On early Friday morning a bombshell broke. UFC president Dana White confirmed to Lance Pugmire of the LA Times that the UFC has officially released top-15 featherweight contender and former Ultimate Fighter winner Yair Rodriguez.
According to White, the UFC offered Rodriguez bouts against Zabit Magomedovsharipov and Ricardo Lamas and he turned them both down, so the UFC decided to cut him. Rodriguez is now a free agent, and speculation already is that Combate Americas as well as Bellator will be in the running to sign him.
Letting go of Rodriguez is a terrible move by the UFC, and yet another rash, cold decision by White. The UFC is losing a 25-year-old, super-talented fighter who could be a potential star for the UFC in Central and South America. Rodriguez is 10-2 in his MMA career and after winning two fights in the TUF house, he went on to win The Ultimate Fighter Latin America 2 tournament and earned a UFC contract.
Since entering the UFC, Rodriguez has been extremely successful with a sterling 6-1 record including quality wins over the likes of Dan Hooker, Andre Fili, Charles Rosa, Alex Caceres and legend BJ Penn. He also headlined two Fight Night cards. His only loss came against elite featherweight contender Frankie Edgar, and there’s no shame in that. Rodriguez was also the recipient of four “Fight of the Night” or “Performance of the Night” awards and was destined to win many more before his years in the sport were up. That’s not the case anymore as he’s no longer a part of the UFC roster.
While I understand White’s frustration that Rodriguez wouldn’t fight Lamas or Magomedsharipov, the fact White cut him is extremely contradictory to the way he treats other fighters in the organization. Take Nate Diaz for instance, who White said this week on UFC Unfiltered had received numerous UFC fight proposals and turned them all down. Instead of cutting Diaz, White is actually trying to get him a promotion, a super fight against legendary UFC superstar Georges St-Pierre. Nate’s brother Nick is in the same boat, as White says the UFC has offered him numerous fight contracts and he’s turned them all down.
Yes, it’s true that the Diaz brothers are bigger draws than Rodriguez and mean more to the organization. But if this is a sport, then a top-15 fighter shouldn’t be cut just because he turned down a fight against two guys who would frankly be the favorite to beat him. After the way Rodriguez got beaten down to a pulp by Edgar in his last fight, it’s very understandable that he wants to take his career slower and not rush himself into a fight he can’t win again. His camp probably wanted him to fight a couple non-ranked guys to re-build his stock, and if that’s the case I can’t blame him for wanting that instead of taking on guys like Lamas and Magomedsharipov who are extremely dangerous opponents.
What it all comes down to is the fact that White didn’t like that Rodriguez turned down fights and wanted to assert his power and show Rodriguez who the boss is. He did just that, and Rodriguez is no longer a part of the UFC. White does not like being pushed around by fighters — it’s the same reason Leslie Smith got cut recently. But White’s ego is costing the UFC a really good younger fighter who has the potential to get better.
Rodriguez is only 25 and was destined for great things in the sport. It’s his career and if he did not want to rush himself back in there against a dangerous opponent like Lamas or Magomedsharipov then the UFC should have worked with him to find a more suitable opponent for his return. Ultimately it’s days like today where the UFC shows just how much more powerful the organization is compared to the fighters. It’s days like today that the fighters need to start seriously considering a union or association, because things like this just wouldn’t happen if that was the case.
Rodriguez is a great fighter and the UFC is going to miss out on his prime years. The UFC’s loss will be the gain or Bellator or Combate Americas, and it’s all because White wanted to show who the boss is.