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Thread: Ballad of Yushin Okami – and why some UFC cuts are tough, brutal and unavoidable

  1. Default Ballad of Yushin Okami – and why some UFC cuts are tough, brutal and unavoidable

    http://www.mmajunkie.com/news/2013/0...nd-unavoidable

    Here's an MMA riddle for you: How can a talented, but unpopular fighter transform himself into a fan favorite almost overnight, and without ever stepping in the cage?

    Answer: By going and getting himself cut from the UFC a little prematurely.

    Granted, the popularity bump he receives will be short-lived and probably of shallow comfort to the guy who just lost his job, but at least it's dependable.

    Yushin Okami is just the latest example. If you had asked most fight fans about him last week, they would have told you that he was a suffocating wrestler who was only fun to watch when he was getting knocked out. At best, they might have been willing to admit that he was a pretty damn good fighter, a genuine problem for all but the top five or six middleweights in the world, and a man deserving of a certain begrudging respect, if not admiration. At worst, they'd call him a lay-and-pray specialist and leave it at that.

    But that was before the UFC cut him. That was back when those same fans assumed they'd always have Okami to kick around, especially because, while he might drop one here or there, he's too good to go on the sort of losing skid that would result in a near automatic ejection from the UFC.

    When the UFC decided to release Okami (29-8 MMA, 13-5 UFC) after his TKO loss to Ronaldo Souza – his first loss in four outings, and just his fifth in seven years with the UFC – that's when we were reminded that, for a certain kind of fighter, the end can come swiftly. It's also when a whole bunch of fans suddenly became major Okami fans, even if they wouldn't have walked across the street to watch him fight a few days earlier.

    The same thing happened with Jon Fitch. Before he got cut, he was just another boring wrestler, clogging up the welterweight division. When the UFC released him, suddenly he was a rebel with a cause, proof that the UFC was trying too hard to shape strategies and styles at the expense of true sport. As it turned out, we liked him more as a symbol than we did as a fighter.

    There's some merit to that. Especially in the case of Okami, you can't deny that he seems to have been held to a different standard than, say, Dan Hardy or Matt Brown, who both survived worse losing streaks than anything Okami endured. What's less clear is whether we should really be so outraged about it.

    When Fitch was cut, I admit I was surprised. When UFC President Dana White explained that it was due in part to how much money he was making after nearly eight years with the UFC (and it wasn't even really all that much), I mostly felt sad for aspiring fighters everywhere. But White's explanation of Okami's release sounds a lot like what I heard from UFC matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, both of whom feel the strain of the UFC's roster bulge firsthand.

    As White told Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole, "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."

    Sound familiar? It's the same explanation Silva gave when he acknowledged that, while unpleasant, cuts were essential to the health of the organization. "Nobody new can come in until somebody old goes," Silva said. "If you're tired of seeing rematches, then you've got to clear space and bring in new people."

    As Shelby put it, the role of matchmakers is not just to fill fight cards, but to bring challengers to the champions.

    "It's not like looking for someone to come in and work for some company and just be average," he said. "We're not looking for that. We're looking for the single best person on the planet in their respective weight class. You're obligated to cycle through in search of that person, to find these challengers."

    When viewed through that lens, Okami's cut makes a terrible, Darwinian sort of sense. Dude is ranked No. 7, according to our USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA middleweight rankings, but does anyone really believe he was on his way to becoming UFC champ? He already had his shot at that, and he didn't even come close. You could argue that merely remaining a top 10 middleweight should have entitled him to some job security in the UFC, but that misses the point of the organization, and maybe even the sport.

    Fighting is a struggle for supremacy that's stripped all the way down. Sports without the metaphor. We put two people in a cage to find out who's better, and after enough of those experiments, we eventually find out who's best, at least for the moment.

    That's fine when you think about it as a dream, but it's harder to swallow when you think of it as a job. If Okami were a software engineer, being the seventh best in his category would probably ensure him gainful employment for years to come. Even being the seventh best shortstop in Major League Baseball would make him a millionaire, though the pool of willing participants tends to be a lot larger when the most dangerous part of your job is fielding indifferent grounders as opposed to dodging menacing, well-aimed punches.

    The point is, the UFC is looking for the best fighters in the world. It's also looking to make money, which is why you can survive slightly longer if your unsuccessful attempts at climbing to the top of the heap are entertaining enough to sell tickets and pay-per-views. But even those fighters get cut eventually. They have to, because somewhere out there is a fighter who might become the best, who hasn't yet bumped up against the jagged ceiling of his own limitations, and he's coming for somebody's spot. If you don't want it to be yours, you have to make your case over and over and over again.

    It's the kind of employment environment that most of us couldn't stand. Maybe that's also why it's so compelling to us. It's the rare arena where really, really good isn't good enough, and the years you've already put in don't amount to seniority, but rather strengthen the case against you. In the end, the judgment it leads to is brutal and harsh and inevitable.

