UFC-WEC merger means more jobs on the line

November 25, 2010

This week’s expulsion of Gerald Harris from the UFC is a sign of things to come from the UFC. With the UFC-WEC merger, the UFC will expect more from its fighters, or they will be let go.

MMA Fighting explains:

The UFC has examined the cold, hard numbers of the merger and come to the conclusion that their roster will still house roughly 200 fighters under contract at any given time. In the past, that meant about 40 fighters for each of five divisions. Now, it’s roughly 28 men for each of seven divisions.

The reason the roster is not expanding is because Zuffa staged 32 events last year (24 UFC, 8 WEC), but with the loss of the WEC brand, the company is likely to stage only 26 events in 2011. White feels that the promotion has essentially maxed out the number of annual pay-per-views at about 15 or 16 per year, so that would leave 10-11 free events to be broadcast between cable partners Spike and Versus.

That number could increase if a new television deal is struck, but if it doesn’t, that’s a net result of around 60 fewer matches over the course of 2011. So growing the roster would actually result in a glut of more fighters with fewer shows on which to put them.

Harris was previously let go by the UFC after appearing on TUF. After a successful stint on the regional circuit, he was welcomed backed by the UFC. Many fans are perplexed by the move since Harris was on a 10 fight win streak, including 2 KOs of the Night, prior to UFC 123’s loss.

Payout Perspective:

Unfortunately the numbers laid out show that Dana White has to make some tough decisions regarding personnel. However, it seems that Harris’ dismissal was more of an example to the fighters that they were on notice that their jobs were dependent on their performances in the Octagon. I would gather that the message was directed to the younger, less-established, mid to lower card fighters than the main eventers. The fact still remains that while the roster is expanding and the UFC is adding more weight divisions, it also means less opportunities to be on a card.

The UFC seems to be spinning the dismissals of underperforming fighters as a service to its fans. It wants exciting fights and doesn’t want its fighters to dance around the cage. The Harris dismissal is a sign that it will have a short leash for its fighters. Despite Harris’ past exciting fights which ended in KOs, one underwhelming performance cost him.

As for Harris and others released from the UFC, they can land in Strikeforce, which would bolster Strikeforce’sfight cards and enable them to staff its roster of quality fighters. There are also other options out there too (e.g. Bellator, Shine Fights, MFC, etc.). But, its unlikely that fighters would receive as much monetarily as they may receive in the UFC.

Also, it will be interesting to see if some fighters leave the UFC on their own accord if they find themselves buried down the roster. Elite fighters have a small window of time to be in their prime and waiting in line to fight maybe once a year might not sit well. It would hurt the pocketbook of someone needing to fight to earn a living.

13 Responses to “UFC-WEC merger means more jobs on the line”

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  2. Rich on November 25th, 2010 5:42 AM

    “Also, it will be interesting to see if some fighters leave the UFC on their own accord if they find themselves buried down the roster. Elite fighters have a small window of time to be in their prime and waiting in line to fight maybe once a year might not sit well. It would hurt the pocketbook of someone needing to fight to earn a living.”

    Explain this last paragraph. With the roster holding steady at around 200 but with more weight classes, a fighter would still get the same number of fights a year, 3-4 for a mid- to lower card fighter.

  3. Jason Cruz on November 25th, 2010 7:56 AM

    Sure I can explain my opinion. I don’t think fighters get their “turn” at a fight. Similar to other sports, players are benched due to the better performance of others and other factors. Fighters may not get as many fights due to a number of reasons such as: performance, injury, opponent injured so fight scrapped, the UFC books a rematch for the card you were on so your match is scrapped. These are only scenarios that I could foresee.

    My take is that if we were to graph the fights each contracted fighter on the roster had over the course of the year, we’d see some disparity. Yes, it would be odd that someone would leave over this, but if you are a lower tier fighter that gets paid per fight (and will only receive pay from sponsors if you do fight), then you’d might look somewhere else.

  4. Jason Cruz on November 25th, 2010 10:35 AM

    I would also add that there are less fight cards and I believe that the UFC will still look to sign talent even though they have a big roster as it is. As the MMA Fighting article indicates, there could be 60 fewer matches in ’11. That means, less opportunities for fighters trying to make it in the UFC.

    Also, as Justin Klein points out, fighters seeking to leave UFC would require the UFC to release the fighter from his contract. I wasn’t clear in my post that if a fighter wanted to leave, he’d have to seek a release. If you are a lower to mid-tier fighter, I think the UFC would grant the release with little opposition.

  5. Kelsey Philpott on November 25th, 2010 1:51 PM

    There’s precedence for the UFC granting single fight exemptions to fighters looking to stay active. I expect we’ll likely see more of this. And why wouldn’t it? If the UFC can lock up these kids exclusively – keep them away from SF or Bellator – and then allow them to fight periodically when nothing is in the pipeline, why not?

