Kalib Starnes did his best to turn a fight with Nate Quarry into a track meet at UFC 83 on Saturday night. Normally, that might make him nothing more than the subject of a few days worth of open mockery on the internet, but in this case it’s bound to become more than that, and it should.
The question now seems to be not so much if Starnes will be released from the UFC, but when. At the post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White did little to hide his displeasure:
“If I was Kalib Starnes and I was fighting in my home country, I’d rather get knocked out than run around in circles the whole fight. I think Kalib Starnes is going to wake up tomorrow and look back on this fight and wish he’d fought a different fight.”
Translation: he’s going to wake up tomorrow unemployed, or at least on his way there.
This wouldn’t be the first time the UFC has cut a guy for failing to put on a show. The same thing happened to Ivan Salaverry in 2005 after a highly, uh, strategic performance against Nate Marquardt. The difference is that even after he was cut, Salaverry seemed contrite and apologetic for his poor performance. Starnes, on the other hand, reacted to criticism with slightly less grace when he shouted obscenities and suggested that a member of Quarry’s corner preferred the company of men.
That exclamation point on the night makes it easier to feel good about seeing Starnes fired from the UFC, but there’s more to this than just what happened in the Octagon on Saturday. For Starnes, this seems to be part of a pattern.
Don’t forget that his path to the UFC included a stint on The Ultimate Fighter, where he was eliminated when he quit in a closely contested bout with eventual winner Kendall Grove, complaining of broken ribs.
In Starnes’ bout with Alan Belcher at UFC 77 he lost via a cut, but the reaction from his corner told a bigger story. They initially seemed to think that Starnes had said something to the ringside doctor to induce the stoppage. While the cut stoppage was legitimate, Starnes ended up in a shouting match with his corner over it. That makes you wonder what they had seen up to that point that would make them jump to that assumption.
The UFC has cut plenty of guys over the years. Guys who weren’t skilled enough, guys who didn’t train hard enough, even some guys who seemed talented but just didn’t have any luck. They’ve cut guys like Matt Lindland and, more recently, Jake O’Brien, because their fighting styles weren’t as exciting as the UFC wanted them to be.
But whatever you say about guys like O’Brien, you can never put them in a class with Starnes. O’Brien takes people down and keeps them there. Starnes spent fifteen minutes on Saturday night trying to avoid a fight.
That’s the unforgivable sin for a fighter. That’s how Starnes ended up losing the bout 30-24 on one judge’s scorecard (a new UFC record). That’s why he’ll be on the unemployment line soon enough, and why few credible organizations will be interested in signing him.
Through it all, Quarry managed to emerge a hero. His antics at the end of the fight – mocking Starnes’s sprint around the cage, covering his face and flailing his fist – was how he saved the bout from being completely forgettable.
Said Quarry after the fight: “I figured if I did this (flailing gesture) he’d have to hit me. Maybe he’d come in swinging and we could get something started.”
In other words, Quarry attempted to shame Starnes into a fight. And what did Starnes do? He continued to back away, almost as if congratulating himself for being too smart to fall into Quarry’s clever trap.
Starnes came into the bout as the fan favorite, if for no other reason than that he happened to be a Canadian. He left as the villain, because no accident of birth is good enough reason to support a fighter who refuses to fight.
In the days to come we’ll likely hear some explanation from Starnes, perhaps referencing an injury in training or in the fight – one of those old stand-by’s. But unless he can come up with a convincing excuse, Starnes is going to be looking for a new career soon. He just doesn’t seem to be cut out for this one.