Unemployment was the last thing on Jason High's mind heading into his UFC Fight Night 42 match-up against Rafael dos Anjos. It's understandable, after all the 32-year-old veteran arrived in Albuquerque with a two-fight win streak in tow, his debut cut to lightweight had been far easier than expected, and a massive opportunity against a top-10 contender stood in front of him.
But yet, three days after the fact, unemployment was exactly where High found himself -- made to be an example of for future fighters after an emotional outburst led to High shoving referee Kevin Mulhall post-fight for what he perceived to be an early second-round stoppage.
"I was a little surprised," High said of UFC release on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I expected the commission to handle it.
"I'm not going to make excuses. I put myself in that position. I took a punch, [dos Anjos] put me down, it's MMA. I would've liked a little more time to fight out of that, but you know, the referee is doing the same thing that I'm doing. He's making a quick decision in the heat of the moment, so it's really just something that happens in MMA. To put your hands on the referee is not the way to go. But I did talk to Kevin Mulhall, went up and apologized to him. I caught him coming out of the cage after he reffed another fight and I talked to him, shook his hand, told him I was out of line and I was sorry. He was cool, like ‘I totally understand, man.' He was very cool, he was very forgiving."
Not much was said about High's indiscretion until a few days after the event, when in the midst of the hoopla surrounding Chael Sonnen's failed drug test, the UFC quietly released a statement attributed to promotion president Dana White revealing that High had been fired.
High says he found out about his release "just like everybody else," by perusing through his Twitter feed that same Tuesday. It's a wound that is still fresh less than a week later, and one only compounded by White's admittance over the weekend that the decision to drop High was made sight unseen, as White hadn't seen video of the shove when he decided to cut the American.
"Man, it's definitely upsetting," High admitted. "I had to kinda readjust my goals in the sport. I planned on retiring with the UFC, but it's always best to not dwell on things like that.
"Of course, just to say that [White] heard it from somebody and then to make that kind of decision, such a drastic decision, after having not even watched it -- of course, you know, I would've liked him to check it out. It was completely out of line, it was wrong, I was wrong. You should never touch a referee the way I did, but I would've liked for him to watch it.
"It's been a week, (so) I'm still pretty upset sometimes," High added. "You go through these phases where you catch yourself daydreaming, but I don't know. I don't know that I'm really ready for the retirement life. I like fighting, I like training. I could still make money and still fight good guys. I mean, obviously it's not line with a couple of goals that I set for myself, and you never foresee something like that happening, but life is about adapting, right?"
If nothing else, the contrast between the unsympathetic handling of High's release and White's same-day defense of Sonnen's failed drug test on FOX Sports 1 brought to the forefront a curious question in regards to the UFC's disciplinary policies -- one which was not lost on High, who two days later tweeted out, "Push steroids, not referees. #NOTED," and still continues to stand by his statement.
"In my mind, there's really no comparison to an emotional type of thing like that after a fistfight, and a calculated, systematic cheating effort," High said. "There's really no comparison, but the message is there. When Dana kind of backs off like he did with Vitor (Belfort), he said the commission will take of Vitor. But why not let the commission take care of my deal also? I just don't understand the discrepancies in disciplining tactics, or lack thereof. That's one thing that just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me because it's not logical. It probably doesn't make a lot of sense to a lot of people."
While High has and continues to apologize publicly for the incident, he now appears resigned to the fact that the UFC chapter of his career is likely over. On Wednesday the New Mexico State Athletic Commission is expected to issue its punishment, whether it be a fine, suspension, or a simple slap on the wrist.
In the meantime, High says he's currently fielding offers from World Series of Fighting and Bellator MMA, among others -- although Bellator officials refute any interest -- and is simply trying to carry an optimistic perspective towards the future, regardless of how hard or painful that may be.
"I haven't lost my job. I've just lost the organization," High said. "I can still fight, like I said. I'm not going to beg or anything like that. I mean, I'll talk to [UFC executives]. My management team, Mike (Roberts), has talked to them. But you know, it's kinda like once Dana makes a kneejerk decision, then most of the time he's not looking back at the decision."