  6. BrainSmasher on November 25th, 2010 3:01 PM

    I believe you guys are expecting more change than there will actually be. The UFC has always cleaned house after absorbing a promotion. Lots of fighters were let go when the Pride merger happen as well as when the UFC picked up WFA fighters and IFL fighters. They trim the fat. I wouldnt expect the UFC to let many fighters fight outside the UFC because activity simply isnt a problem. Lots of fighters dont want to fight as often as they want you to think. Some do, most dont.

    The UFC will just cut down on the return of has beens and feeders. The UFC still brings in lots of crap fighters to use a feeders for prospects. It wasnt long ago that Roger Huerta fought a half dozen guys in the UFC who were in their UFC debut and were released soon after. Not a coincidence. The UFC will have to keep that to a minimum. Cut back on the returns of Gabe Rudiger types. The UFC still has lots of room to bring in up and comers and try to discover talent. They just need to ship the guys they know are not going to amount to anything. They have did this all before. You wont notice much of a chance at first glance.

  7. BrainSmasher on November 25th, 2010 3:15 PM

    It was arounf April 2008 that Dave Meltzer reported the UFC was going to release 50 fighters. This was about 6 months after Pride went under. Some were released immediately. The rest were borderline fighters who lost fights over the next few months.

  8. Additional UFC/WEC Merger Ramifications Need to be Considered » MMA HQ – Mixed Martial Arts News and Analysis on November 29th, 2010 5:47 AM

    […] brings up the idea of some fighters walking away from the UFC to try and fight more often in other organizations. […]

  9. Machiel Van on November 29th, 2010 8:05 AM

    Brain, I both agree and disagree with you about the amount of change the UFC is going through. While the product itself won’t change all that much for the consumer, apart from the possibility of more “big” fights and more action in the octagon overall. For the fighters, on the other hand, this will be a very “new” UFC. While it’s true that the organization has cut large portions of its roster before, it has also never had 7 weight classes to deal with. Cutting Gerald Harris, in my opinion, was a BIG message to the UFC’s fighters. Before the WEC merger we often saw a fighter be given a second (sometimes even a face-palming third) chance. That will clearly no longer be the case, as Harris was coming off of three wins, all (T)KO victories, and was promptly cut after one lackluster performance, hell really only one lackluster ROUND. The difference now will be pressure: a tremendous amount of pressure on all of the UFC’s fighters to perform. The only logical next step is that they will cut someone coming off of a conservative win. Once they do that, it will truly show all the fighters that they are never safe, and that just winning at all costs is not enough.

  10. Machiel Van on November 29th, 2010 8:11 AM

    The biggest question is how the fighters will react to this. If I were a low to mid-tier UFC fighter, the idea of losing my job would now hang very heavy over my head. To make matters worse, the fighters are now put in a position where they aren’t sure if winning is even the most important thing. A conservative win may get them cut, while a loss may get them cut. I predict the pressure will be too much for some, while others will rise to the occasion, perhaps even aided by the extra pressure to perform. I’m sure Dana thinks putting all of his fighters “on notice” in this manner will bring out the best in them, but I’m not sure the results will please him as much as he thinks. A fighter living in a constant state of uncertainty may indeed NOT put together their best performance. On the other hand professional mixed martial artists are tough as hell, so what do I know.

  11. edi on November 29th, 2010 5:28 PM

    What we are seeing is the evolution of the business model to a true mainstream league such as NHL, NBA etc. There is a set roster of athletes due to the set roster of PPV per year, televised events. The bean counters have a pretty straight forward spread sheet w/ events to be sponsored, sold & merchandised. We know that live events are 80 percent of gross revenue. They are continuing to screw down the costs and labor- ie fighters are the cost of goods sold.

    What will be interesting is to see if the UFC invests in a farm or minor league. Are they already doing so? TUF is of sorts. International talent feeders. International minor league athletes. The consolidation and seperation of the finest MMA athletes into the UFC is fantastic and exciting for us fans.

  12. Brain Smasher on November 29th, 2010 8:48 PM

    MV

    I think people are getting to carried away with the release of Harris. I cant remember Dana releasing anyone under the circumstances as Harris was released. Therefore i believe there is more to it than we know. Maybe attitude or something. So until i see Dana release more fighers over 1 bad fight after a few good fighters then im will not act as if the sky is falling like so many websites are. Maybe the UFC’s (Dana or Joe) personal opinion of Harris’ opponents were not very high and they felt it was inexcusable for him to lose that fight. Whoever the case maybe there is no precedent to apply the Harris situation across the board to all fighters.

    I do feel there are fighters as risk like other times the UFC has expanded. If the UFC has 275 fighters and want to get down to 200 fighters then 75 need to go. Since there is no real rankings to take the worst 75 fighters. Anyone who is around the worst 125 fighters are at risk.

  13. Machiel Van on November 30th, 2010 9:09 AM

    I sincerely hope you are right, Brain. I don’t care to see more exciting fighters like Harris cut due to one bad performance. It’s like, why the hell is Gabe Ruediger getting another fight and Harris is cut? Really makes no sense at all. I mean, they don’t need lousy lightweights, they need possible middleweight contenders!

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