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I made my way back across the Pacific after UFC 193 and I was sure I would be tapping away about some Ronda Rousey-related issue, but lo and behold, I witnessed something on Saturday that blew my mind while watching UFC Fight Night “Magny vs. Gastelum.”
During the prelims, Scott Jorgensen -- who clearly won the first round of his flyweight bout -- was clipped by a low kick just before the bell and was in a lot of pain. He hobbled back to his corner, and his return for the second frame looked to be in doubt. Always a gritty competitor, Jorgensen wasn’t going to be denied a chance to fight for his job, and he came out limping to kick off the second. It was apparent he was not operating at full steam, as his opponent Alejandro Perez walked him down and battered him with strikes. Referee Gary Copeland warned the injured fighter that he was looking at stopping the bout, but Jorgensen told him he could continue and kept firing back.
That was when it happened.
My social media feeds blew up with people freaking out about the fight not being stopped. Remember, we’re not talking about a fighter who was out on his feet, absorbing heavy shots to the head. We’re talking about a fighter operating in a less-than-ideal situation ... you know, something that happens in just about every fight once the leather starts flying. As it turns out, Jorgensen looks to have suffered a sprained ankle -- the horror -- along with a broken hand. He will have an MRI to determine the extent of the damage to his lower leg.
Admittedly, this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill scenario where a guy wears down. Jorgensen’s movement was compromised, but he was still aware of what was going on around him. His corner was informed between rounds that he wanted to fight through the injury, and he eventually went out on his terms when his leg could no longer hold up.
Strangely enough, later that night in the co-main event, Diego Sanchez suffered a similar injury to the lower part of his leg. Again, the calls came for referee Dan Miragliotta to stop that bout, as well. Sanchez showed the toughness we have all come to expect from the former “Ultimate Fighter” winner and gutted it out until the final horn.
While his injury didn’t seem to have the same severity as Jorgensen’s, I would argue they both had the right to make their own decision when it came to retiring from their matches. Again, we’re not talking about fighters taking inordinate amounts of punishment to the head; neither man was ever in a spot where he couldn’t intelligently operate inside the cage.
I agree with most that head injuries are a huge concern for fighters and promoters in combat sports and that both Jorgensen and Sanchez were at a greater risk to suffer that kind of injury while continuing to fight in a compromised condition. What I don’t agree with is the maternal instinct to protect people from themselves.
If a fighter, while in full control of his faculties, takes it upon himself to endeavor on despite long odds, who am I, or we for that matter, to tell him he shouldn’t? Should we stop championship fights with one round left because one fighter is so far behind on the cards and just not competitive, a la Valerie Letourneau at UFC 193? Should we rob her of that chance to score the epic come-from-behind win?
How about Scott Smith at “The Ultimate Fighter 4” Finale? He ate a ridiculous body shot from Pete Sell that left him hunched over in pain. I’m guessing the referee should have saved him, too? If so, we wouldn’t have had the unreal knockout of Sell that ensued.
How about current Ultimate Fighting Championship golden boy Conor McGregor? He tore his ACL early in his fight with Max Holloway in August 2013, and yet, he was able to continue on and earn the victory. The injury put him on the shelf for nearly a year and was significant in nature, but it didn’t stop him from winning a fight. I’ll go out on a limb and say his injury will end up being more severe than either Jorgensen’s or Sanchez’s, and I’m sure it limited his ability to do what he wanted to do in the cage.
I’ve been covering this sport for a long, long time and I can remember back to a time when it was common for everyone to worry about one bad fight costing the sport its future. Please note that it was never the fighters who took this stance; they have always wanted every chance to compete and win. It was the media, the promoters and the officials who were more concerned with the long-term health of the sport and the fighters, and that’s a good thing.
We’re a long ways from those days. This is an inherently dangerous sport, and it’s time for everyone involved to admit that to each other and to themselves. No amount of helicoptering is going to make it completely safe. I don’t think the indignation that flares on social media when questionable calls are made is unwarranted. I just think some people have gotten into the habit of getting riled up at the slightest hint of danger. It’s almost like an I-can-be-more-indignant-than-you attitude is permeating the sport.
I wasn’t online during the Ravens-Rams game on Sunday, but I can only imagine the outcry when Joe Flacco remained in the game for a couple plays with his torn ACL. He was at a much greater risk to get sacked and concussed because of the injury, and I’m sure there was an immediate call for the referees or coaching staffs to halt the game and remove him from the field.
Wait, what do you mean that didn’t happen?
I half expect some of the people in the MMA community to actively start campaigning against the sport because of the danger when in reality that’s why we all tune in. Like the crashes in auto racing and the vicious hits in football and hockey, the highlights of our sport are usually the most violent and ferocious clips we can find. It’s time to come around and accept MMA for what it is -- a sport where a sprained ankle doesn’t necessarily end your day.
Greg Savage is the executive editor of Sherdog.com and can be reached by email or via Twitter @TheSavageTruth.