Evan Shoman broke the news on The Underground, and within a few hours, fans and media were lining up to voice their shock and disdain for the UFC’s decision to release Gerald Harris.
Let me say that again: a lot of people are all kinds of upset that the UFC released a middle-of-the-pack middleweight after an awful performance.
Personally, I can’t see what all the fuss is about. First and foremost, this is a business decision.
The UFC has a large number of fighters under contract, a number that has expanded in recent months with the addition of three divisions worth of WEC competitors. With an over-stuffed roster, anyone in the middle of the pack or lower has to assume that a poor performance could result in their release.
And I mean this with all due respect, but we’re talking about Gerald Harris.
This time last year, Harris was working his way around the regional circuit, defeating the likes of Nissen Osterneck and a handful of fighters no one has heard from since. While he subsequently scored a trio of victories after entering the UFC, his three conquests sport a combined 3-5 record. John Salter’s win came when Jason MacDonald shattered his ankle, and Mario Miranda beat thrice-released David Loiseau, so it’s not like Harris had been beating elite level competition prior to his meeting with Maiquel Falcao last weekend.
Though Harris had earned a pair of Knockout of the Night awards in those three wins, we’ve learned from fighters like Jorge Gurgel that collecting bonus checks isn’t a guarantee that you keep your job; the only way to do that is to keep putting ticks in the win column, and Harris failed to do that on Saturday night.
If Harris’ release warrants this kind of reaction, where was the uproar when the UFC gave Eliot Marshall his walking papers?
The former TUF 8 competitor has earned three consecutive victories before dropping a split decision to Vladimir Matyushenko in March, and no one batted an eye after his release. Matyushenko went on to headline opposite Jon Jones in his next fight, and the last man Marshall beat – Jason Brilz – had a breakout performance against Rogerio Nogueira just eight months later.
But because Marshall earned his wins by decision and Harris scored a couple highlight reel finishes, the calls for a reversal from the UFC are coming like Vin Diesel and Paul Walker – fast and furious. Somehow, his awful performance on Saturday night wasn’t awful enough for people to accept his release, a thought that completely escapes me.
Heading into his bout at UFC 123, many – myself included – viewed Harris as a fighter the UFC was interested in marketing in the middleweight division. He was given a chance to showcase his skills in the middle of a pay-per-view event, and he failed miserably. Not only was he dominated during the first two frames, but he spent the third round doing next to nothing, despite being down two rounds.
That is the kind of performance that gets you released, regardless of your previous performance, so why the amazement? Journalists I respect are using the word “devastated” to describe their reaction to this news – devastated, as if Harris was on the verge of a title shot and was summarily dropped for absolutely no reason.
Admittedly, there are certainly fighters under contract with the UFC who have performed far worse than Harris over the last year who are still going to get an opportunity to step into the Octagon, but if a guy like Patrick Cote can be released without anyone batting an eye, how does Harris’ dismissal earn the use of the verb devastated?
The start of the losing streak that put Cote on the outside looking in came against Anderson Silva in a middleweight championship bout, while the second came after more than a year on the sidelines rehabbing a pair of knee surgeries. Unlike Harris, Cote was a fighter the UFC had invested some effort into, and one who had greater name recognition than Harris, but nobody had any problem with the French-Canadian being shown the door.
At the end of the day, this is the way business is going to be done moving forward in the UFC. If you’re in the middle of the pack or lower, poor performances are going to put you in jeopardy, even if you’re a fan favorite who made a cameo on SportsCenter.
And really, it’s not like the UFC cut Matt Hughes or Lyoto Machida.
All this fuss over Gerald Harris. Really?