July 4, 2019

John Lineker's UFC Release Sends A Mixed Message To the Fighters

By Adam Martin

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, MMAjunkie's John Morgan sent out a tweet that surprised and shocked a lot of people in the MMA world. UFC bantamweight contender John Lineker had been released by the promotion. Just like that, one of the most exciting pound-for-pound fighters on the UFC roster was no longer a part of it.

The news was downright shocking to many. Lineker is still just 29 years old and is one of the top 15 bantamweights in the UFC. He's also known for being someone who stands and bangs and puts on a show for the fans. But none of that could save his job. Just two weeks after pulling out of a fight against Rob Font due to suffering a cut in training the day before the weigh-ins, Lineker is now out of work.


It's not expected that Lineker will remain on the market for long. Right now he's arguably the hottest free agent in MMA. Lineker has a 31-9 record, including a 12-4 mark in the Octagon alone. He won four "Fight of the Night" bonuses in the UFC and became a fan favorite for his willingness to stand in the pocket an trade with his opponents. It's a sad day that he's no longer with the promotion.

But Lineker will likely find work immediately. RIZIN could very well sign him to fight their champion Kyoji Horiguchi, or Bellator could sign him and have him fight Horiguchi there. ONE could sign him to fight Demetrious Johnson. All the other top MMA promotions in the world will be after this guy, because he's an extremely talented and exciting fighter who is still on the right side of 30.

We don't know exactly why the UFC released Lineker. It likely had something to do with being forced out of his last fight despite having gone on social media and called out the UFC matchmakers for not giving him fights. It's not the first time he has pulled out of a fight, and the matchmakers likely got tired of it. There may also have been a lot going on behind the scenes that we don't know about, a la Elias Theodorou's recent release.


But what we do know is that this move by the UFC sends a mixed message to the fighters. A few weeks ago, Dana White refused to sign Brendan Loughnane on the Contender Series because he shot for a takedown instead of brawling on the feet. We know the UFC prefers striking-based fighters, so to cut someone like Lineker who was always down to stand and bang is just strange. He seems like Dana White's ideal fighter. But when you consider that the UFC doesn't like when fighters stand up to the promotion, it somewhat makes sense.

John Lineker will be fine. If anything, this could be a blessing in a disguise for him, as he was lost in the mix and essentially stuck in gatekeeper status in the UFC bantamweight division. Now he can go be a star and a champion in another promotion. But this is a strange and surprising release by the UFC, and one that will make fighters think twice about going out and putting it on the line every fight just to please the UFC's brass. It didn't help Lineker keep his job.

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