Last month, the UFC made some of their more debated cuts in recent memory.
Releasing Elias Theodorou and Justin Willis, the UFC removed two ranked fighters with clear winning records inside the octagon. Many onlookers called the decisions unfair but when asked about the matter by TSN's Aaron Bronsteter, UFC President Dana White had a quite blunt response. “There’s a ton of guys and girls that fight here," he said. "We have like 600 people on the roster and there’s always times when we release people and they question ‘well, why were these people released?’
"I’m looking for people that can break into the top 5 or possibly become world champions. And, I make these decisions. The real question is, ask me how many times I’ve been wrong. If you look at when I’ve released people and who I’ve released, how many times have I actually been wrong about that? and you’ll see people stick around that are on a skid that put on unbelievably exciting fights."
Dana White on the decision to release Elias Theodorou and Justin Willis despite their strong win percentages in the UFC. pic.twitter.com/w0MK9iCFja— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) June 7, 2019
While White's perception is clear, both Theodorou and Willis exit the octagon with impressive records. Theodorou won eight of his eleven UFC outings, even winning three straight prior to his most recent loss against Derek Brunson. An Ultimate Fighter Nations Winner, Theodorou (16-3) entered the promotion as an undefeated prospect five years ago.
Willis' (8-2) tenure was far shorter, making his UFC debut under two years ago. However, Willis quickly climbed the ranks, winning four straight until he was halted by Curtis Blaydes. That defeat proved to be for now at least, the Heavyweight's final octagon appearance. The American's most notable victory likely came against Mark Hunt, outpointing 'The Super Samoan' in his final UFC fight.
When asked as to whether or not these releases make the promotion more entertainment than sport, White refused to accept the definition, clarifying things in quite direction fashion. "It’s based on your fighting abilities and while they might be decent fighters, their never gonna break into the top 5. Their never gonna be world champions. I need to free up spots on the roster for people who will be."
For Bronsteter's full interview with White, click here.