UFC brass has been counting money ever since the first news of sale hit the waves back in 2016. The several billion dollars worth empire braved the pandemic and boasts of impressive revenue in second quarter of 2021. Yet it seems like every other day, another fighter is talking about their financial issues and there are quite a few gofundme pages floating around.
But on the other page, UFC seems to be trimming the roster with a lot of aggression. The promotion has released the likes of Tyron Woodley, Yoel Romero, Dan Hardy, Diego Sanchez, Demian Maia and Paul Felder among others. And none of them really got to say goodbye to the audience. For whatever reason the UFC seems reluctant to promote any farewell fights.
Many of these aces have been title contenders in the past – but most of them the UFC struggled to market. Maia is one of the longest UFC careers – and he was still ranked during his last UFC fight. In fact Maia is still ranked at Welterweight. He told mmafighting:
“I’ve fought my entire life in the UFC. That’s my home,” Maia said. “I want to do one last fight there, and I think it depends on what happens in Brazil. That’s a feeling my manager and I have. If they are having shows with fans here soon, I think that will draw interest from the UFC to have me fighting. I’m waiting and seeing what happens, but I do want to fight one last fight. I’m still training twice a day.”
Demian Maia is currently 44 years old and he is ranked at #11 as a Welterweight in the UFC. But his last fight was even more anticlimactic. The Brazilian veteran has been somewhat of a gatekeeper for the Welterweight division for quite some time. In his last contract fight he was paired up with the promising Palestinian fighter Belal Muhammad. But this fight had happened during the last high profile Israel and Palestine conflict – so the UFC brass was on high alert. In a highly unusual moment – none of the fighters were interviewed after the fight was declared – the preroll for next fight was played. This is doubly interesting, because the UFC seems to project the image that they’re all for freedom of speech, that is until freedom of speech can affect their profit margins anyway…
But Maia is not alone. UFC still currently employs Paul Felder as a commentator. This however didn’t give him any preferential treatment. Felder had said his goodbye to the octagon on a broadcast he was commentating on. But at least Felder wasn’t salty about how things turned out.
Elsewhere a fan favorite Diego Sanchez had to strongarm the UFC into giving him a send off worthy opponent. Big part of the struggle Diego Sanchez and his spectacularly bad then manager Joshua Fabia had in arranging for the fight was documented in the Mike Swick podcasts. Sadly with the Fabia’s spectacular history of lack of self awareness nobody really caught on to that. And in a side of the tide turning, the UFC had opted to pay Diego for the fight and promptly cancel it and release him from his contract. Even the fight they were paying for, wasn’t worth enough to televise.
On the other hand thanks to the high profile boxing event featuring controversial youtuber Jake Paul and former Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley the organization is made to answer repeatedly about just why it wasn’t treating its athletes the way other professional promotions do.
Perhaps a part of this strategy of lack of retirements is because so many of them are in the welterweight division. It’s possible it’s more likely to rebuild the division without much fanfare. After all the division had lost a long time champion in Woodley, the title contender in Maia. Upto August the UFC had released a total of 12 welterweight fighters. Additionally a good number of these fighters went on to sign with other promotions. Perhaps the UFC was unwilling to raise the visibility of departing fighters as opposed to retiring ones? It’s hard to tell. One thing’s for sure – we’ll be keeping an eye out on this one.