Calm down, bro.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) fans who were shocked to learn yesterday that Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) released its former No. 1 Welterweight contender and current No. 9-ranked 170-pound star, Jon Fitch, need to take a deep breath and understand that it was an unfortunate business decision.
The kind of decision that is difficult to make, but isn't all that surprising once all the facts are considered.
"This is a fucking sport, just like any other sport," said UFC President Dana White after the UFC 157 press conference (watch that here) earlier this afternoon. "It's just like Major League Baseball, NFL, NBA or any other sport.... I was reading on Twitter that this is a travesty, like it's a tidal wave that hit the biggest populated place on fucking planet Earth and wiped out tons of women and children and tons of innocent people. Give me a fucking break. This is a sport just like any other sport. (Charles) Woodson just got cut! The Green Bay Packers just cut Woodson, okay? And, one million other guys are getting cut, traded and everything else."
White felt compelled to share the promotion's side of the story after the reaction within the MMA community was met with a mix of disgust and disbelief. Even Dan Hardy -- who dropped four consecutive bouts and still kept his job -- admitted that he probably should have been cut before the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)-trained product.
However, according to White, Fitch is on the downside of his career, whether fight fans want to admit it or not, having won just once (Erick Silva) in his last four Octagon appearances, dating back to 2011.
"Jon Fitch is ranked number nine," White explained. "He was ranked number one, he fought for the title, he was ranked number two, he was ranked number three, six, seven and now he is nine. That’s called the downside of your career. He’s on the downside. He’s lost two fights, one draw and won one fight."
As for the recent win over Silva at UFC 153 back in Oct. 2012, White didn't seem to think it meant much in the grand scheme of things.
"I saw shit on Twitter like, 'He beat Erick Silva, he beat this guy in Brazil,' and all this shit. "Who the fuck has Erick Silva beat? That was Erick Silva’s first real fight. It was a great fight, they won 'Fight of the Night' and they won a bonus for it ... okay."
After derailing the upstart Brazilian, Fitch most recently dropped a decision to Demian Maia at UFC 156 earlier this month. It was after this performance, during which Fitch was "fitched" and grinded for 13 minutes of the 15-minute bout, that the promotion made the collective decision to part ways, along with 15 other fighters on the roster.
It's a move that White sees as possibly best for both parties.
"Viacom [Bellator MMA] has got plenty of money -- it isn’t hurting for fucking cash," White rationalized. "And, there is a lot of other places where this guy can go and he can make some money.... Jon Fitch can go get a couple more fights and come back to the UFC -- it happens every fucking day all the time.... But, I can tell you this, Jon Fitch isn't cheap."
White took it a step further, saying that Fitch, 34, will not only likely do well outside the UFC, but also win a world title.
"The response that Jon Fitch has had is awesome -- I'm glad that many people are behind him and support him," he said. "That's not a bad thing -- good for him. And guess what's going to happen? He will end up at Bellator -- or one of these other organizations -- and he will win a world title. He will smash every single guy over there."
Ben Askren is currently the Bellator Welterweight champion, an undefeated (11-0) Olympic-caliber wrestler who makes no excuses for his grinding, less-than-crowd-pleasing style. "Funky" would seemingly be the only top-ranked Welterweight fighter outside the UFC who could present a major challenge to Fitch at the moment.
However, Bellator has made no statements about any interest in Fitch to date. In addition, UFC and Bellator are utter enemies, with White previously warning fighters outside his promotion to "think long and hard" before signing a contract.
Seems like Fitch would be damned if he did, and damned if he didn't consider the Bellator option.
In the meantime, White wanted to make it clear that he has no ill-will toward Fitch. If you remember, this isn't the first time Fitch has been cut -- back in 2008 a dispute over "ancillary rights" resulted in a momentary firing. This time around, however, it will likely last a bit longer and run a bit deeper.
"People say all the time that I hated Jon Fitch and I've hated him forever and he’s been waiting to cut him since the video game deal," he said. "Are you fucking shitting me? There is nobody in the history of this business that I hated more than Tito Ortiz.... He ended his career in the UFC.... No hard feelings. This whole Jon Fitch vs. Dana battle is so fucking overrated. I don’t have one ounce of hate for Jon Fitch. I don’t. I don’t hate the guy at all, I don’t even dislike him. Not even a little bit. I like Jon Fitch."
Enough to actually invite him back to the UFC one day, however, is an entirely different animal. That is, of course, if Fitch is even interested.