Like him or dislike him, you have to feel for Joe Warren.
Thanks to pure incompetence by referee Jeff Malott, Warren took a ridiculous amount of unnecessary shots from Pat Curran last Saturday at Bellator 60. The Bellator featherweight title was already Curran's by the time he began to unleash hell on Warren in the fight's third round, but the beatdown the now former champ had to endure was brutal to watch.
But should we have seen this coming? Look at the last three fights leading into the Curran defense:
- September 2010: Warren was dominated by Joe Soto in the first round of the Bellator featherweight title tournament but pulled a rabbit out of his hat in a highlight reel second round KO to win the title.
April 2011: After an eight month layoff, Warren fought Marcos Galvao in a 137-pound catchweight fight and took a split decision that many saw as a gift.
September 2011: In the first round of the 135-pound Bellator tournament, Alexis Vila knocked out Warren cold in just 64 seconds.
I was amazed that Warren's title defense Saturday was his first, more a function of the somewhat flawed Bellator system than anything else. I was also amazed that Warren has continued to train in an attempt to make the U.S. Olympic wrestling team while training in MMA at the same time.
I would also be amazed if Warren can come back. Always the underdog, Warren made his MMA debut in the 2009 DREAM featherweight tournament, pulling off big upsets of Chase Beebe and Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto before losing to Bibiano Fernandes in the finals. A late entrant to the MMA game, he rolled through the Bellator tournament, knocked out Soto and lived the life of a champion after that.
Full of charisma and with a title to back it up, Warren has been a great asset for Bellator and can talk the talk whenever the microphone is on, regardless of the opponent. Perhaps he knew he was playing with house money and decided to have as much fun with the ride as he could. In the latest USA Today/SB Nation rankings as of this writing, Warren wasn't even ranked in the Top 25 as the champion of a top organization, nor in ESPN's rankings last week.
With a wife, kids and more achieved than most would have expected, I don't know if I'm comfortable seeing Warren step into the cage again. Between Vila and Curran, that's two straight knockouts for a 35-year-old. With the Olympic trials coming up in late-April, Warren said there's no doubt he'll be there, but what kind of toll did the Curran fight take on him?
While I always err on the side of the fighter when it comes to ending a career, the time may have come to hang up the four ounce gloves. Warren has plenty of talents that he can use elsewhere in MMA, but seeing him flat on his back at the end of a fight shouldn't be one of them.