There are two sides to every story.
Yesterday, we passed along news that UFC President Dana White and the UFC had cut Starnes from his UFC contract for his abysmal performance at UFC 83. According to Kalib Starnes, that’s not the case. In an interview with the Fight Network, Starnes stated he asked to be released from his UFC contract. Reportedly, the contract was carried over from his days on The Ultimate Fighter reality show.
According to Starnes, it was he himself who initiated the release process, and not Dana White as Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports reported.
“[UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva told me that it usually takes a couple of days for their legal department to complete the paperwork and that he would send me all of the paperwork to indicate that my contract has been dissolved. Later on in the afternoon, after I had spoken to Joe Silva, a story was released by some reporter from Yahoo! in which Dana White said that he had released me from my contract. I received no documentation on that, and it came after I asked to be released.”
Starnes went on defend his poor performance by claiming he had broken his foot with the first kick he threw, among other injuries he sustained during the fight. Instead of engaging with Quarry, Starnes decided his $10,000 fight purse wasn’t worth the risk of sustaining further injuries, which debunks the rumor floating around on the internet that Starnes pre-meditated throwing the fight to protest his contract and a lack of insurance.
Starnes didn’t stop there, however. He also voiced his opinion on his UFC contract and Dana White:
“In my opinion, it was inappropriate to make public statements regarding my character and my future and so on the way that [Dana White] has, especially without having the courage and the respect to call me up and speak with me personally. All of these comments come from a man that has never had a fight in his entire life who claims to be the ultimate authority on fighting and courage. I couldn’t be happier than to be released from the most oppressive contract I’ve ever been under in my life.”
“Dana White wouldn’t stand and trade with a guy [like Quarry] who had an 80 or 90 percent knockout ratio with injuries like I had Saturday night. He wouldn’t cross the street for $10,000…
…it was Dana White who decided to come out and publicly attack my character, not the other way around. That’s the way he felt like he should go. Maybe he thinks that character assassination might prevent me from moving on and fighting for another organization or carrying on a career. If he thinks it’s appropriate to attack me, it isn’t.”
Those are words you might expect from someone like Tito Ortiz, a high profile fighter in a very public feud with Dana White, but not a mid-tier fighter in the UFC. Dana likes to portray a tough guy persona, as evidenced in his infamous TUF speeches and his not-so-tactful way with words. That’s why I find this story so intriguing because here is a guy who doesn’t have as many options outside the Octagon as guys like Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture do, yet he’s basically burning every bridge he has with the UFC by saying how he feels. A Zuffa-controlled UFC will never let him back in, where they would with Randy or Tito, because he doesn’t help them make money.
The question I have is how many other mid-level UFC contracted fighters feel the same way? I’m willing to be there’s quite a few. As competition grows, fighters will have more options, and with options comes higher pay rates and fewer restrictions. In my opinion, the UFC can only last so long holding fighters to their extremely restrictive contracts before the competition grows enough to force them to change their ways. We may not see it happen this year, but it’s certainly coming. We may very well see the foundation laid for it in the next six months with EliteXC on CBS and the potential match between Randy Couture and Fedor Emelianenko. Ultimately, we, as the consumers, will decide which direction the sport goes.
For the time being, the problem for Starnes will be overcoming the sour taste he left everyone with in his fight against Quarry. I’m not a fighter so I have no right to say he should have risked being seriously injured—although other fighters certainly would have—but perhaps he should have addressed his dissatisfaction with his contract prior to agreeing to the bout. His stock would be much higher had his name been recognizable as a former TUF cast member rather than now as the guy who ran away from Nate Quarry for three rounds in the UFC.