It has been a week since the controversial conclusion at UFC 244 where the main event between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz was stopped by the official doctor appointed by the New York State Athletic Commission. Predictably, the stoppage was met with jeers from the crowd, who chanted “Bullshit!! Bullshit!!”.
It was undoubtedly a watershed moment. The fans in attendance had just witnessed a night of highly exciting fights. They had witnessed five incredible knockouts in a row. They saw the black beast eke out a decision. They saw a Wonderboy make a long awaited return to form. They saw Darren Till make his middleweight debut with success. But they were all truly waiting for the conclusion of the main event – an event created purely based on the words of Nate Diaz – “Jorge Masvidal had a great last fight… he’s a gangster, but he ain’t no west coast gangster.”
The BMF belt itself was a matter of controversy, with some fans embracing the concept while others rejected the idea outright, claiming that creating such a belt detracted from the legitimacy of the sport, perhaps bringing the sport closer to professional wrestling. Some others welcomed the move with open arms – fully aware that the presence of larger than life celebrities at Madison Square Garden would only aid in greater exposure and growth for the sport. Yet others were just plain excited to see two fighters – legitimate tough guys in their own right – throw down on one of the biggest cards put together by the largest mixed martial arts organisations in the world.
It was with this background and a large amount of money spent on promotion that the UFC promoted and then hosted a fight between the two BMF contenders. It is fairly accepted that Jorge was winning the fight in a more dominant fashion than was expected by the majority of MMA fans that had tuned in to watch the fight. An early blow knocked Nate Diaz to the ground and while Nate put his feet up and tried a combination of mounting defense, while looking for openings to get back to a vertical position, it took him almost two minutes of the first round to achieve this result. Even then he was only able to manage this because Jorge finally allowed him to do so. The gash on top of Nate Diaz’s eye looked large, perhaps slightly reminiscent of the cut suffered by Tyson Fury not too long ago.
While Diaz’s corner did a good job in treating the cut, it became a point of focus as the match went on. The second round also saw Jorge dominating the fight with ease. Jorge had mentioned in the build-up to the event that he felt absolutely no pressure whatsoever going into the fight. That appeared to be the case more and more as the fight progressed.
Eventually, the good doctor intervened and spoke a few words to Diaz before going over to the referee and passing on his official diagnosis. A wave of tension was present in the arena and the audience’s worst fear for the night came to pass when Dan Miragliotta raised his hands and waived the fight off leading to the chants of “bullshit” from the large crowd gathered at Madison Square Garden.
Following the fight, Sethi received several threats from certain sections of the MMA community. He later came out and claimed that he fears for his safety and the conduct of the MMA community could set a dangerous precedent for the future of the sport where doctors would hesitate to intervene in fights where the safety of the fighter could indeed be in question. Considering that Sethi was in fact only doing his job it is hard to see where he went wrong other than perhaps taking into consideration that this was Nate Diaz fighting and no ordinary mortal. It is also difficult to argue with his reasoning on how this could be a dangerous precedent. Overall, while the strength of the MMA community is the passion that the fans have for the sport, if such passion is not tempered with a dose of reality and acceptance of the fact that sometimes things do not work out as planned, we may in fact be heading into the dangerous territory that Sethi envisioned. The MMA community would thus be well advised to police its own ranks and ensure that all individuals who contribute to the execution of an event are treated well and fairly.