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Ex-phenom Duffee's sudden release from UFC a 'complicated' situation

Todd Duffee's looking for work if you have some.

This news came Tuesday when the 24-year-old heavyweight prospect was officially informed via e-mail that his promoter, Zuffa, initiated his release three months after he was shockingly knocked out by Mike Russow.

Who could have imagined that Duffee -- so perfectly plucked out of central casting that the 6-foot-3, 260-pound fighter was in discussions to participate in the MMA-themed sequel to Never Back Down -- would be party to something more stunning than the late loss to Russow, which remains in the lead for best comeback of 2010, or the seven-second KO he delivered in his UFC debut last year?

Certainly not Duffee (6-1), a certified character, who claims no knowledge of the reasons behind his release onto MMA's open market, where suitors such as Strikeforce have already expressed interest.

"I've heard a lot people say this could be a really defining moment in my career," Duffee said Wednesday. "I don't think it will be. I think what defines your career is winning and losing."

That's not to say he isn't "shocked."

"Do I have any idea why I was cut?" Duffee said. "I honestly don't. Nobody at the UFC talked to me. That's still something I hope happens."

One source with an understanding of the UFC's thinking regarding Duffee described the release as "complicated." And that's exactly what it appears to be.

What would prompt the UFC to let go a talented, young, marketable heavyweight? Aggravation. Whether it stemmed from Duffee's being unavailable to fight because of injury, the possibility of a movie role or the death of his father. Or whether frustration boiled over when Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta were told Duffee bad-mouthed the company in public. (He denied having ever done so.) Or whether some of his Twitter quirkiness was "misunderstood" as complaining about living the life of a financially unstable mixed martial artist. Whatever the reasoning -- and money issues do not appear to be part of the decision even though he fought once this year (his fault, Duffee said) for $8,000 -- here he is now.

Fair?

"If I could hear why they cut me, I could answer that," Duffee said. "They may have a reason. It's a business. Fighting's not fair. Life's not fair. To come out and say they did anything wrong, I don't know. We're just all sitting around waiting to hear."

Duffee first learned of his impending release a week before it became official. He said he attempted to reach out to people inside the UFC, but was essentially ignored. (A source close to the UFC disputed that Duffee reached out.) Duffee's manager, Alex Davis, said he "tried hard to avoid it," but in the end could not. And the UFC has not yet publicly addressed its decision.

It would be misplaced to label Duffee's release as permanent. Considering that UFC executives have publicly expressed a fervent unwillingness to promote certain fighters in the past yet did so anyway, Duffee, so long as he wins, should find a path back to the Octagon, which is what he's hoping for.

His most important battle at the moment has everything to do with a bum knee that, according to Duffee, could need surgery. The seriousness of a potential procedure, a total reconstruction or a simple scope, varies depending on who's talking. When an MRI of the fighter's knee was examined by a UFC doctor, the less invasive procedure was recommended. Duffee believes it's worse than that.

Still, he sees surgery as the "absolutely last dying option in any case. I'm not an advocate for surgery at all." To avoid going under the knife, Duffee is rehabilitating as best as he can with a therapist in Denver who will stop him from "doing stupid stuff" like overtraining at the Grudge Training Center.

"It's not always about how hard you work; it's about how smart you work," said Duffee, at Grudge after stints at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas and American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla. "I think I made some seriously stupid decisions in that department just out of the whole concept of, 'If I'm not training my ass off, I'm not progressing.' And a lot of times I think I was [regressing] because I was overdoing it in a lot of areas. It's not their fault I came back for my third workout of the day."

Best-case scenario, he said, will be a return to the cage by January.

"I was happy in the UFC," Duffee said. "Will I fight elsewhere? Yeah. I'm not going to sit and wait for the UFC to say they want me back. Anywhere I go, I'm going to be looking at tough fights."

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