After Cain Velasquez defeated Junior Dos Santos, UFC President Dana White said at the post-fight press conference, “That fight should have been stopped in the third round.” That single comment sparked a larger debate within the MMA community regarding fighter safety: Should we reevaluate how we decide to stop fights? When should a fighter’s corner throw in the towel?
Currently, a fighter’s corner throwing in the towel is considered a foul. In a recent interview with BloodyElbow.com, Nevada State Athletic Commission Athletic Director Keith Kizer explained why.
“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.”
As ridiculous as that sounds, that’s the official reason that Kizer gives for making throwing in the towel to save a fighter from further unnecessary punishment a foul. Kizer also added a second reason.
If a fan were to throw a towel in to the cage as a prank, it would cause lots of confusion and effectively ruin the fight.
Kizer maintains that these rules are in place for good reason. He also said that there is a procedure for a fighter’s corner if they want to stop 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.”
If a cornerman ever loses his wits and decides to throw in the towel anyways, he will most probably just receive counseling from the NSAC as a punishment. However, if the towel throwing incident causes some sort of injury to either of the fighters, the punishment could be much worse.
“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.”
Kizer emphasized that he’s not against fights being stopped, he just believes they should be stopped in an appropriate manner: causing the least amount of confusion, and in the safest way possible.
“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.”