In the wake of UFC 234, I thought a piece on fighters pulling out of fights very relevant. Let me first state the obvious. Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker successfully made weight for his title bout with Kelvin Gastelum last weekend despite being very unwell. He’d suffered a collapsed bowel and internal hernia which, had he gone on to fight, could have been fatal. So anyone who thinks he was scared or didn’t want to fight should immediately sprint into the nearest wall head-first. And anyone who thinks Adesanya vs. Silva was not a great main event should follow the same instruction. All-in-all a great night for the ANZACs. Props to Callan Potter for stepping up and cutting a sh*t-load of weight on short notice, I look forward to your next shot with a full camp.
So, who pulls out?
If you’re reading this blog, then you’re probably aware of the rigors of mixed martial arts. If you aren’t, then let me assure you that there are few tougher sports in the world to prepare for. By the time ‘real fighters’ reach the cage, very few are operating at 100%, mentally and physically. The reason I say ‘real fighters’ is that there seems to be a bunch of Facebook fighters these days who, as soon as they get a promotional image to use as their profile picture, all of a sudden get injured, can’t make the date, or the dog ate their homework.
Last year, we received a doctor’s note for a fighter booked to feature on one of our Eternal shows. It said that Little Johnny* was unable to do any physical exercise this week (it was now fight week) due to stress at work. Now, to compare that with a young man by the name of Arik Hassett, who fought for us last July. Arik is 17 years old and in year 12 at high school. He made weight like a pro. Then when he got home from the weigh-ins, Arik found out his father had passed away. There could be no more legitimate reason to pull out from a fight, yet, contrary to the advice from his coach, Arik made the call to fight on. And fight he did, winning his bout via Darce choke in 90 seconds.
When you sign up to fight, you are making a commitment to numerous people who will feel the sting of your decision to pull out. These include:
- Your opponent: The most affected. This person has been training hard, often for months; depriving themselves of food and fun; they miss out on time with loved ones; and they spend money on training, dieting, physio etc.
- Your coach/gym: If your coach nominates you for a fight, it should be an honour to represent him/her and the gym. If you pull out, it reflects badly on your team.
- The promotion: When you agree to fight, the promotion spends money on you. They invest in marketing you and they may book flights for you or your opponent, book accommodation, airport transfers etc. All of this requires their time (a commodity promoters value very highly). When you pull out, all this is wasted: money, time, and effort.
Of course, no one should ever encourage you to fight with a genuine issue. Safety is the single most important concern in this sport and should always take precedence over all other decisions. That being said, no one should enter into a fight agreement lightly. It is a major commitment and many people are counting on you to fulfil it. I don’t say this to cast blame, but to raise awareness of an avoidable difficulty that we promoters face. Pull outs happen. That’s the nature of MMA at every level. Fighters push their absolute limits to prepare for fights. This is especially true as the level of competition increases. Coaches have a responsibility to ensure training is appropriately managed so their fighters actually make it to the fight, just as they have a responsibility to step in when an injury or issue is enough to endanger their fighter. Again, we all know most fighters aren’t 100% when they step into the cage, but sometimes you have to save them from themselves. And Whittaker is no better example of that.
The EMG Blog is a space for colourful takes on the weird and wonderful world of MMA. The views and opinions expressed within are solely those of the individual contributors and not EMG.