UFC releases Renan Barao and Liz Carmouche under vastly different circumstances

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With several hundred athletes on the roster, it’s no surprise that there is a revolving door of fighters joining and leaving the ranks of the UFC.

A couple recent releases were rather notable in former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao and former women’s bantamweight and flyweight challenger Liz Carmouche, who left under very different circumstances from one another.

Barao (34-9, 1NC) was once considered the top bantamweight fighter on the planet. In fact, he was in the conversation for being considered one of the greatest fighters of all time, period. 

After losing the first fight of his professional career, Barao rocketed to the top of the 135-pound division to become the UFC bantamweight champion. He reached a pinnacle of 32-1, 1NC before his career took a nosedive.

He lost the bantamweight belt to TJ Dillashaw in May 2014, which began a skid that saw him eight out of his last 10 fights. Though his fall from grace was surprising, having lost his last five consecutive bouts, it wasn’t all that shocking that the UFC released him following a loss to Douglas Silva de Andrade in November.

Liz Carmouche’s surprising UFC release

Carmouche’s release was much more surprising; both in it happening at all and also in the manner in which it took place. 

Carmouche (13-7) entered the Octagon in February 2013 to face Ronda Rousey for the UFC women’s bantamweight championship and had been on the roster ever since. She fought her way to a 3-3 record, never again fighting for the bantamweight belt. 

In late 2017, Carmouche moved down to the flyweight division, where she lost her first 125-pound via a split decision before defeating Jennifer Maia and Lucie Pudilová, two women expected to vie for the flyweight title. On the strength of those back-to-back victories, Carmouche next challenge UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, losing a five-round decision in August.

She had remained on the UFC roster until Friday, Dec. 6, when her manager told her that she had been released.

Though her record was far from perfect, many fighters with much worse records remain on the roster. But what caught the attention of many onlookers was the timing of Carmouche’s release. 

The UFC held an event in Washington, DC, last week, where they had Carmouche and a few other fighters on a PR tour touting her military service, visiting hospitals, and attending a wreath ceremony at Arlington Cemetery. Carmouche was in the middle of that PR tour when she found out she had been released.

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UFC officials don’t usually comment on a fighter’s release, so there has been little said from that side about the situation.

Carmouche, however, indicated that one of the reasons she was given for her release was because she was knocking off fighters who were expected to vie for the title, but was unable to win the belt herself, making it difficult to find suitable challengers.

Despite being taken aback by the release, plus the timing and the circumstances of how she found out about it, Carmouche remains positive, as she already has a lot of interest from other promotions around the world. 

“There are a lot more positive things in my future. There’s been all different organizations that have been contacting me for years now. And I just expressed my loyalty to the UFC and stayed with the organization,” she recently told MMA Junkie.

“So now I can actually be a free agent and see what the best opportunity is, who is going to have the best fighters, and really I’m looking forward to that aspect of it.”

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