The UFC may be on the verge of another firing spree and it kicked off last week with news that Ryan Couture, Mike Ricci, and Yushin Okami were given their walking papers. The Okami release kicked off a storm of controversy online, with many declaring it another sign that the UFC is all about Just Bleed promoting. Okami was 3-1 over his last four fights and was ranked 6th in his division. He was also a boring borefest who regularly bored the shit out of everyone. Let’s see if Dana White admits that’s the main reason Yushin got slashed so quick.
“He’s been with us forever,” White said of Okami, who first fought in the UFC in 2006. “He was always a tough guy and was right up there, but it’s almost like he’d become a gatekeeper. I like Okami, and you’ve heard me say this many times, that a win over Yushin Okami meant something.
“But he was never able to get over the hump and win one of those [significant] fights. 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.”
And this is where the MMA purist argues that there are tons of other guys on the UFC’s roster who deserve to go before Okami. But White has a point – Okami has been around for six years. He’s had his shot, and the sad reality of the situation is the UFC doesn’t keep tough but bland fighters around as gatekeepers because that job goes to equally tough but actually exciting fighters.
Once Okami is no longer the best or one of the very best, he needs to compete for a gatekeeper position against a bunch of other guys around the same rank that hit spinning heel kick knockouts and tear legs in half. Okami doesn’t dazzle in comparison – he could starch lower level guys but every top 10 fighter he ever beat was via decision. Often grindy, control driven decision.
Does it feel like the UFC is tossing Okami away the second he’s no longer useful? Sure, but that’s the unfortunate circle of life that is the combat sports world. If you’re not moving up that ladder, you better be doing something damn entertaining to stay on it.
Front-Page Photo Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports