5 fighters who it made no sense for the UFC to cut

Jon Fitch (left), Brandon Moreno (centre), Todd Duffee (right)
Jon Fitch (left), Brandon Moreno (centre), Todd Duffee (right)

The UFC is undoubtedly the biggest MMA promotion in the world, and so unsurprisingly, it’s also a cutthroat business with fighters continually losing their spots on the roster.

Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of big-name fighters cut from the UFC’s roster, but at times, it’s felt like some fighters were simply cut too soon.

Some of these fighters proved this theory right by going onto big success elsewhere. While some of them also didn’t, they still could’ve played their part on the big show had they been kept around.

Here are five fighters who it made no sense for the UFC to cut.

#5. Saidyokub Kakhramonov – former UFC bantamweight contender

Saidyokub Kakhramonov admitted to being baffled by his UFC release this week
Saidyokub Kakhramonov admitted to being baffled by his UFC release this week

The most recent fighter who was clearly cut from their UFC contract too soon is former bantamweight contender Saidyokub Kakhramonov.

The native of Uzbekistan joined the promotion back in 2021, and made an immediate impact by winning his first two bouts in the octagon. However, his most recent fight saw him submitted by Said Nurmagomedov in the second round.

Given that Nurmagomedov is currently ranked at #14 in the bantamweight division, and that Kakhramonov was dominating the fight prior to being submitted, though, it was easy to imagine the Uzbek fighter going onto big things in the future.

Stunningly, though, it was revealed this week that he was cut from his contract with the UFC following his loss to Nurmagomedov.

Unsurprisingly, fans and observers across the world were left baffled by this call, including Kakhramonov himself.

He took to Twitter to hit out at the promotion, suggesting that it felt like they’d brought him in to lose. He then went onto suggest that the only issue he’d caused for the promotion’s matchmakers came because nobody wanted to fight him.

Judging on his talent levels, it’s likely that another promotion will pick Kakhramonov up soon, and in this case, the UFC’s loss is likely to be their gain.

#4. Todd Duffee – former UFC heavyweight contender

Todd Duffee needed just seven seconds to win his octagon debut, but that didn't stop him from later being cut
Todd Duffee needed just seven seconds to win his octagon debut, but that didn't stop him from later being cut

When Todd Duffee made his UFC debut back in the summer of 2009, he stunned everyone by needing just seven seconds to knock out his opponent, Tim Hague.

With an unbeaten 6-0 record and a physique that looked like it’d been carved from granite, Duffee looked like a surefire star of the future, and it didn’t take the promotion long to book him again.

Unfortunately, the prospect suffered a shocking loss at the hands of Mike Russow in his second trip to the octagon, in a clash he was dominating prior to the finish.

The defeat didn’t seem to deter Duffee, and he was booked for his third fight before being forced out with a knee injury. However, before he could make a return, it was abruptly announced that he’d been cut from his contract.

Naturally, fans were left baffled by this, which left Dana White to discuss the matter in the media. He claimed that Duffee had an attitude problem, and stated that “he made it seem to me that he doesn’t want to be in the UFC”.

Remarkably, Duffee only fought twice outside the promotion between 2010 and 2012 before returning in the latter stages of that year. In the years that have followed, though, he’s been dogged by terrible injury problems.

Quite how far he could’ve gone had he remained with the promotion rather than being cut in 2010 is a question mark. Had he been able to avoid injuries, then he could well have climbed to the top of the heavyweight division.

Even with the injury problems, though, White and company seemed rash in cutting such an outstanding talent for what seemed like a petty reason.

#3. Denis Kang – former UFC middleweight contender

When the UFC purchased PRIDE back in 2007, MMA fans across the world unsurprisingly began to get excited about the prospect of the Japanese promotion’s top stars moving into the octagon.

One of the most talked-about fighters at the time was middleweight Denis Kang, who had gone 6-1 in PRIDE and narrowly missed out on winning a Grand Prix title in 2006.

Kang took a little longer to make it to the UFC, instead moving briefly to DREAM, but at the end of 2008, he inked a deal with the world’s top promotion, exciting fans in the process.

