(The saddest thing about Gerald Harris getting fired will be the downgrade from UFC-level pussy)
Everyone knew that the WEC folding into the UFC meant there were some serious cuts coming, but the reality of that situation is beginning to hit home as guys like Gerald Harris start getting fired after one loss. What’s the story behind that? Was it to avoid having to renegotiate a contract, like CagePotato guesses? Or Watch Kalib Run’s suspicion that Harris was on the wrong end of Zuffa brass’ vindictive whims?
Those are interesting possibilities, and having a personal relationship with D.W. certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to job security. But let’s lay out the math here so everyone is clear on what ‘serious cuts coming’ really really means. From MMA Fighting:
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.
The most obvious place for contraction is among the lightweights, with overarching divisions in the UFC and WEC that will probably result in matchups where fighters are essentially fighting for their jobs; winner stays, loser gets a pink slip.
Currently, there are roughly 225 guys in the UFC and 65 in the WEC. That’s 290 fighters for the 286 matches Zuffa currently has planned for 2011, which is pretty hairy when you consider the UFC’s goal is three fights per year per fighter (and their contractual obligation isn’t much lower).
All this adds up to a serious roster massacre occurring over the next six months. I doubt the UFC will even all divisions down to 28 per weight class like MMA Fighting said, but just to put things in some perspective, there are currently 30 heavyweights, 35 light heavyweights, 45 middleweights, 55 welterweights, and 70 lightweights once you include the WEC guys. Featherweight has 22 and bantamweight 21. So basically, it’s a really bad time to weigh between 155 and 185 pounds.
Still, it’s not all bad news. Getting fired from the UFC isn’t the final bell on a fighter’s career, and the organization has shown that they’re more than happy to sign a fighter back if they manage to do anything semi-worthwhile in the minors (see: why David L’Oiseau keeps coming back). Anyone worth their salt will end up back where they belong … or they’ll go to Strikeforce or Bellator. It might not be the most ideal way to do things, but numbers don’t lie: the UFC has a shitload of fighters to fire.