On Friday night, during the break between the 4th and 5th rounds of Resurrection Fighting Alliance's flyweight title bout involving Junior Maranhao and Matt Manzaneres, Maranhao fell off his stool and collapsed face first into the canvas where he laid motionless for several seconds. If you missed it here's a gif from Zombie Prophet capturing the moment:
As disturbing as that may look what happened next is much worse. His cornermen picked him up and set him back on his stool to ready him for the next round. Even more disturbing? Officials did not stop the fight, nor did it look like the cageside doctor even examined Maranhao. To top it off, apparently the Wyoming State Board of Mixed Marial Artist does not think any mistakes were made.
Here is their full response to MMA Mania's Matt Roth:
ABC responds to Wyoming incident
The ABC says that fights should always be stopped if a fighter loses consciousness or stability as was the case at RFA 14 this past Friday. In that fight, the fighter was allowed to continue without any checks done by the doctor.
Dear Mr. Roth,
Thank you for reaching out to the Board. As to your question/comments regarding Mr. Maranhao, he was thoroughly examined by a licensed physician after he fell off his stool between the 4th and 5th round of the RFA event in Cheyenne on April 11. He was also examined by his corner men and the referee. All parties, including Mr. Maranhao, believed and stated unequivocally that Mr. Maranhao was medically safe to and capable of finishing the fight. In fact, he fought well in the last round and lost in a close split decision. He was examined by a licensed physician after the bout as well and again found to have no neurological or other medical issues of concern.
The Wyoming State Board of Mixed Martial Arts stands by our physicians and officials and has the utmost confidence in their ability to assess the medical status of Wyoming contestants. Safety is the Board's number one priority and all necessary precautions were taken at the April 11 RFA event to ensure that Mr. Maranhao was safe to continue fighting.
Again, thank you for your interest in Wyoming MMA.
Wyoming State Board of Mixed Martial Arts
While Junior Maranhao came out in defense of the referee, the doctor, and his own cornermen, most members of the mixed martial arts community seem to hold an opposing view. One such person is Nick Lembo of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board and the Chair of the Association of Boxing Commission's MMA Training and Officials Committee, who provided a statement to Bloody Elbow clearly stating that
A loss of consciousness/stability as seen at RFA 14 should ALWAYS equate to the immediate termination of the contest.
Another person in obvious disagreement with Maranhao and Wyoming MMA is Pat Miletich. Working alongside Michael Schiavello as part of AXS TV's broadcast team he had a cageside view of the incident. The former UFC welterweight champion has never been shy to voice his disproval at allowing fighters to take too much damage, even when it's someone as renown as trainer Greg Jackson. Speaking to him the day after the fight, he was still unhappy with what he witnessed.
We [Pat and Michael Schiavello] didn't like what we saw. I think you could hear that when it happened during the broadcast that we weren't comfortable with what was going on.
I don't know what his corner or the referee were doing. I know the doctor came over and talked to someone in his corner and then left. I didn't see him flash his light in his eye or actually examine the fighter to make sure he was OK, but then I didn't go to medical school myself so maybe you don't have to actually check the fighter to see if he's OK.
There's repercussions for the fighters when they do something wrong. There's suspensions and fines when they get in trouble. But when the referees, the judges, the doctors, and others do anything wrong are there repercussions? Doesn't seem to be any usually.
It's a dangerous sport, but the people involved shouldn't be trying to make it worse. I cared about whether I would be able to spell my name when I was 60 years old. But in the cage or ring not everyone is thinking about that at that moment. They're thinking about winning so you hope that the people around them do the right thing and protect them. You hope that the officials who's job it is to look out for the fighters safety do the right thing and protect them. If that takes throwing in the towel and having them mad at them, well they should still do it because that's what they're there for - to look out for their fighter.
Looking to get some additional opinions from the very fighters whom corners and commission officials are supposed to protect, I spoke to former UFC middleweight contender Nate Quarry and current UFC lightweight Pat Healy. First to comment was Healy, who wasn't willing to let cornermen off the hook when it comes to the responsibility of protecting fighters.
Who do they have in their corner? It's up to the fighter to give it his all, but it's up to the corner to look out for their safety.
When you are just taking a beating and you're not showing any signs of winning, your corner hopefully cares enough about you to make that call and not leave it up to the fighter to do it for himself.
I always try to make sure I have people in my corner who care about me and aren't just there worrying about a paycheck. Your long term health isn't worth winning a bonus.
Sometimes I wonder about what the motivation is. Sometimes I wonder if it's the ego of the people in the corner. That they're so worried of their own image "look how good of trainer I am" that it comes at the expense of your fighter.
Nate Quarry went even further than the others, suggesting that perhaps it was time to look at making changes in the way the sport was regulated.
It's going to take a death to get things to change, but at that point it will be too late. It's too late for a lot of fighters already. They've taken hits and damage they never should have taken if people looked out for them. Fans assume that if a fighter walks out of a fight alive he's okay.
You always hear promoters and people saying there's very few "serious injuries" in MMA. I don't know. I think most people would consider getting knocked unconscious a serious injury. For most people getting your arm or leg broken is a serious injury. Getting 13 pins put in your face to hold a cheek bone in place, like I did after my last fight, is a serious injury. And those are part of the sport, you have to kind of accept them. But you don't want to make it more dangerous than that. Why make someone take more punishment than needed. Why put their future health at greater risk than the sport already does?
If the state commissions aren't going to do their job, and it doesn't seem like they're capable of doing it, then perhaps it's time for there to be a national or even international commission to be in charge. Maybe one that will listen to what the fighters have to say. Right now the commissions only listen to the promoters or listen to money. It would be nice if they listened to the fighters instead.
Finally I spoke to Ed Soares, the president of Resurrection Fighting Alliance, the promotion in which the incident took place. Our conversation took place only a few hours after he had returned from the United Arab Emirates, where he was attending UFC Fight Night 39: Noguiera vs Nelson;
I missed it because I was in Abu Dhabi, but I just watched it. I don't know what to think. As a promoter we kind have to put it in the hands of the commission to make sure things are done right. It's their responsibity to look out for the fighter and stop the fight, we can't do that. Maybe the referee missed him falling over, I couldn't tell. But someone, like the doctor, should have checked him. And I didn't see him really examine him at all.
We all make mistakes but at the end of the day you want the fighter's safety to come first and so you really can't allow for mistakes when it comes to things like this.
From the many reactions recorded, it would seem that the only people not disturbed by what took place Friday evening are the very people whom the criticism is being directed at.