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Why do so few UFC fights end with a towel being thrown?

UFC Fight Night: Holloway v Kattar
UFC Fight Night: Holloway v Kattar
CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 08 Apr 2021
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Imagine getting punched in the face by a toddler every three seconds for 25 minutes. It probably wouldn’t take long for the pain receptors in the brain to stimulate. Now imagine it is the self-proclaimed ‘best boxer in the UFC’ instead of a toddler. Three seconds never seemed so long.

In his last fight, Max Holloway landed 447 strikes on Calvin Kattar over five grueling rounds, an average of one strike every three seconds. Holloway decimated his opponent in spectacular fashion, even landing punches while chatting to the commentary team - almost mirroring his ancient Roman namesake, Max Decimus Meridius.

During a recent interview with Bloody Elbow, Kattar’s training partner Rob Font revealed the sixth-ranked featherweight had still not fully recovered from the beating Holloway inflicted on him earlier this year. One would have to question the reasoning behind Kattar’s corner’s decision to let their man needlessly take so much punishment in such a one-sided fight.

Why do so few UFC fights end with a towel being thrown?

Reputation, reputation, reputation!

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Derek Jacobi made his film debut in 1965 as Cassio
Derek Jacobi made his film debut in 1965 as Cassio

In Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, after a short battle with some foes, Iago asks Cassio, "Are you hurt?". Cassio reveals that he is hurt ‘past all surgery’. Just a few lines later we realize Cassio was only referring to his reputation being lost, not the infliction of fatal wounds.

At times UFC fighters believe themselves to be in a similar situation. Most fighters would rather be known as the fighter who showed heart than the fighter who quit. To some, reputation is everything.

UFC 244 Masvidal v Diaz
UFC 244 Masvidal v Diaz

While this can often create an entertaining matchup, it sets the wrong precedent in a very dangerous sport. If fighters think that quitting is never an option - even if it is detrimental to their long-term physical health - then it is nothing but a quick race to the bottom.

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When money defeats common sense

Money talks
Money talks

When Anthony Smith fought Glover Teixeira in May 2020, he was annihilated in the first three rounds. His corner sat him down on a stool to prepare for the fourth round, completely ignoring the fact that he’d just said his teeth were ‘falling out’.

In a post-fight interview with Ariel Helwani, Smith revealed that his corner understood they would be sacked if they had thrown in the towel on his behalf.

UFC Fight Night Smith v Teixeira
UFC Fight Night Smith v Teixeira

It’s understandable to hire experienced cornermen, giving you the best chance to win a fight, but fighters should not be in control of how much damage they take during a fight - they can be too brave for their own good. Cornermen have to step up as professionals and take a stand when there are human lives at risk. Getting fired for preventing lasting damage to the body is better than being paid to let a man destroy himself.

The UFC often encourages unnecessary brutality

Dana White breaking up a scuffle
Dana White breaking up a scuffle
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Obviously fighting, by its very nature, is violent and often brutal, so let’s not be hypocrites here - this is what makes us watch the UFC every single week. But with so much money invested into each card, they sometimes bend the rules to make the show more entertaining - those words of Maximus above now ringing in our ears.

Colby Covington returned to his corner after three rounds with Kamaru Usman in 2019, and like Anthony Smith (above), he had some information for his cornermen: His jaw was broken. Again, the cornermen turned a blind eye to this, but perhaps even more worryingly, it's presumable that the UFC doctor did too.

Colby Covington v Kamaru Usman
Colby Covington v Kamaru Usman

The average viewer can clearly hear Colby Covington explaining that his face is broken, yet the referee and doctor do nothing. Unfortunately, until fighters are unionized within the UFC this seems unlikely to change.

Published 08 Apr 2021, 03:43 IST
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