Amongst the whoopla, that is today’s MMA explosion, many of the small details have been lost on those other than the truest of enthusiasts who don’t feast solely on a diet of UFC.
This weekend, for instance, two women headed the card for “Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg” which aired on Showtime and was arguably the most important event in the history of women’s Mixed Martial Arts. On the opposite end of the spectrum, MMA notables Jeremy Horn and Bart Palaszewski were scheduled to headline “XFO-31: Outdoor War 5”, an organization in no way comparable to the UFC and IFL, perches these men both sat upon respectively. Ultimately, neither Horn nor Palaszewski appeared on the card and the event was left to capitalize on the sole remaining big name on its promotional flyer, a guest appearance by Tim Sylvia.
Highlighting this turn of events is in no way intended to minimize or undermine the accomplishment of these MMA greats. Instead, it is offered to illustrate the precarious nature of a professional career in this great sport. The best example of the employment instability within the MMA community is the razor sharp ax wielded by UFC President Dana White following UFC 101: Declaration. In just the last week, White delivered pink slips to all of its fighters who lost on the undercard of the event: Tamdan McCrory, Thales Leites, Dan Cramer, George Roop and Danillo Villefort.
Among the list of casualties, Leites was the most surprising. Only four months ago, the UFC thought enough of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black-Belt to award him a middleweight title match against arguably the world best pound for pound fighter, Anderson Silva at UFC 97: Redemption. Although the bout was lackluster, it was not entirely the fault of Leities. In fact, neither athlete seemed particularly interested in engaging the other. Now, apparently the victim of a UFC policy of generally cutting fighters who lose two fights in a row, Leites is not particular pleased with the treatment he received.
“Personally I thought it was a really mean thing,” Leites lamented in a telephone interview with Fighters Only. “I felt it was unfair . . . I didn’t deserve to be fired but that’s business.”
On the brighter side of the octagon, the UFC has given life and contracts to Dennis “Superman” Hallman and Phil “New York Bad Ass” Baroni. Hallman, a 34-year-old submission expert, is riding a five-fight win streak outside of the UFC. Unfortunately, Superman’s resume inside the Octagon leaves something to be desired, having lost three out of his four fights on that stage.
After suffering a recent loss to Joe Riggs in “Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields” the UFC signing of The New York Bad Ass seems even more peculiar.
“Most people in life don’t get second chances. I’m very lucky to have another chance,” posted Baroni on the MMA.tv forum The Underground. Acutely aware of his serendipity, he added, “I’m going to give it my all, 100%. Win this fight for all the people who never got their second chance. I promise to be at my all time best.”
Whether or not Baroni is at his best when he returns to action or Hallman has any more submissions up his sleeve is not particularly relevant to the UFC brass. What is relevant is that both of these fighters recently fought in Strikeforce and now they are no longer available to fill that organization’s talent pool. Call it ruthless, but White viewed Strikeforce’s recent signing of Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko as an act of war and the UFC President has no intention of letting his foot off the throat of his new archenemy.
In time it will be known to all in the MMA world if the fiercest fighter in the Zuffa fold is not the middleweight from Brazil or the welterweight from Canada, but the former manager from Boston.