Saturday night’s UFC on ESPN card’s opening prelim fight has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
As debutant Max Rohskopf attempted to withdraw from his fight against Austin Hubbard in between the second and third rounds, his head coach Robert Drysdale refused to pull him out and attempted to motivate the 25-year-old rather than simply listen to him.
The fight was stopped seconds later, but Drysdale’s reluctance to stop the fight in the first place, which can be seen below, acts as another example of a problem that has attracted a lot of attention in recent weeks.
Since the UFC returned in May, fans have been treated to some much-needed excitement, as well as some fantastic fights from our favourite gladiators.
However, in the last few weeks, a key and often avoided issue in the MMA community has attracted a lot of much-needed attention. The issue of quitting and coaches protecting their fighters has plagued the sport for quite some time, so it’s good to see a dialogue finally open up around the subject.
Since the UFC returned we have seen several disturbing scenes involving fighters that are too brave for their own good. Tony Ferguson took a five-round beating from one of the UFC’s hardest punchers in Justin Gaethje.
Anthony Smith suffered a number of grisly injuries during his bout with Glover Teixeira, during which he handed his teeth to the match referee, Jason Herzog.
And Felicia Spencer got destroyed by Amanda Nunes in what ended up being a one-sided beating.
These are just three examples of lopsided beatings in which a fighter’s corner failed to do their duty, protect their fighter, however, many more examples could easily be found. But why is throwing in the towel so frowned upon in MMA?
You would have to look hard to find a televised boxing match in which a fighter has to tell his corner to “call it” nine times in between rounds, it simply doesn’t happen. So why is there such a difference in mentality in MMA?
There isn’t a definitive answer, but I believe that the stigma surrounding fighters plays a part. They’re some of the toughest people on the planet and risk their lives for our entertainment, yet for some reason, that isn’t enough.
Every time a fighter does quit they’re met with a barrage of insults from people that have no idea the kind of pain they’re going through, and sometimes even fellow fighters.
UFC Lightweight Dan Hooker tweeted “How do you get into the UFC without realising you’re made of marshmallows” after the Rohskopf stoppage. How can we expect to see a change, when fellow fighters, who know how tough the fight game is, decide to mock each other?
This might sound bizarre, but the more fighters we see quit, the better. Max Rohskopf could have used many excuses after the fight, given that he took the fight on short notice, however, he didn’t, nor should he have. He fought and he lost, it happens.
President Dana White hit the nail on the head and rightfully defended Rohskopf, stating, “You should absolutely be able to quit. I know that it’s frowned upon but guess what? Anybody that would talk sh*t about you quitting, isn’t in there fighting. It’s real easy to be a critic. What these kids do is a whole other level.”
Saturday night’s incident was a black eye for the sport, but the positive reaction from some of the sport’s most notable names and many fans demonstrates that we are heading in the right direction.
And while quitting shouldn’t be glamorised, it’s important that we respect those fighters that know when to call it a day and hopefully their coaches learn to do the same.