: That Jon Fitch, who makes $66,000 to show, is “super fucking expensive.” Please take a moment to realize what an absolute joke your favorite sport is. Ben Fowlkes puts it best on MMAJunkie:
“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.”
Here’s something to consider: Would we even be having this conversation if the UFC’s pay-per-view numbers hadn’t fallen off last year, and the company had money to burn? Between all of the promotion’s television commitments — namely FOX stealing PPV-worthy fights for broadcast on free TV — as well as the UFC’s recent rush of international expansion, maybe the promotion is just over-leveraged. (You might have noticed that their end-of-night bonuses were lowered back to $50,000 apiece, another unexpected sign of belt-tightening.) No matter what the reasoning for the Fitch cut, it’s kind of an embarrassing admission for the UFC that a top-ten fighter who makes $66k to show has now become too expensive. I mean, what’s next — a freeze on no-show jobs for ex-champions?
As for Fitch’s future, Dana White is coldly optimistic:
“Viacom’s got plenty of money. Viacom MMA isn’t hurting for cash. There’s a lot of other places this guy can go and make some money…[Fitch] will end up at Bellator or one of these other organizations and he will win a world title. He’ll end up there and he’ll smash every single guy over there and he’ll be a champ. A guy goes outside, wins some fights, has some impressive runs and then comes back…the response that Jon Fitch has had (from fans) is awesome. I’m glad that many people are behind him and support him. That’s not a bad thing. Good for him. But I can tell you this: Jon Fitch isn’t cheap. Viacom MMA has some money, so he can go out on the free market right now and find out what he’s worth.”
The problem is, Bellator — or “Viacom MMA,” as Dana charmingly calls them — wants nothing to do with the poor bastard. Here’s Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, delivering the bad news:
“I have a lot of respect for Jon [Fitch] and I have a lot of respect for anyone who has to courage to do what these guys do and the athletic ability to do what they do but we are not going to be signing Jon Fitch…We have a stacked welterweight division right now. We have a lot of guys that we are developing that we anticipate are going to be world class fighters and break the top ten. We want to keep guys busy. We want to keep guys inside the cage and we have a plan in terms of the next year and who is going to be a part of the tournaments and it’s just not the time…
There is no hard and fast line in the sand with us. ‘King Mo’ Lawal came out of Strikeforce. He is one of my favorite fighters fighting in our organization. He is wildly exciting and awesomely talented. Ben ‘Killa B’ Saunders is another example and is fighting for us tonight. He came out and lost two straight in the UFC when we signed him. I just [liked] watching him fight. I love the knees and I love the clinch game and I thought he was exciting, so we signed him. There will be others like that. There will be other guys that get released from the UFC and it’s not a hard and fast rule.”
In short, top ten welterweight Jon Fitch is too expensive for the UFC, and not quite exciting enough for Bellator. If he’s lucky, maybe World Series of Fighting will let him fight the winner of Burkman vs. Simpson later this year. Jesus Christ, man, condolences.