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Gavin Tucker comes to defense of UFC 215 referee: ‘He should sleep easy’

After receiving a hellacious beating at UFC 215, featherweight Gavin Tucker has no ill will toward the ref who let the fight keep going.

UFC 215: Nunes v Shevchenko 2 Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Mixed martial arts has a problem, and it’s one that’s very much self-created. In early years of the sport – when a large section of competitors had little-to-no idea what they were getting into – quick stoppages, tapping to strikes, and throwing in the towel were all reasonably common. Over time, however – as athletes have become better trained and more diverse in their skills – MMA has adopted an ‘anything can happen at any time’ philosophy.

Bouts are relatively short, rounds are relatively long; let the fight play out to its end.

In gravitating to that position, the sport has removed a whole series of checks and balances designed to protect fighter safety. Coaches believe they’re robbing their athletes of the chance for a comeback if they throw in the towel. Referees view every glimmer of defensive movement, every desperately wild arm-punch, as a sign that a fighter is still in it. Ringside doctors, as always, will try to be anything other than the reason a bout gets stopped.

The end result is a sport where no one is really ready to pull the trigger quickly when things go south for one of the fighters involved. The latest example? UFC 215’s Gavin Tucker.

Tucker took on longtime veteran Rick Glenn in the Fox Sports prelims of last weekend’s UFC card. Despite starting the bout like a house on fire, he quickly exhausted himself, getting dropped late in round 1 by a left hand. By the time round 2 was over, Tucker was completely spent and had already been out-struck 75 to 36.

But, Tucker’s corner told him the bout was 1-1, urged him to keep going. The ref, despite Tucker’s obviously exhausted state and the punishment he’d already absorbed, started round 3. When the final bell sounded, Glenn had landed 184 strikes, 142 of them significant. Over the last two rounds, Tucker landed all of 17, only 6 significant. He ended up with four broken bones in his face, including both orbitals and a broken jaw.

Despite the punishment, however, Tucker urged fans not to hold the referee responsible. Instead, in a post on Facebook, he applauded the decision to ‘let me go out on my shield.’

In victory say little. In defeat ....less.

ill keep it short and sweet. i lost on Saturday. stop blaming the ref for a bad call. that man let me go out on my shield. he visited while i was in the hospital and apologized. was him and i in that cage. I didnt stop fighting. he saw that. he should sleep easy.

I have four broken bones in my face. the first which started on the jaw in rd 1 and the fight went down for me from there. i have 2 fractured orbital and another vertical fracture in the jaw according to the x ray/CT scan. the heartbreak of losing hurts much worse. throughout the day i wiped alot of blood off my cheek and i can't say for sure there weren't some tears in there. I fought w blurred vision and 3 different Rick Glenns kicked the fuck out of me for the last two rds. (i tried to hit the one in the middle) congrats to my opponent. i hope you go far because i plan on seeing you again.

I fought my heart out. I'm a rare breed of straight savage and i don't need social media to tell me that. however...i am appreciative of all the support i received on here. which is why I'm writing this. I have no excuses and won't stand for anyone making them for me. that's not how the north folk get it done.

I have a great Family. a great team. and the greatest women. ill be twice the man for this.

thats it..... Tucker 2.0 is on the way

Eventually, it’s difficult not to see Tucker’s sentiments as a core example of why referees and corners need to be more cautious. Many fighters, given the chance, would go to the edge of death rather than have their bout waved off. They’re the people least likely to make it clear when a fight has become truly dangerous for them. If referees and corners won’t do that job, it’s likely that no one will.