Zuffa’s Golden Glory Releases Were Perfectly Justified

Alistair Overeem

Strikeforce and K-1 Champion Alistair Overeem

Critics swarm on UFC over releases, despite being sound business decision

I really don’t understand what everyone is freaking out about.

Valentijn Overeem shouldn’t have been fighting in Strikeforce in the first place. He passed his prime a long time ago, if he even had a prime at all. He’s been an enigma in the ring for years, a guy who just shuts down the second the fight turns in his opponent’s favor. His performance against Chad Griggs more than justified getting released.

You could argue against Jon Olav Einemo being handed a pink slip. The Norwegian grappler had an entertaining debut in the Octagon at UFC 131, pairing with Dave Herman to take home Fight of the Night honors in his first MMA bout in five years. That being said, he’s 35 years old and lost, so there isn’t a lot of upside.

Dana White has made no bones about his lack of interest in promoting women’s MMA in the UFC and his overall belief that there are few compelling fights on the female side of the sport. Marloes Coenen has exhausted her top-end options under the Strikeforce banner in the last ten months, having already faced Sarah Kaufman, Liz Carmouche and Miesha Tate. Without anyone to fight and coming off a loss, there are easily justifiable reasons for her release as well.

All those facts are escaping most people based on the timing of the news, and perhaps coupled with their views on the UFC President and their ideals for how the UFC should operate.

This is certainly an extension of last week’s tensions between Zuffa and Golden Glory. That situation resulted in Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem’s surprise release from the organization, but that doesn’t make today’s decisions vindictive. They’re business decisions through-and-through, wholly justifiable and a little bit gangster if I do say so myself.

Golden Glory tried to make a power play on Zuffa, pressing them for more money for the use of their fighters. It’s a bad look when you’ve got no leverage. This is what happens.

If you had to attribute words to these actions, it would read something like this: “Not only am I not going to cave to your demands, all of you can get out. We don’t need you, no matter how important and valuable you think you are.”

Gangster, and the right thing to do to protect the business.

The message from Zuffa is loud and clear: play by our rules or you and your friends won’t be playing with us any more. That’s the new business model.

There is no footing for saying Zuffa has a monopoly within the sport either, because there are plenty of other options available. King of the Cage, BAMMA, ProElite, Bellator and hundreds of smaller regional shows are always looking for talent to fill their rosters and put on posters. It’s just that none of them offer the same opportunities as the UFC.

No one dreams of playing Double-A baseball when they’re a kid or landing on a professional basketball team in Turkey or Greece. Every kid wants to take his swings playing Major League Baseball or shoot his foul shots in the NBA. They want to compete with the best, make the most money and become the biggest star they can.

To do that in MMA, you need to be fighting with the UFC, but that doesn’t make them a monopoly. They’re in a very advantageous position. They have all the leverage, no question about it. If you want to pursue your fighting dreams at the highest level, you have to play by the Zuffa’s rules. Simple, plain, true.

Why people expect Zuffa to operate in a wholly altruistic, everyone’s welcome, say-and-do-whatever-you-like manner is beyond me. They’re supposed to give up the higher ground they’ve earned over the years, cater to everyone’s wants, needs and demands?

That’s not how it works. They get to make the rules and everyone gets to choose if they want to play along, not the other way around. You can’t ask to play and then demand they change their rules in the middle of the game; that’s not how it works.

The choices are simple: fall in line or kick rocks.

If they want to release a bunch of fighters from the same camp that tried to squeeze them last week and can do so without violating any of the terms of their contract, so be it.

Don’t want to credential someone because they’re incessantly negative and hyper-critical of just about everything they do? Well within their discretion.

It’s their business, they can do what they want, just as everyone is free to form their own opinions about those decisions.

Here’s a question though: would we be having the same discussion right now if White were an unseen, unassuming, mild-mannered suit instead of the in-your-face, over-the-top, emotional person he is?

Probably not because there would be no way to spin this as a vindictive decision. The business side of things would be all that remains, and as long as there is a sound basis for the decision in terms of the business, what can you really say? But because White is involved, it has to be viewed as controversial and spiteful. Few people ever think the UFC President is acting in the genuine best interest of his company; he’s always got to be out to stick it to someone, right?

Wrong. These decisions aren’t rash and emotional or based on White’s feelings being hurt; they’re the right steps to take for the company based on the situation that played out last week, a situation no one knows all the details of at this point in time.

They also paints a very clear, very unapologetic picture of how Zuffa operates: no one fighter or no group is greater than the company. Fighters can be replaced. Zuffa is holding just about every card in the deck, and if you want to compete on the biggest stage, you’re going to follow their rules.

Their game, their rules; don’t like it, go play elsewhere. Golden Glory tried to change the rules and now they’re no longer welcome to play.

How that is anything other than a good business – and a little bit gangster – is beyond me.

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