Former middleweight title contender Yushin Okami (29-8, pictured) has been released by the UFC, with the news being confirmed yesterday by MMAJunkie.
Okami has long since been considered one of the best middleweight’s in the world and still stands at #6 in the UFC’s official rankings. It therefore comes as a surprise that Okami has been given his walking papers, with the Japanese star perhaps becoming the most high-profile fighter to be cut since Jon Fitch (24-6-1 (1nc)), who was released earlier this year.
Okami made his UFC debut in August, 2006, where he recorded a unanimous decision victory over Alan Belcher (18-8) at UFC 62. Okami would go on to earn a 10-2 record inside the octagon defeating the likes of Mike Swick (15-5), Evan Tanner (32-8), Mark Munoz (13-3) and Nate Marquart (32-12-2) along the way, which earned him a showdown with then UFC middleweight champion, Anderson Silva (33-5) in August, 2011.
Okami, as many had before him, would suffer defeat to Silva, losing via second round knockout, before dropping back to back losses for the first time in his career after Tim Boetsch (16-6) scored a come from behind third round knockout in Okami’s next outing.
Okami got back on the winning path, notching up victories over Buddy Roberts (12-3), Alan Belcher and Hector Lombard (32-4-1 (1nc)) which led him to a bout with Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza (19-3-1)at UFC Fight Night 28, which took place earlier this month. It was Souza who came out on top on the night, knocking out Okami in the first round, which has ultimately led to his release from the promotion. Okami finished his UFC career with a 13-5 record.
UFC President Dana White gave the following statement to Yahoo Sports on Okami’s release;
“He’s been with us forever. 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.”
Yahoo also confirmed that TUF 16 finalist Mike Ricci (8-4) has also been given his release, following a split decision loss to Myles Jury (13-0) at UFC 165 last week. The news follows the release of Ryan Couture (6-3) and the likely releases of James Head (9-4), Papy Abedi (9-3) and Benny Alloway (13-5)