There’s been something of a backlash from fans over the past 24 hours since it was announced that long-time UFC fighter Yushin Okami had been cut from the promotion despite only having lost one of his last four fights and currently being the No.6 ranked middleweight contender.
That prompted UFC President Dana White to reach out to Yahoo! Sports to explain the reasons for their decision to release him.
“He’s been with us forever,” White stated. “He was always a tough guy and was right up there, but it’s almost like he’d become a gatekeeper. I like Okami, and you’ve heard me say this many times, that a win over Yushin Okami meant something.
“But he was never able to get over the hump and win one of those [significant] fights. We have a lot of guys coming in and I’ve been saying this all year: We have a full roster and there are guys who deserve opportunities. When you bring guys in, someone has to go. That’s why these fights are so meaningful.”
White’s reasoning seems a little off for a number of reasons. for one thing, if the roster is full then surely that means that fighters lower down the rankings should make room, not one the top ranked contenders.
Also, it’s not true to suggest that Okami hasn’t won significant fights in the UFC. He defeated top contenders like Mark Munoz and Nate Marquardt to earn a title shot against Anderson Silva in 2011, and in the past year he took out the likes of Hector Lombard and Alan Belcher in his latest run before losing by TKO against ‘Jacare’ Souza.
What White is apparently reluctant to admit is that the real reason he’s cutting Okami is due to his wrestle-heavy approach to fighting which has proven to be effective in winning fights, but more often than not results in less than enthralling action in the Octagon.
It’s a style that has become somewhat of a thorn in the UFC’s side when trying to bring forth new contenders for the 185lb title, with some of the aforementioned fighters like Munoz, Marquardt and Belcher all having the potential to be interesting challengers for the title, but each faltering at the final hurdle because they couldn’t overcome the Japanese fighters smothering style.
Yesterday’s decision means that some of the division’s other top contenders may well be breathing a sigh of relief that Okami’s gone, and while they appear to be unwilling to admit it publically the UFC will see it as a good step towards more entertaining fights at the top end of the division.
However, the flip-side of all this is that it puts a dent in the UFC’s credibility as the sports leading organization and further blurs the line between sport and entertainment.