Ask Ant: The Bar Brawls n' Eyeballs Edition

By Anthony Walker Aug 31, 2019

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

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jjresq: Does BJ Penn have a drinking problem? Why is he always getting into these bar fights?

I’ll second the thoughts of my “Trenches” co-host Jason Burgos on this one. I don’t know B.J. Penn personally and can’t say without any doubt that he has a drinking problem. But I can say without a shadow of a doubt, he has a major problem of some kind. Whether it be fueled by alcohol, some other substances, brain damage or any combination of those factors, it is abundantly clear that Penn has a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

While I lack a certain amount of insider knowledge about his day-to-day lifestyle and habits, the videos featuring the former champion engaged in street fights outside of bars in Hawaii say it all. There’s nothing wrong with unwinding with an adult beverage and hanging out with friends. As long as you’re being safe and responsible, there’s really no harm in occasionally going overboard with those beverages either. If the worst thing that happens is an ill-advised drunken text to an ex, a chili cheese dog and a hangover the next morning, it’s relatively harmless.

Repeatedly finding yourself in fist fights at 40 years old doesn’t qualify as harmless mischief. Sure, you can be the unfortunate person who randomly comes across that one guy looking for trouble and be forced to defend yourself. However, if you constantly find yourself in that situation, perhaps you are the problem. Maybe you are the person who seeks out trouble. At the very least it’s time to reevaluate the type of places you frequent and the people you go there with. Either way, you’re responsible for your own poor decisions.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time we’ve had to take time out to discuss the troubling path that Penn is on. If recent bad deeds of fighters and the subsequent “see no evil, hear no evil” stance that the UFC frequently takes is any indicator, this will become background information leading into his announced bout with Nik Lentz. What should be a serious intervention and/or legal problem will morph into questions like “If the real life Barney Gumble can knock out Penn, what will Lentz do to him?”

europe1: Optimally, how should MMA approach knuckles in the eye? Should it be treated like a finger to the eye? Or should knuckles rasping the eyeball just be treated as another punch that has inflicted damage?

Knuckles in the eye should be treated like just another punch. Balling a fist is a simple motion, landing it isn’t. Landing a solid punch on a moving target is much more difficult than it looks to an untrained observer. There’s always an unknown factor when throwing a strike. What if your opponent slips it and you’re open for a counter strike? What if they move their head slightly in another direction and you land on their hairline almost guaranteeing a broken hand?

With the dizzying amount of variables and possibilities, asking the fighters to add one more wrinkle is too much. It would take an unrealistic amount of control and foresight for a fighter to throw a punch at someone’s face but adjust so that a knuckle doesn’t hit the eye. Not even the most well trained and experienced face punchers would be able to handle this task on a consistent basis in an actual fight. Of course someone can aim for the eye and that makes for good strategy if a cut has opened up or as means to disrupt sight. But using the knuckles of a clenched fist to poke the eye just seems a bit much in the heat of action.

When Junior dos Santos landed on Mirko Filipovic’s eye at UFC 103, it’s highly unlikely that “Cigano” set out to poke his foe in the eye. He threw a punch and it just happened to land there. It’s not the ideal way to end a fight and feels rather anticlimactic but it can happen.

The same is true for the toes as well. When Megan Anderson toe-poked Cat Zingano in the eye, it cheated us out of what was almost certainly going to be a great fight at UFC 232. But there’s no way that a human being will be able to throw a kick and precisely control their toes to avoid contact with the eye. Like a knuckle to the eye, it’s a possible outcome when strikes are thrown and both parties are in motion.

In the clinch it seems possible for a more deliberate attack on the eye with the knuckles. A slower grinding in the socket is an option. But even then the shape of the gloves would likely keep a true lodging from happening. It seems like an odd way to attack considering the other more tried and true methods for inflicting damage in that position.

Taking a punch to the eye is very unpleasant. But so is the entire act of engaging in hand to hand combat with another person. Like the many freak injuries we’ve witnessed, bad things happen that we can’t always plan for or prevent.

Kel Guapo: What are your thoughts on the Nate Diaz type view of going after exciting fights as opposed to seeking a belt? Not just him specifically, but conceptually too?

I have no problems with this mentality. Not everyone is motivated by the same things. Where some are ultra-competitive and want nothing more than to be the best at something, other people just want to show up for work and get paid. To each his own.

As the UFC has devalued its own championship belts with interim titles and questionable challengers, it’s no wonder that fighters like Diaz see less value in the belt. Let’s keep in mind that Diaz has fought for the lightweight title. For that main event bout against Benson Henderson, his losing effort brought in a disclosed $50,000. When he fought Conor McGregor in two non-title affairs, his disclosed $2 million and $500,000 guaranteed paydays make No. 1 contender money look like chump change.

After getting those direct deposits and suddenly catapulting into stardom outside of divisional supremacy, it’s very easy to understand why Diaz is exclusively hunting big fights.

If a fighter finds him or herself in a situation where they can have both a championship belt and the biggest possible purse, that’s fantastic. But in a star driven sport with subjective rankings, the constant threat of superfights, and the possibility that some sort of undeserved big name getting an opportunity -- yes, I’m talking about the silliness of McGregor possibly getting a title shot on his return instead of Tony Ferguson -- there are no guarantees regarding concepts like meritocracy and fairness. In that case, a prize fighter might just hunt for the biggest prize. Belts are nice, but combat sports history is filled with broke champions.


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