To those who don't know better, it must seem painfully ironic. You can sucker punch an opposing player in baseball, and the worst you'll get is a brief suspension. You can do it in hockey and all is forgiven within a few minutes.
But if you do it in MMA, a sport where punching other people in the face is a major part of the job description, it will get you fired.
We may not have known this until Paul Daley
walked up to Josh Koscheck
well after their bout at UFC 113
was officially over and smacked him with a left hook
, but we certainly should have assumed. Especially when we consider the kind of mood Dana White
's been in lately.
"He's done," the UFC president said of Daley
, who was fired before he could even get to the post-fight press conference. "I don't care if he's the best 170-pounder in the world, he'll never fight in the UFC again."
No five-game suspension. No five-minute penalty. We're talking scorched earth here. We're talking Old Testament-style retribution. Banned for life from the top organization in the sport, and rightly so.
When you think about it, MMA fighters deserve the least leeway when it comes to a post-competition cheap shot like Daley's. We can all understand why a soccer player might get frustrated after ninety minutes of jersey grabbing and shin-kicking. If he loses his cool and swats an opposing player, some little part of us feels elated that he finally did it.
But a pro fighter? There's no other job in the world where you get that many opportunities to punch your rival during regular business hours. Daley had a full fifteen minutes to express his feelings through violence. The fact that he chose to unload almost ten seconds after the final horn tells us that it wasn't so much the chance to hit Koscheck that he was after – it was the chance to hit him without being hit back.
That's the real reason Daley's actions were so reprehensible. He'd just spent three rounds trying to lay hands on Koscheck. For the most part, he failed. He couldn't stay upright and off his back long enough to do what he wanted to do, so instead he waited until Koscheck turned his back. That's the worst kind of cowardly malice. It's something that an organization like the UFC can't tolerate even just a little bit.
Of course, because he simply can't ever allow himself to become a sympathetic character, Koscheck responded a few minutes later by verbally berating the Montreal crowd, insulting their holiest institution (the Habs) and vowing to beat their most revered MMA hero (Georges St. Pierre
), before then paradoxically inviting everyone to come hang out at his after-party.
This, in combination with what seemed on the replay like a brilliant acting job after an attempted illegal knee from Daley, solidifies Koscheck's position as one of the UFC's most despised heels. Even when he's been legitimately and inarguably wronged, it's still almost impossible to support the guy.
Afterwards, Koscheck said that he may have baited Daley with some verbal taunting late in the fight, but suggested that it probably wasn't anything he'd lose any sleep over. On that point, it's hard to blame him.
Daley spent weeks before the fight calling Koscheck everything but the rightful King of England. Then they both got their allotted and agreed upon block of time to do something about their mutual dislike. It was Koscheck who made the better use of that time, and for that Daley has only himself to blame.
Maybe he didn't care for Koscheck's fighting style, and maybe he didn't like what Koscheck was whispering in his ear as the final seconds ticked away. But Daley can't ever say that he wasn't given plenty of chances to respond within the confines of the rules.
He couldn't do it, so he decided to try for a cheap shot instead. He reminded us why fighting outside the confines of sport is usually so ugly and mean. He resorted to a garden variety sucker punch, and even that was mostly blocked.
It's a shame, too. Since that was the last punch Daley will probably ever get to throw in the UFC, he really should have made sure it was a good one.