Morning Report: Surprising roster cuts cast worrisome shadow over UFC 157 fighters

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

For a brief moment on Wednesday, a fighter who many loathed for years, overshadowed the UFC's historic undertaking in Anaheim. In a way it was perverse vengeance. The third-most successful welterweight in the promotion's history, the conductor of a six-year train of dominance, and a staple at the top of the division for over half a decade, Jon Fitch carried the resume of a UFC Hall of Famer, but the reputation of a pariah. Overlooked for a majority of his career, and fired once before in 2008, it was only recently that Fitch began to feel the court of public opinion sway in his favor, though that means very little now.

Fitch has no option but to shop his services elsewhere, as a newfound sense of dread spreads over his former Zuffa stablemates. If Fitch, the owner of a 14-3-1 Octagon record and the No. 9 ranked welterweight in the UFC's official rankings, was so dispensable, what's keeping the men ranked below him employed? Survey over yesterday's reaction from the pros, and the unease is palpable.

Seven of yesterday's unlucky 16 fought and lost last week at UFC on FUEL 7, with Stanislav Nedkov left as the sole survivor from a forsaken undercard. According to John Morgan, those men were the first of what may amount to 100 upcoming roster cuts. How must the athletes fighting on Saturday's UFC 157 prelims feel after hearing that? Talk about pressure.

Gerald Harris understands this better than most. A former TUF contestant, Harris fought three times for the UFC over a span of seven months back in 2010, winning all three by knockout, before abruptly receiving his walking papers following his first loss.

"Fighters have no rights," a frustrated Harris wrote yesterday.

"We are not robots or animals -- we are human beings with families and lives outside of fighting. I'm venting because I'm sick of people saying be exciting or be cut. When I look into my kids eyes, I don't say ‘I'm about to go out there and swing for the fences for this company.' I say I'm going to fight as smart as possible to finish this fight and keep food on this table.

"We love to watch our favorite athletes, but in the sport of MMA, fighters come and go like we are a part of a temp agency," he continued. "Brought in to work hard for the ‘Organization' but dumped in the trash like [a] diaper after we are sh--ted on. ... You cannot live day to day or fight to fight not knowing if [you're] going to have a job the next day.

"IN MMA WE KEEP OUR JOB BY WINNING, YOU GAIN FANS BY WINNING! Regardless if they like you or not they will tune in. You lose your job by losing, or in this case not being ‘entertaining,' which is only done in this sport. The fact of the matter is, entertaining or not, if you have a three-fight deal you should get three fights. If [you're] not exciting then yes, you could not be resigned. But to be on the chopping block every time you fight is straight up bulls--t! If you think someone is boring then don't sign them.

"Guys fight safe when they think they can be cut," Harris said in closing. "Do you honestly think that firing a lot of people is going to motivate guys to fight harder? No, they will do the opposite -- anyone who feels they can get cut will do what it takes to win. More focus on competition will lead to more COMPETITIVE fights. Entertainment comes from good competition, not unintelligent fights."

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6 MUST-READ STORIES

Massive UFC cuts. 16 fighters received their release from the UFC on Wednesday, a list that surprisingly included top-10 staple Jon Fitch, Mike Russow, Vladimir Matyushenko, Che Mills, Terry Etim, Paul Sass, Jorge Santiago and Ulysses Gomez. If the UFC intended to make a statement to its athletes, it did just that.

UFC 157 interviews. Catch up on all of the UFC 157 pre-fight action as our own Ariel Helwani interviews Ronda Rousey, Liz Carmouche, Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida, Urijah Faber and Ivan Menjivar.

Bellator 90 weigh-in results. All eight main card fighters met their required weight at Wednesday's official Bellator 90 weigh-ins, including featherweight headliners Shahbulat Shamhalaev and Rad Martinez, as well as former Strikeforce champion Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal.

Machida talks 185, co-main event. Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida admitted to initially being upset with Ronda Rousey's main event status, though he has since come around. Machida also opened the door for a potential drop down in weight, stating, "If I have a chance, I'd like to fight at 185 pounds. Maybe I can fight in both classes."

Diaz petition denied in district court. Nick Diaz's petition for judicial review, which challenged the punishment handed out by Keith Kizer and the Nevada State Athletic Commission for Diaz's positive drug test, was denied by a Nevada district court judge.

