Brandon Vera supposedly took a year off from competition in the UFC because of "management problems." At least, that's what Countdown to UFC 89 claimed. But as MMAPayout reveals, Vera's absence was a marketing experiment by Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC.
The "Zuffa Freeze Out" entails stacking the majority of a fighter's bouts at the start of his contract while leaving one for the end. The approach is supposed to increase negotiating power with the threat of holding out the fighter until nearly the end of the contract before giving said fighter their last fight.
In short, a fighter is slashed of potential income opportunities (fights, sponsorships) and his value should he decide to leave the promotion. But, as MMAPayout points out, while the UFC can use various marketing strategies to enhance a fighter's reputation, the organization can do little to alter his skill level. And the latter seems to be what's hindering Vera at this point.
Such a layoff is particularly detrimental for a fighter like Vera, who had a limited number of career fights at the time he was under the "Zuffa Freeze Out". While such a freeze out would seem to hurt their own product, the strategy looks to be here to stay. Varying from the strategy would put them at risk of putting to the free market a fighter that would be fresh from the Zuffa hype machine ready to be snapped up by a competitor to reap the benefits.
- The Zuffa Freeze Out And Unintended Consequences (MMAPayout)