    But that's fighting for you. And, honestly, what did you expect?
    Last edited by rivethead; 10-01-2013 at 06:21 AM. Reason: formatting
    There are many paths to freedom, not all are peaceful



  2. #2
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    He didn't talk trash and didn't fight like a drunk guy at a bar. Let this be a real lesson to all wrestlers/grapplers. You need to either talk trash or forget about your background you have been perfecting for 15+ years and swing for the fences. Because one loss against a Top 10 fighter will earn you walking papers.
    Dude, I’m a wrestler. I’m the best wrestler in MMA. Wrestling IS, was and always has been the most dominate form of mix martial art on the planet. That’s all there is to it. We all know it, some people want to fight it, some people want doubt it but wresters rule the MMA world. -
    Ben Askren

  3. #3

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    You could argue that merely remaining a top 10 middleweight should have entitled him to some job security in the UFC, but that misses the point of the organization, and maybe even the sport.
    The premise seems to be that anyone not marching to a title shot or possible dominance is cuttable. And that's just not true. There's a need for lower ranked guys to fill the roster, most of whom will never make the top 5 and we all know it. Beyond that, there are the legends who still draw crowds but are out of the title picture, like Wandy.

    Okami was cut because of business, not sport. There's not necessarily anything wrong with that. But there is something wrong with reporters spinning tails to sniff the UFC's butt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AnchorPunch View Post
    The premise seems to be that anyone not marching to a title shot or possible dominance is cuttable. And that's just not true. There's a need for lower ranked guys to fill the roster, most of whom will never make the top 5 and we all know it. Beyond that, there are the legends who still draw crowds but are out of the title picture, like Wandy.

    Okami was cut because of business, not sport. There's not necessarily anything wrong with that. But there is something wrong with reporters spinning tails to sniff the UFC's butt.
    Good call AP, but i am business owner and i can see the business end of this too. MY business is a performance based business, and being "good enough" working for me usually gets you you're walking papers within the first year. men and women that scrape by hitting their targets by the skins of their teeth don't find themselves working for me very long. My top people get an annual year over year increase of typically 12-15%. Our industry typically yeilds 5-6% year over year annual growth, and my top people crush their heavy targets every year. With that comes all the freedom in the world. If people are pushing to be those guys then they are usually gone from my org in a year.

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    The fture MW Bellator champ
    "...for he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother." William Shakespeare

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    I really don't like the logic that Okami should be cut because he will probably never get the belt. They may as well cut most of the top 10 lhws and bring in new guys then, seeing as most of them lost to jones and will never be a champion.

    I admit that Okami can have some boring fights, but when he is put up against fighters that are on his level, his fights are usually exciting. I thought his fights against Munoz, Boetsch, Lombard, and Jacare (albeit he got destroyed) were pretty damn fun to watch.
    Last edited by initial_zen; 10-01-2013 at 06:44 AM.



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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkeye View Post
    Good call AP, but i am business owner and i can see the business end of this too. MY business is a performance based business, and being "good enough" working for me usually gets you you're walking papers within the first year. men and women that scrape by hitting their targets by the skins of their teeth don't find themselves working for me very long.

    H.
    Okami wasn't just scraping by. He wasn't just good enough, he was a bonafide great fighter. He's one of the few guys in the org who could lose a fight and still be ranked top 7, who could have lost his next fight and still been top 10.

    The business end is that he's not entertaining enough to sell PPVs, which begs the question: is a fighters job to win fights or to sell PPV's. Okami was a fair mix of both, and he wasn't an asshole while he was doing it.

    "It's not like looking for someone to come in and work for some company and just be average," he said. "We're not looking for that. We're looking for the single best person on the planet in their respective weight class. You're obligated to cycle through in search of that person, to find these challengers."
    AnchorPunch hit a bit of this already...but--using only this logic--explain to me how Michael Bisping still has a job. I mean really, nobody seriously thinks Bisping is going to ever be champion unless the quality of the UFC's MW roster steeply and suddenly declines in the next two years.

    Okami didn't get cut because he's never going to be champ. He got cut because he doesn't vblog. He doesn't spit on cornermen. He doesn't sell PPV's to idiots who want a spectacle, not a sport.

    Why does Chris Leben have a job? How many DUI's, how many failed PED tests does that take?

    There are tons of UFC fighters who should have been cut before Okami.

    rh
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    Lot's of good points. I think Okami should have gotten one more shot, but made it known that his back was against the wall. If his performance after that was sub-par, they part ways with no hard feelings. As for guys like Leban and Bisping, like or not they are personalities and will make some organization money as headliners. Dana doesn't want to give up any headliners, so they fight infrequently and he finds a way to use them for "exciting fights" that don't involve contendership. Hell Chael Sonnen will always have a job in the UFC. If fans want MMA to become a super popular sport, it has to excite more fans. That includes "idiots" who want to see a specticle unfortunately or else MMA because like the Karate Championships on ESPN 88 playing at 3am. This just the way it is, I wish it wasn't the case, but there ya go. Hopefully a crop of exciting fighters who can represent the sport with class and honor will capture the fans attention with great fights. But there will always be those who are media savvy and know how to use "controversy" as a career building tool.
    Scarface: Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, you're cool, and fuck you, I'm out!

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    I want to see the sport grow, not just the popularity of it.



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    funny thing IMO he woulda been a perfect replacement to face Kennedy in the place of Machida... i really cant think of any other MW's available that can headline the card willingly on short notice

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