The two former UFC fighters had their contracts voided by the company in a move that is sure to hit the morale of the promotion.
The new owners of the business have shown a disregard for pre-existing contracts and loyalty with the clear message ‘money is the bottom line, and if it isn’t profitable, it’s gone.’
After the $4 billion deal was finalised, WME-IMG found themselves trapped in a huge amount of debt, with some reports even listing the number as high as $1.8 billion.
In order to make up to pay off such a massive amount of money, employees, announcers, fighters, and suits were all placed on the chopping block.
“Less than 15-percent of our workforce,” is the line that company officials gave to reporter Ariel Helwani.
In October it was widely understood that WME-IMG had released 60-80 of its employees, with four or five UFC Canada office employees included in this number, along with half of the UFC Asia division.
Offices in Latin America, Brazil and Europe also suffered a negative impact from the cuts.
If Ariel Helwani’s figures of 60-80 employees cut by October are accurate, then the UFC had already cut their workforce by at least 17% by the end of that month.
With Hughes and Liddell’s contracts terminated, what many journalists and fighters have been saying for some time is now as clear as day – Ari Emanuel and WME-IMG don’t care about fighting, or the history of the UFC.
10 years ago, the MMA landscape looked very different. If a UFC champion was offered more money to fight in another promotion they left to fight there, most often to fight in PRIDE in Japan.
Randy Couture, Jens Pulver, Murilo Bustamante, and even BJ Penn left the UFC in search of more lucrative contracts.
Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes were different, and arguably, as a result they became bigger stars than the fighters who flip-flopped organizations.