There is nothing in this world I hate more than early stoppages.
They happen now far more often than they used to, in a UFC that is obsessed with “fighter safety.” Fans are being denied the awesome sporting spectacle of that epic comeback from a fighter teetering on the brink. Those fighters are being robbed of their paychecks and left to wonder what might have been.
I should know because it’s happened to me – twice. We spend too many hours bleeding in the gym, training for what should be done if we get hurt and how to recover just to have a ref looking for a reason to end it.
Some of the most iconic fights in the UFC’s short, but growing, history would have been stopped early if they were fought in 2022. Main card fights like Frankie Edgar versus Gray Maynard 2, Shogun Rua versus Henderson 1, and Pat Barry versus Cheick Kongo would never have attained their legendary status in today’s UFC.
The second installment of Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard – which ended in a draw – is the epitome of what a fight can produce if it is allowed to continue through what might be a temporary knockdown.
Seconds into round 1 of that amazing fight, Maynard landed what could have been the most important punch of his life. To say Edgar was rocked would be the understatement of his career.
How Edgar found a way to scramble just enough to keep the referee from stopping it is a master class of how I wish I would’ve reacted more than once in my career. It was a different era in the organization then.
Now that fight would have been stopped and the comeback that ensued would have never been admired like it is today. “Fighter safety” would have been screamed from the Twitter-sphere and calls for Mr. Edgar’s retirement would have been prominent.
The fans and future MMA superstars would have been robbed of maybe the greatest comeback in UFC history.
This holds a special place in my heart (and career) because of the 2 early stoppages that started my current record streak of not winning.
My first loss was against the legend himself ‘Little Nog’, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. After a solid first round against this member of Brazilian royalty, I found myself on queer street for a moment and was forced to shoot.
In mid-takedown, Marc Goddard stepped in and called my fight. I took him down and because of what took place a moment before the fight was stopped and my streak began.
I don’t know if I would have won that fight, but I do know that fight was far from over and a fight of the night bonus might have been in the future. Instead, I got half of my check and the fans never got to see what might have been.
Since the purchase of the UFC by WME and the airing of the UFC has switched to ESPN, the amount of blood being shown has gone down, the amount of damage an athlete is being allowed to take is lessening, and the amount of time being held down is going up.
None of that has been put in the “official” rules of the sport but watching most of the 41 live events and almost 500 fights a year, it has become obvious something has changed. The only question I have is who is leading the change? The broadcaster, the commission, or my least favorite thought… the fans.
MMA is a sport that has a smaller fan base than some of the other leagues (MLB, NFL, NHL, and whatever “soccer” is) but our fans can be the most passionate and loud.
Every time there is a late stoppage, the Internet is set ablaze with comments begging for that ref to be fired but when a fight is ended too early only a smattering of upset posts can be found and usually followed by some lame “fighter safety” comment that every true fan should roll their eyes at.
Early stoppages shouldn’t happen nearly as often as they do. I would like the refs to be looking for a reason to keep a fight going, not looking for a reason to end it.
It’s sickening to think about all of the undercard athlete’s fights that have been denied the epic conclusion because a lower standard has been adopted by either the commission or the fans.
I have fought for the last 16 years and most of that time was in the UFC. I have told every ref before every fight “I can take an ass whooping, please don’t stop it.” I am not in the minority either.
Fighters want to fight, the fans want to watch us fight. It’s not right that we have to worry about being one early stoppage away from another training camp – and another fight – so we can get the rest of our paycheck. Refs, just let us fight.