Fans are still reeling after the surprise announcement that top 10 ranked middleweight Yushin Okami had been cut from the UFC after just one loss. UFC president Dana White has finally addressed the situation, explaining that Okami had simply stopped progressing in his fighting career.
“It was the same thing when we were talking about [Jon Fitch]. You have to look at a guy,” White said at a UFC 168 press conference in Rio de Janeiro. “Yushin Okami’s been there forever, and I’ve said many times I have nothing but respect for Yushin Okami. I think he’s one of the best Japanese fighters ever. But a guy gets to a point where he becomes the gatekeeper, and they start to go on a skid.”
White elaborated that an opportunity for Okami to return to the UFC is in the cards, but for now he needs to find some opportunities outside of the organization.
“It’s time for Yushin Okami to go out and test himself outside the UFC, get some wins and maybe come back, and it’s time for some other guys to fight in that division. Yushin Okami’s had every opportunity in the world, taking on all the best. He even got a title shot and didn’t win. It is what it is. It’s no different than the NFL, soccer or any other sport. There comes a time when a team moves on and does other things, no matter where the guy ranks.”
In a separate interview with Yahoo! Sports, White added that the UFC’s roster is simply full, and cuts had to be made to bring in any new talent.
“He was always a tough guy and was right up there, but it’s almost like he’d become a gatekeeper. I like Okami, and you’ve heard me say this many times, that a win over Yushin Okami meant something … But he was never able to get over the hump and win one of those [significant] fights. We have a lot of guys coming in and I’ve been saying this all year: We have a full roster and there are guys who deserve opportunities. When you bring guys in, someone has to go. That’s why these fights are so meaningful.”
Okami’s MMA record currently stands at 29-8, and by most sources, he’s still a top 10 ranked middleweight. This should make finding a new home a lot easier for the 32 year old fighter.
Whether he signs with another North American organization like Bellator or WSOF, or joins other Japanese fighters like Shinya Aoki in ONE FC, remains to be seen.