Last year, the UFC ran 46 events for a total of 503 total fights. Obviously there were guys who fought more than once (I’m looking at you, Donald Cerrone) but that’s – in theory – 1006 fighters. Jon Fitch was not one of them. Yushin Okami was not one of them. The two meet on Saturday, in the main-event of the World Series of Fighting on NBC Sports. I can’t help but wonder why.
The simple answer is money. Fitch inevitably wanted more money than the UFC wanted to give him and so he left for greener pastures. That the UFC didn’t want him is curious. For a guy who only lost three times in his UFC career – Georges St. Pierre, Johny Hendricks, and Damian Maia – it seems a bit odd that he’s not still in the company. After all, when your only losses are against two guys who held the Welterweight Championship and one guy who challenged for the Middleweight Championship, you’re probably talented enough to compete for the major leagues of MMA.
(Note: Leonard Garcia was employed by Zuffa for FIVE YEARS despite having basically one non-controversial win during that entire span.)
MONEY MONEY MONEY
Now, I know how economics work. And I know how drawing power works. And Fitch probably wasn’t the dynamic personality that many others were/are. And maybe he was a pain in the ass behind the scenes. But still: 503 fights and there wasn’t ONE available for a guy universally considered one of the best 170 lbs fighters of the past decade?
The UFC exists to make money. They make money by putting on good fights. Nothing wrong with that. And so sometimes guys like Fitch, who for whatever reason don’t connect with the crowd, don’t get the big fights as often as others do (Hi, Urijah Faber with your 57 title shots). And again, who knows what happened behind the scenes. My guess is it ultimately made more sense from Fitch’s perspective to leave the UFC for WSOF. But should it? Should it have ever gotten to that point?
There’s a point where the UFC needs to essentially buy credibility. Guys like Jon Fitch buy credibility. They allow the UFC to say, “Yes, we are entertainment and want to give you a fight featuring CM Punk despite the fact that he’s a broken down pro wrestler just living out a fantasy … but we also have guys like Jon Fitch who may not have once been at Wrestlemania but who are really fucking good at something: fighting.”
All of this, naturally, goes for Yushin Okami as well. The only difference is Okami probably never personally told Dana White to fuck off while some small part of me pretends Fitch did. Just for the folk hero aspect of it all. Even still, look at Okami. 3-1 in his last four UFC fights, with wins over guys like Hector Lombard and his loss being to super duper awesome Jacare. Now he’s at 170 (which I find amazing because he seemed big at middleweight) and a win over Fitch would help him reinvent himself. For all the 50 people that will see it on WSOF.
The UFC isn’t a charity. We all know this. But when they have 500+ fights a year, probably bring in enough from one Conor McGregor fight (we are contractually obligated to mention Conor for search engine purposes, sorry) to pay for most of the roster for a year, it just seems like Yushin Okami and Jon Fitch should be fighting in the UFC next week in Dublin and not WSOF on Saturday.