Jon Fitch spoke these words after he was unceremoniously released from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. UFC president Dana White served up an ultimatum: sign a lifetime contract allowing your name and likeness to be used in the promotion's upcoming video game, or be released. Fitch and his manager opted for negotiation, but there was nothing to negotiate as far as White was concerned. Just like that the #2 ranked welterweight in the world, a man who'd won eight straight fights in the promotion before losing to Georges St. Pierre, was fired.
News of the shocking development sent spasms of emotion throughout the MMA world. Most planted their feet firmly behind Jon Fitch. A few sided with White and the UFC. Even fewer sat in the stands choosing to see how it all played out.
The UFC has a stranglehold on the sport. It stands atop the mountain with no equals. Yet based on the decisions of its management, it would seem it is clinging to the side, mere fingertips away from a plunge. Moves like the releasing of Jon Fitch makes one wonder the thought process of those who run the promotion, as well as its true profitability.
The thing is - Zuffa (the UFC) had every right to release Fitch. It was stated in his contract. He was unwilling to sign the "video game contract" as is, and Zuffa was unwilling to bargain. But was it the right move? Did it make sense?
Based on the initial reaction of fans, the answer to both questions is a resounding no! The UFC is tenacious when it comes to protecting its product, and rightfully so. Mixed Martial Arts is analogous to the Wild West. It's uncharted territory full of outlaws and gold rushers. But now the UFC has seemingly turned on its own fighters. Or at least those who are reluctant to fall in line no questions asked.
It seems the promotion holds all the power. In essence it is saying do this, do it our way, or you're done. Good luck finding somewhere else to fight. And this is why 98% of the MMA population is up in arms. This perception of an imbalance of power and the UFC's eagerness to exploit it seems completely unfair. It may be. It may also be that there is a thick line of gray between the black and white. Nonetheless, if the promotion continues to act in this fashion, it will suffer.
The fans will be disinclined to shell out their hard-earned dollars, fighters will finally take a stand in the form of a union, and advertisers will shy away from the turmoil. It really is too bad for everyone involved. The sport, headed by the UFC, is so close to true acceptance, and then greed has reared its ugly head in spectacular fashion.
It would be wise for those who run the UFC to step back and see the situation from a broader perspective.
One can only hope that all involved will come to a reasonable compromise, for the good of the fans, the good of the fighters, and the good of the sport.
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