However, when Kang’s long-awaited octagon debut came, it turned out to be a damp squib, as he lost via submission to hot prospect Alan Belcher.

From there, the Canadian defeated Xavier Foupa-Pokam before falling to Michael Bisping in a two-round thriller that saw him drop ‘The Count’ at one point. The bout unsurprisingly won both men a $40k bonus.

However, despite Kang being a popular and exciting member of the middleweight roster, he was surprisingly cut from his contract after his loss to Bisping.

Quite why the promotion decided to let such a skilled fighter go was a mystery. Sure, Kang was probably not going to climb into middleweight title contention, but his name value from PRIDE would’ve made him a valuable gatekeeper.

As it was, the Canadian went onto a three-fight unbeaten streak after leaving the promotion, showing that Dana White and company were almost certainly too hasty in their judgment.

#2. Jon Fitch – former UFC welterweight contender

It made no sense for Jon Fitch to be cut in 2013 as he was still a viable title contender at 170lbs
It made no sense for Jon Fitch to be cut in 2013 as he was still a viable title contender at 170lbs

Whenever lists of the best fighters to never win UFC gold are reeled off, Jon Fitch's name usually appears on them.

Fitch competed in the welterweight division from 2005 to 2013, won his first eight fights with the promotion, and fought for the welterweight title in 2008, losing to Georges St-Pierre.

Were it not for the presence of ‘GSP’, though, it’s highly likely that Fitch would’ve claimed the gold at some point.

However, the truth is that the former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler never saw eye-to-eye with the promotion’s power brokers, including Dana White.

He was famously released from his contract briefly in 2008 after a spat over his likeness being used in the promotion’s video game, although he was brought back shortly after.

More to the point, his wrestling-heavy approach in the octagon and stoic personality after it never leant itself to him becoming a big star with casual fans.

When Fitch lost to Demian Maia in February 2013, then – his second loss in three fights – he was abruptly cut from his contract, this time for good.

Most fans were stunned by the decision. Not only was Fitch still a highly viable welterweight title contender, but he’d also beaten hot prospect Erick Silva in a tremendous fight just four months before his release.

White, however, didn’t need long to explain his decision. He simply stated that Fitch was “super f*cking expensive” to book, and expected him to sign a lucrative deal elsewhere before making a potential return.

Part of White’s prediction came true. He moved to the PFL promotion and then later to Bellator MMA in semi-big moves after departing the UFC, but while he went on a run of 7-2-1, he never did return to the big show.

Still, the fact that he clearly had plenty to offer suggests that White and company should’ve kept him around as a very viable gatekeeper, and it made no sense to cut him.

#1. Brandon Moreno – current UFC flyweight champion

Now a UFC titleholder, Brandon Moreno's 2018 release made little sense
Now a UFC titleholder, Brandon Moreno's 2018 release made little sense

Given that he currently holds the UFC flyweight title, it’s hard to believe that just over four years ago, Brandon Moreno was cut by the promotion after suffering two back-to-back losses.

It wasn’t like either loss was bad or embarrassing, either. Both of the Mexican’s defeats came via unanimous decision, and both were to high-level contenders in the form of Sergio Pettis and Alexandre Pantoja.

To most observers, then, cutting 'The Assassin Baby' from his contract made little to no sense.

Of course, there was somewhat of an ulterior motive from the promotion for cutting Moreno. He hadn’t done anything wrong, per say, but at the time, it was reported that the flyweight division as a whole was being closed down, with a number of contenders being released.

Moreno, who would later claim that he didn’t initially know he’d been cut, was evidently one of those contenders.

‘The Assassin Baby’ went onto win one fight on the regional circuit before being brought back to the big show in late 2019 when it became clear that the flyweight division was sticking around.

Since then, he hasn’t looked back, winning six of his last nine fights and claiming the flyweight title twice during his four-bout rivalry with Deiveson Figueiredo.

Based on the success he’s had since his return, it’s safe to say that the UFC's decision to release Moreno did not make sense. They should probably be thankful that they managed to bring him back before he could reach his potential elsewhere.

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