UFC 160 announcements. Two noteworthy lightweight bouts -- T.J. Grant vs. Gray Maynard and Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Abel Trujillo -- have been added to the fight card of UFC 160.

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MEDIA STEW

Catch this week's episode of The Ultimate Fighter 17 in glorious HD, courtesy of the magic of Hulu.

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Viral marketing done right.

Props to @pegson for the find.

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You knew this was inevitable.

Props to Derek for the find.

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Ladies and gentlemen, Pat Barry's masterpiece:

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Discreetly calling out somebody with your Harlem Shake video? Well played, Alex.

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That damn injury bug ... I hate him so much.

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BLOODY WEDNESDAY

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TAKING IT WELL

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ET TU, BUF?

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SHOTS FIRED

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TRUTH

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GOING OUT ON A LIMB THERE

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NOT BAD

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FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Announced yesterday (Wednesday, February 20, 2013):

  • UFC 160: T.J. Grant (20-5) vs. Gray Maynard (11-1-1)
  • UFC 160: Khabib Nurmagomedov (19-0) vs. Abel Trujillo (10-4)

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FANPOST OF THE DAY

Today's Fanpost of the Day sees Omar Little play devil's advocate with: If you want to complain about the UFC getting rid of the "sport" aspect of MMA in favor of the "entertainment" aspect, don't.

Jon Fitch has just been released and to my surprise, there's plenty of fans outraged. I'm pretty shocked, but outrage wasn't something that I was expecting. He's a "boring" fighter and his name has become a negative verb, he's lost to the champ twice, and aside from a victory against Erick Silva he's hasn't been doing all that well. He got cut recently, for reasons unbeknownst to us yet, and there's lots of fans immediately assuming that it's because he's "boring." Now I'm positive there's more to it than this, but even if that's the reason it's still not that big of a deal. If you're whining that the UFC is getting rid of the "sporting" aspect of MMA and you think it will lead to their down fall, stop. Actually educate yourself about other sports what they did to get ratings up and have entertaining match ups. If you think the UFC is the only one that does this you're not even remotely educated about other sports.

In the NBA there is a de facto star system where guys like LeBron, Kobe, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant get calls that other players won't. They get these calls because the NBA doesn't want their best players getting ejected from games. They also PER SE DE JURE CHANGED THE RULES to make the games more exciting with the shot clock. The NBA owners and the league itself repeatedly do things to make the game more exciting caring very little about the "purity of the game."

The NFL? The Polian Rules? It's illegal to play pass defense in the NFL and it's still the most popular sport in the country. They did this to make it more fun to watch. The pussification of the sport to keep QBs healthy? Again, changing the WRITTEN rules to make the game more entertaining. They don't want Tom Brady or Peyton Manning done for the year, they want those big Sunday Night ratings. The rules in the NFL change all of the time, partly because it was invented by ivy league professors to make a better soccer and so no one has romanticized it yet, but also because the NFL is in the business of entertainment.

MLB? Well they ignored steroids in the 90s when they figured out it was bringing fans back. There's teams that are encouraged to bring in the fences so there's more runs scored and the team's more fun to watch. Hell in 69 they lowered the mound to create more offense and excitement. Recently umpires have tightened the strike zone to lead to more offense and players are still juiced (just like they are in every other sport) and they're doing quite a bit to make the game more entertaining for fans. Pushing for wi-fi in stadiums to improve "fan experience" and other efforts have been made in the game.

So this isn't just a UFC thing, as a fan of other sports this doesn't bother me too much. I want to watch the most exciting fights and see some excitement if I'm going to spend 60 bucks on a card or spend four hours at a BWW. I mean Jon Fitch shouldn't have been cut if it was because he was boring, but this is hardly a shocker to the "sporting" aspect of the game. It could of been that there's plenty of 170 prospects coming up in a log jammed division and someone had to go. It could be that he's getting paid too much relative to what he's worth. It could be over EA licensing. But even if it were because he was "boring" that's not the end of the world. It's not like they cut Dominick Cruz because he's boring. He's a guy that may fall out of the top ten of 170s and he's on the downslope of his career. Not a champ.

Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me on Twitter @shaunalshatti and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.

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