Rousimar Palhares has a reputation and it's one built on a series of incidents. Capped off by his release from the UFC following a heel hook victory over Mike Pierce, that almost all media observers categorized as "dirty," Palhares has been somewhat justifiably vilified as a fighter that just doesn't seem to "get it" when it comes to fair play. That the World Series of Fighting was willing to pick him up as quickly as they did, and slot him into a title shot no less, is a testament to the excitement that Palhares' skill brings with him. He may be a loose cannon, but he's a fun one.
His victory over Steve Carl to become the new WSOF welterweight champion had many seeing shades of his old UFC behavior in a new setting. The reaction from many fans and media members was that Palhares had once again failed to release a dangerous submission until well after the ref intervened. However the WSOF brass, Ali Abel-Aziz and Ray Sefo, aren't seeing it that way. They spoke to MMAFighting shortly after the event.
"The submission happened right in front of Ali and I," said Sefo. "I thought as soon as the referee told him to let go, he let go. So if you think that he held it too long, then you're crazy.
"I think everybody needs to leave this kid alone," said Abdel-Aziz. "He went through a lot already, and he's a champ now. I think everybody should be congratulating him and praising him as a champ.
"When you're talking about an inside inverted heel hook, come talk to anybody in this room, any black belt in the room, you don't have time to tap. If it's a regular heel hook from the outside, you do have time to roll out of it. He turned it into a kneebar, and after that he went into an inverted heel hook. Many, many guys I know, including myself, I popped my MCL because you don't have time to tap."
Palhares, his manager, and even Carl himself also offered their view of the submission, none of which found fault with either fighter. But, whether or not this specific submission really is reflective of poor sportsmanship on the part of Palhares is almost unimportant at this point. In the eyes of most, Palhares has well and truly earned his reputation for bad conduct in the cage and any future incidents that fall in the grey area between needed and unnecessary are going to draw criticism towards his fighting style. Even as a fairly vocal supporter of Palhares surrounding his UFC release, my first reaction to his fight with Carl was "Here we go again."
If you haven't seen it, here's the GIF, courtesy of Zombie Prophet. You can judge for yourself: