I’m still reeling from this one. Yushin “Thunder” Okami, who Dana just proclaimed “the greatest UFC fighter from Japan” not too long ago just got his walking papers today. Wow. Should I be worried about my near-minimum wage job any time soon?
Okami is a top 10 middleweight. He’s listed as #6 middleweight in UFC.com.
He was on a three-fight win streak and has a 13-5 UFC record overall. Most of these losses have come against middleweights who held the title or have fought for it. To say his release is shocking, inexplicable and questionable is… understated.
Dana “Explains” Okami’s Release
Dana during UFC 168 media day attempted to explain Okami’s release. In short, that sounds to me like along the lines of “if you’re not a title contender, you’re cut”. I guess he still sees Michael Bisping as a title contender. Is that why he suddenly pulled out against Mark Munoz? All joking aside, it seems to me that Okami wore out his welcome in the UFC. Did they expect him to be a title contender? Kind of hard when that division was ruled by two UFC Hall of Famers in Rich Franklin and Anderson “The Spider” Silva.
Wrestling is Boring but Necessary
With all due respect to Okami, his wrestling heavy style was… boring. To say the least. I mean the IOC removed wrestling from the Olympics in 2012 because of the same reason (among others). Pure wrestling honestly is just not a crowd pleaser. Georges St. Pierre, future Hall of Famer and top 5 MMA fighter all time has drawn the ire of many fans due to sporting a similar style. Not too long ago, Jon Fitch, a top 10 welterweight was also let go after a decision loss to Demian Maia. If Gray Maynard gets humiliated by Nate Diaz in The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale in a few months, I won’t be too surprised to see him cut loose as well.
The UFC is a sport. But it’s also a business. Frankly, guys like Okami don’t draw a lot of fans in. I won’t lie, I usually zone out every time an Okami fight comes on. Same with a Gray Maynard fight or a Jon Fitch fight. From an entertainment stand point, they’re terrible and deserve to be cut. But this isn’t just about entertainment. It’s a sport and at the end of the day, as a pro MMA fighter trying to pay the bills and feeding yourself and your family, I don’t blame them for employing such sleep-inducing tactics.
“Slavery” comments from Ortiz Resonate:
Bad timing from a humanitarian PR perspective. This firing is coming not too long after Tito Ortiz (among many others) have constantly berated Dana White and the company for mistreating their fighters even going as far as mentioning “slavery”.
But it’s business. Fighters have to recognize the risk and their expandability but this Okami firing has ratcheted things up a whole new level. There was an unwritten unofficial “rule” somewhere that usually losing two or three fights in a row is the death knell for most UFC fighters. For under carders, maybe one or two bad losses could spell their doom but top carders and upper tier fighters where Okami belongs in don’t usually just get fired after losing a match to a top 5 opponent and future title contender.
There really isn’t a solution to this issue. Most of the power lies in the hands of one Dana White and his evaluation process of a fighter’s job security is as stable as a Diaz brother. The business will go on, Okami will find a job elsewhere (World Series of Fighting and One FC appear very keen) and this news will be forgotten and people move on.
It would just be good to have a more official stable of rules regarding fighters’ job security but until someone lobbies or advocates for it, each UFC fighter – or MMA fighter – leave the fate of their hands to the hands of a few who primarily makes decisions on subjective factors whose guess God only knows.
It’s more likely a totally hypothetical combination of entertainment value, profitability, record and overall quality of work. I would say Okami arguably has a good record in most of these but apparently in Dana’s eyes, he does not and I think most “just bleed” fans would agree with him.
I’ve never been a fan of Okami and would admit enjoyed seeing Tim Boetsch and Jacare plant him. But this release now has me (sort of) writing his obituary
R.I.P. Yushin Okami’s UFC Career