On Sept. 27, the Ultimate Fighting Championship announced it had released top-ten ranked middleweight Yushin Okami following a technical knockout loss to Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. The decision was met with mixed emotions and the question why?
UFC president Dana White explained the decision to media members on Monday following the UFC World Tour: Weidman vs. Silva 2 press conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“You have to look at a guy, right? And I’ve said many times that I have nothing but respect for Yushin Okami. He’s one of the best Japanese fighters ever, but a guy gets to the point where he becomes the gatekeeper,” said White. “It’s time for Yushin Okami to go out and test himself outside of the UFC, get some wins and maybe come back.”
There are similarities in the Fitch and Okami cuts. They both were perennial top ten fighters. They both competed in title fights and lost. But there are also big differences. Fitch had gone 1-2-1 in his last four fights prior to his release. Okami was on a three-fight winning streak before losing to Souza.
When the announcement was made that Okami was no longer a UFC fighter, White tweeted that part of the decision was that, “Our roster is packed.”
“It’s time for some other guys to fight in that division. Yushin Okami has had every opportunity in the world, taking on the best. He even got a title shot and didn’t win. It is what it is,” White reiterated on Monday.
“It’s no different than the NFL, soccer or any other sport. There comes a time when a team moves on and does other things no matter where the guy ranks,” added the UFC president.
Some speculated that Okami’s pay may have factored into the promotion’s decision to cut him, but White said the Japanese fighter’s pay had no bearing on his release.
“I don’t know what we paid Yushin. It had nothing to do with his numbers, what he was being paid,” he said.