Mixed martial arts is one of the toughest sports out there and it’s not only because of the damage fighters subject themselves to in the cage and during training. The business side is pretty dog eat dog as well, and it doesn’t get much easier when an athlete arrives in the UFC. While you may sign a six fight deal with the promotion, the company reserves the right to cut you at any time, and it’s a well understood fact amongst the roster that losing two fights in a row is not good for your future career prospects.
UFC fighter Mehdi Baghdad just learned this the hard way — he went 0-2 in his two UFC appearances but had been given a third fight against Jon Tuck at UFC Fight Night Manilla. But now he’s saying when he had to pull out of the match with an abdominal hernia, the UFC made the decision to cut him. Via Bloody Elbow:
“I was in emergency the night before I gave the bad news that I had to pull out,” Baghdad told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “I called my manager, my manager called Joe Silva. And Joe Silva just answered back like, ‘You need to pull out? We cut you.’ And my manager said, ‘Come on, man, you can’t do that! The doctor said that he has to do surgery; he can’t fight. And then he force himself to fight? He can’t! He has to do surgery.’ So my manager let me know. ‘They need you to go fight, or you are fired.’”
“So I said, ‘So let me choose in my head. I’m fired from UFC, or I’m f-cked up from fighting, because I can have a big problem if I fight with my hernia.’ I get the choice — my health is the first choice, I’m not going to fight with the hernia when the doctor told me I can’t. It’s not just because I’m a little bit hurt here or somewhere. I had surgery last week, he opened my abdomen. It’s not something I tried to lie, so I don’t know, I don’t understand.”
That’s pretty messed up, if true — the UFC shouldn’t be trying to strong arm a fighter that’s recovering from surgery into the cage. Even if it’s not accurate, it’s a dangerous rumor to have floating around. How many UFC fighters on the edge of losing their jobs are going to feel the pressure to compete through health problems and injuries? Mixed martial arts has turned out to be surprisingly safe so long as the athletes competing are healthy. We definitely don’t want to go down a road where someone’s insides rupture because they feel they had no option but to fight.
But we’re only hearing one side of the story. Maybe there was no ultimatum like Baghdad implied, and getting released was just the result of a 2017 schedule that’s expected to include 10 less events a year, and all the roster cuts that will imply. It’s unfortunate that Baghdad was cut after pulling out of a fight with an injury, but the hard math behind matchmaker Joe Silva’s scheduling has always been pretty ruthless, and we doubt it’s going to get any better as the company refocuses itself on the American market and gets rid of many smaller events around the world.