We’re now nearly two weeks from the day Jacob “Stitch” Duran was essentially fired from the UFC for his comments to the media on the lack of sponsorship money for cutmen. Once the news broke, everyone jumped into Stitch’s corner and proclaimed they’d be doing everything from canceling their UFC Fight Pass subscription to boycotting the UFC altogether. Predictably, the torches and pitchforks that came from the mob have subsided as each day has passed.
Even immediately following Stitch’s removal from UFC events, there was never a sense that he’d be unemployed for long. In interviews, Stitch explained he had some boxing events lined up. It was inevitable that MMA promotions would be lining up for his services as well. After all, where do most people associated with the UFC end up? Yes, you guessed it: Bellator.
Bellator, however, hasn’t turned out to be option number one for Stitch. Instead, he agreed to terms with the World Series of Fighting to work events for the company starting with WSOF 22. The agreement with the WSOF is most likely not exclusive, but it would be somewhat surprising to see Stitch bounce around competing MMA promotions, especially considering how much the WSOF promoted Stitch for its event. Heck, the company even made him the featured attendee of an autograph signing.
The hardcore fans of MMA look at this favorably, and it only fuels the people who are developing angst toward the UFC. As with any other trend in our social-media-centered society, it’s now popular for fans to say how upset they are at the UFC for the dismal fighter pay, lack of sponsorships for cutmen and anything else they can Google. It’d be surprising if those same fans had any clue about the actual pay of the fighters. Regardless, they are at least acting upset. Yet, as much as they are complaining about the perceived actions of the UFC, they will no doubt still be watching the premier MMA promotion in the world.
As we continue through the year, the UFC will no doubt hit another obstacle that will even further distance the promotion from the Stitch and Reebok headlines. The UFC is a resilient organization, and although you might hear from a few people that the organization is running itself into the ground, it’s important to realize that there are millions of people around the world responsible for making sure it’s wildly successful for a long, long time.
While this issue has caught on inside the MMA bubble, Stitch’s situation has had little to no effect on the average fan. A cutman being let go and signing with a different organization in MMA is the equivalent to the running back coach for the San Diego Chargers being let go for making comments about a potential move to Los Angeles. It would spark a little interest, but it’s not going to move the needle significantly. The angst of the fans eventually subsides.
Had Bellator acquired Stitch, it would have followed the promotion’s business model of obtaining everything the UFC has given up on. In some ways, that plan is working. From the outside looking in, the company does appear to be the more fighter-friendly organization. Fighters have their sponsors, cutmen have their sponsors and Bellator is a breath of fresh air to fans. At one point, Bellator was the punchline of jokes, but now the company is appealing to those fans who at least act like they have the fighters’ best interests in mind. The signing of Stitch would have solidified that feeling even more, and the promotion would have further driven home the point that it is looking out for everyone’s best interests first. Instead, the WSOF stole Bellator’s thunder.