One of the stranger things that came to light in the aftermath of the beating that UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez put on former champ Junior dos Santos at UFC 166 is that, in some jurisdictions it is a foul to throw in the towel to stop a fight.
One of those jurisdictions is the state of Nevada. Bloody Elbow recently spoke to Nevada State Athletic Commission Athletic Director Keith Kizer on the subject of a fighter's corner ending a fight early.
When asked why throwing in the towel remains a foul in Nevada, Kizer explained, "It's still something that we want to have as a foul, because it could be a situation where somebody does it in such a way that distracts the fighters, a fighter could get hurt (by a corner throwing in the towel). One fighter sees the towel go in, and he's watching it, and he gets hit in the face."
Kizer added that another reason that throwing in the towel is not allowed is to avoid confusion in the cage, something that could occur if some "knucklehead fan" in the crowd decided, for whatever reason that they were going to launch a towel into the cage. If a towel from a fan did land in the cage it could cause a great deal of confusion, resulting in a break in the action while officials attempted to sort things out.
The break in the action that followed the towel hitting the mat could have an effect on the fight depending on when the break occurred, and what physical state the fighters were in when the towel landed in the cage. That's something the NSAC hopes to avoid by leaving throwing in the towel a foul.
So, what's a cornerman to do if he sees his fighter getting beaten in a way that he feels it's in the best interest of the fighter to end the fight? According to Kizer there is a protocol in place for stopping a fight, "It doesn't happen often, but when a cornerman does want to stop it, we let the cornermen know to let the inspector know. The cornerman and inspector walk up the steps, the other inspector will see that, and he'll walk up to the top of the steps on the other side just in case the referees back is turned to the losing fighters corner. The inspector will then wave, and the referee will know why that is."
That process is reviewed with the corners prior to the fight by the inspector that accompanies the fighter and his or her team to the cage.
Kizer did say that if a cornerman can feel free to take a towel with him if he wants to do so when they walk up the steps with the inspector, but under no circumstances should they ever throw that towel into the cage.
If the cornerman gets caught up in the moment and does throw the towel into the cage, odds are that they will only receive counseling from the NSAC for doing so. However, Kizer said there could be more than a talking to, "If he does it in such an aggressive way that it does cause some kind of injury, which I have never seen, but it could. I've heard stories from other jurisdictions where a cornerman throws in the towel, one of the fighters steps on it, and gets hurt or again a fighter gets distracted by it and gets hit in the head, that might be a more serious issue."
The goal of the corner in all of this is to keep the fighter as safe and healthy as possible so that they can fight another day, something that is not lost of Kizer, "While we do appreciate cornermen wanting to stop the fight, we want them to do it in a safe way, and that's why the towel thing is in the rules."
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