MMA Junkie has a fascinating in-depth feature on Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, two guys who aren’t really shady figures in the background but also don’t exactly roll the red carpet out for interviews and shit like that. The article goes in depth on how they split duties, how some head scratcher matches get made, and the less fun part of the job: firing fighters.
“I read an interview recently with a fighter talking about the depression that comes on after being cut,” Silva said. “It’s impossible to read that and not feel responsible, but the job dictates it. It’s not like we decided, this would be fun. It’s that this is the only way it can work. Nobody new can come in until somebody old goes. If you’re tired of seeing rematches, then you’ve got to clear space and bring in new people.”
The reason it has to work this way is, as Silva put it, “a simple math problem.” The math is the part that Shelby and Silva are always arguing with White about. When White declares that every member of a certain “Ultimate Fighter” cast will get a contract, for instance, or when he buys out a rival like Strikeforce, it’s the matchmakers who have to figure out how to deal with the influx of fighters.
“Dana’s Captain Kirk, and we’re Scotty,” Silva said. “Dana’s always asking for crazy, impossible stuff, and we’re going, ‘Captain, we can’t go any faster!’ He’s the one saying, ‘Dammit Scotty, make it happen!'”
You also get a little glimpse into what it’s like working for Dana White:
Turns out that the last time someone told Shelby he had to have his photo taken was when Zuffa needed new ID badges for all employees in the Las Vegas office. So Shelby did his part, sat for his headshot, then went about his day.
Only later did he learn that there were no ID badges, that it was all a ruse set up by UFC President Dana White, who had planned to use Shelby’s photo for a “40-Year-Old Virgin”-themed billboard in Vegas. You know, as a prank. Which White was willing to spend $12,000 on, according to Shelby. It was only the legal team that stopped him. Apparently they thought it was the kind of prank that might get them sued, an assumption that seemed to hurt Shelby’s feelings just a little bit.
It’s a pretty fascinating read at what goes on behind the curtains with Zuffa.