I did NOT see this one coming.
After going 4-1 in The World Series of Fighting, Josh Burkman seems to have gotten the short end of the stick. The promotion’s division isn’t the deepest, so you’d think that having a 4-1 record in the organization with three finishes (one against a man in Jon Fitch who is notorious for forcing his opponents to “embrace the grind”), would keep a fighter at a high enough position to warrant a fight for the belt. Instead, the WSOF decided to give the title shot to Jon Fitch. The same Jon Fitch who is 1-1 in the WSOF.
I get it. The enticement of two former UFC fighters headlining an event with a title shot on the line is too inviting to not pull the trigger, but it also seems a little unfair. Burkman performed every time he stepped up for the WSOF and didn’t use his previous resume to get to where he is. Whether or not this is the reason he asked for his released or feels that the WSOF has wronged him is all speculation. What isn’t speculation, what is factual is that Josh Burkman performed every time he fought for the WSOF.
He improved. He conquered. He lost. He improved again. He conquered again. He is 9-2 since his last stint in the UFC. That’s a salty resume for any fighter, and lesser fighters with lesser resumes have been invited to return to the UFC with worse records. Who knows? That may not be the end game to his asking for a release.
However, since most look at the UFC as the big game, it’s clear that Burkman has earned his way back into the UFC on his own merits, and hopefully, that’s what ends up happening. If not, wherever he ends up, he’s going give that promotion legitimacy. He is proof that there is a life outside of the UFC. He is proof that you don’t have to be in the UFC to have someone with larger name take your place in line for title contention. And, he is proof that some of the best fighters with the best performances don’t always appear in an octagon.
UPDATE – 4-4-14:
So it seems that Josh Burkman’s dissatisfaction doesn’t lie in a title shot as much as money. MMA Junkie has a brief article with WSOF matchmaker Ali Abdelaziz’s response to Burkman’s request. Also, the Underground has screengrabs of a back and forth between Vinny Magalhaes, who came to Burkman’s defense on Twitter, and Abdelaziz as well. Even the amazing Ray Sefo stepped in as the cooler to try and deescalate things.
It all speaks for itself; however, the most telling gauntlet thrown down came from Abdelaziz, who said, “Look, if Josh Burkman wants out of his deal because he just doesn’t want to fight Rousimar Palhares or Jon Fitch, I don’t blame him – those are tough, tough guys.” Ouch. If you can’t see it, there’s a giant middle finger buried in that statement, and clearly it shows Abdelaziz has taken this personally. After all, Burkman choked Jon Fitch unconscious. That also speaks for itself.
In the end, the posturing on Twitter and the insults and the shenanigans and the pride on display all prove two things: Joe Silva is a genius for staying off of Twitter and the WSOF needs a stronger PR team/communications presence.