As recently as two years years ago, it was difficult to prove if fighters held any grievances against the UFC. Within the last year, however, Reebok swept away what was left of the UFC sponsorship market and Scott Coker took the reigns of Bellator MMA and, with it, Viacom’s budget. It should come as no surprise then, with earnings falling and a legitimate alternative rising, that we’ve seen UFC fighters both past and present display more and more of their frustrations publicly.
Let’s take a look at a selection of such stories from the last ten days.
Le, currently among the plantiff’s in the UFC anti-trust case, relays a couple stories regarding his final years under the Zuffa promotional banner.
First, Le details the leadup to his fight with Rich Franklin in Macau. Le worried that he broke his foot during a win over Patrick Cote at UFC 148. The injury turned out to be a deep bone bruise, though Le’s doctor hadn’t cleared him for competition. The UFC pressured Le about the Macau fight (specifically stating, according to Le, that they “needed” him), and Le told them he hoped to be cleared by his doctor in a week. The UFC went ahead and announced the fight later that night.
Le also discussed the drama surrounding his suspension for a positive hGH test. According to Le, the same day he was informed the UFC would be dropping his suspension, Dana White called him up and suggested things would be easier for him if he just admitted use. Le (transcription via MMA Fighting):
“The public would forgive me more. ‘Look at the pitcher from the New York Giants[sic], he got busted for something.’ Dana was saying it’s easier just to admit it. I just didn’t want to talk to him anymore. Had to hang up. He might as well have just sent some thugs to my house to strong-arm me or something.”
No word on whether Le would pass UFC drug czar Jeff Novitzky’s “smell test.”
With four straight wins and a number-one ranking, it looked as if Miesha Tate would be next in line for Ronda Rousey. And after Rousey’s quick work of Bethe Correia, that looked to be the case with UFC President Dana White hinting that Rousey-Tate III could be involved in a mega-card in Dallas, Texas.
Then Rousey went on Good Morning America to announce that her next opponent would be Holly Holm.
Tate, who reportedly was not told prior to Rousey’s announcement, was less than thrilled (quotes via MMA Fighting):
“I am extremely disappointed how all the events unfolded this morning regarding news that I will not be fighting Ronda Rousey,” Tate said through manager Josh Jones.
“I was told after my last win that I had earned the title shot,” Tate said. “I’ve already begun training for Rousey and I was shocked to hear the announcement this morning. I regret this for not only myself, but my team, sponsors and the fans who like me believed my next fight was for the title.”
Even more infuriating, Holm’s camp requested one more bout before fighting Rousey.
Speaking of passed-up title contenders, ‘Jacare’ Souza is perfect in five UFC fights and has won eight straight MMA fights going back to September 2011. Souza wasn’t pleased when the UFC announced Luke Rockhold would get the next crack at middleweight champion Chris Weidman (transcription via Bloody Elbow):
“It seems I’m always one fight away from the title fight. It’s funny, I fought Mousasi and that was supposed to be a title eliminator. Then I was going to fight Romero and he got hurt, but a month later he was fighting Lyoto, which I thought was weird. But I’ll be ready, I’ll do some great work and I’ll impress everybody.”
For the third time, the UFC has scheduled Jacare to fight Romero, this time at UFC 194.
But Souza and Tate aren’t the only fighters upset about being overlooked for a title shot. Enter Ryan Bader. Owner of a four-fight winning streak, the UFC passed over Bader in favor of Alexander Gustafsson, who the more cynical among us will note is coming off a loss and 1-2 in his last three. Bader vented his frustrations while also hinting at more (transcription via Bloody Elbow):
“I still enjoy fighting the elite of the elite in the top organization. I want to be a UFC fighter. At times like that, where you get passed over, you definitely think of other options. Will I ever get there? I’m doing the right things, I’m going out there and winning. Are they going to hold up their end of the bargain? For me, that’s gone through my mind.”
The UFC didn’t blink an eye when they let Phil Davis walk, so who’s to say they wouldn’t do the same with Bader, even with the division thinning up? Bader is scheduled to fight Rashad Evans in October.
Cerrone seems like the perfect Zuffa company man: comes to fight, wants to be booked as often as possible, and doesn’t complain. So, it was a little surprising to see him go full Rick James and speak up about the Reebok payouts (transcription via Bloody Elbow):
“That’s a touchy subject. If I say something, you will see ‘Cowboy’ fighting in Bellator next week,” Cerrone said on Inside MMA. “Yeah, the Reebok deal is definitely hurting everybody. All the big corporate sponsors I have are sticking with me, thank god.”
Cerrone is scheduled to fight Rafael dos Anjos for the lightweight title in December.