It's no secret that Jon Fitch isn't exactly happy with the way his UFC tenure ended.
If you weren't aware of that little nugget, you probably are now, after Fitch took the time during a World Series of Fighting conference call earlier today (attended by Bleacher Report) to put the UFC on blast.
"From very early on, I was fighting for my job every single fight," said Fitch. "They made it very clear that they didn't like me or want me around. That's one reason I’m so excited about being with World Series of Fighting right now. They want me around and they're giving me a great push. It's awesome to have people working with me instead of against me."
"There were times throughout my career with contract negotiations, there were threats of, after agreeing to terms of contracts, they were like, 'It doesn't matter anyway, as soon as you lose, we're going to cut you and sign you back for half as much,' type of statements. And just things said under their breath around me, things said behind my back to the media. Without ever sitting me down like a man and talking to me. To me that's a clear sign of not wanting somebody around, not being appreciated, and not having a place at the table."
To an extent, Fitch has a point. I imagine that the UFC wasn't too thrilled with Fitch's style of fighting; after all, there was a period of time when "getting Fitched" was used as a way to describe someone who generally had boring, wrestling and control-based fights.
The UFC thrives on exciting fights. That's what brings fans to the arena, and that's what keeps them tuned into televised events. It's a no-brainer, really. You have exciting fights, and the UFC will reward you by giving you raises or keeping you around even in the midst of a long losing streak. Look at Dan Hardy or Leonard Garcia for a perfect example.
Fitch didn't have the most exciting style in the world. But, for a time, he was the second-best welterweight on the planet. Even after losing to Georges St-Pierre in his sole title bid, Fitch kept on winning, leaving the UFC no choice but to keep giving him fights.
And I believe Fitch when he says that the UFC made threats about cutting his contract or his pay. Perhaps the UFC brass was attempting to motivate Fitch, or light a fire under him, or make him understand that having exciting fights is just as much a part of being a UFC superstar as winning fights.
But when Fitch said that the UFC was a hostile work environment? I'm not sure I can get behind that, and here's why: Dana White revealed that the promotion paid Fitch $302,000 in discretionary bonuses during his UFC tenure.
Discretionary bonuses, for those who don't know, are the legendary "locker room bonuses" that the UFC hands out as a method of rewarding fighters. They aren't set in stone, and they aren't part of fighter contracts. They're simply handed out as a way for the UFC to say thanks.
Here's White's reaction to Fitch's comments, via MMAjunkie.com:
"In the time Jon Fitch was with us, we paid him $302,000 in discretionary bonuses – $302,000," White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). "That's money that me and Lorenzo decided to give him above and beyond the deal that he signed. He also made $130,000 on performance bonuses for his two 'Fight of the Night' bonuses. That's a hostile work environment? Everything that Jon Fitch said is complete and total bull---t."
So, who's in the right?
It's tough to say. It's obvious that the UFC didn't really want Fitch around near the end, and White's explanation that he was "super expensive" doesn't hold a ton of water. Fitch was one of the very best welterweights in the world, and his price wasn't that expensive for a fighter of his caliber.
But at the same time, Fitch can't say that the UFC didn't treat him well. $302,000 in extra money that they didn't have to give him? That's not a hostile work environment.
White and Joe Silva may not have enjoyed Fitch's style, but they still appreciated him enough to pay him a whole lot of money that they didn't really need to.
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