ANAHEIM, Calif. -- To say Dana White was taken aback by the online reaction to the news Jon Fitch was cut from the company would be an understatement.
While there wasn't much argument about most of the 16 names on the list of fighters released from their contracts, the loss of the veteran welterweight led to a harsh brushback from fans on Twitter.
Fitch, after all, was 13-4-1 in the UFC during a run which dates back to 2005. And while the American Kickboxing Academy fighter's style has been criticized, no one who knows MMA has ever questioned his toughness, heart, or his willingness to take on all comers.
Still, White stands by his decision to cut Fitch. And he came out swinging at his critics Thursday during a feisty exchange with reporters following the UFC 157 press conference.
"This is a sport, just like NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA or any other sport," White said. "Everybody is so, I mean the words that I was reading on Twitter, ‘F--- this is a travesty, this is like a f--- tidal wave hit the biggest populated place on f---- planet earth and wiped out tons of women and children and innocent people. Give me a f--- break. OK? This is a sport just like any other sport."
Compounding the matter was the fact Fitch was ranked No. 9 at 170 pounds by the UFC's own ranking system at the time of his release. But White said the cut was justified because Fitch was ranked and on his way down, not up.
"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 bull---- or whatever," White said. "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."
Indeed, Fitch has won just once in his past four fights in a two-year span. In order, he fought to a majority draw with B.J. Penn, lost to Johny Hendricks, defeated Erick Silva, and lost most recently to Demian Maia.
White downplayed Fitch's win over Silva, which won Fight of the Night honors at UFC 153 in October, by noting the bout was Silva's first big UFC test.
"He had a draw, then a loss, right, then a win, then a loss," White said. "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 Hendricks."
"So it's not like Jon Fitch was on this incredible f--- winnning streak and ‘the greatest f--- welterweight in the history of the world and a f--- Hall of Famer," White lated later in his tangent. "The guy's never won a f--- title in his life. What do you consider a Hall of Famer? If f--- Jon Fitch is a Hall of Famer, f--- that thing's going to be packed. It's going to be one huge f--- Hall of Fame."
Despite White's harsh words, he insists he has no personal problem with Fitch. The two had a previous blip in their relationship in 2008, when Fitch was briefly cut from the roster over his refusal to sign away the rights to his likeness for a video game, though he was quickly reinstated.
"This whole Jon Fitch-Dana battle is so f--- overrated," White said. "I don't have once ounce of hate for Jon Fitch. I don't at all. I don't even dislike him. Not even a little bit. I like Jon Fitch."
White went on to say that he's actually been encouraged by the outpouring from the fans for Fitch, who as of Thursday has not been conducting interviews.
"The response that Jon Fitch has had is awesome," White said. "I'm glad that so many people are behind him. That's not a bad thing. Good for him. But I can tell you this, Jon Fitch isn't cheap, so good. Viacom MMA has some money. He can go out there right now on the free market and find out exactly what he's worth."
As a final item, White made it clear that when it comes to making such roster decisions, the buck stops with him, not matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby or anyone else in the Zuffa hierarchy.
"Anything that goes wrong or anything you don't like, blame me," White said. "I wasn't calling Joe Silva up going, 'You wanna cut Jon Fitch?' Anything you thing is wrong or stupid or f--- up, blame me."
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