Though he doesn’t know the full extent of his leg injuries -- or if his knee and ankle are even seriously hurt -- Mike Pierce is harboring some resentment towards Rousimar Palhares. Piece was submitted at UFC Fight Night 29 in Brazil just 31 seconds into the fight, when Palhares caught him with a leglock.
That part stings for the welterweight, who had won four fights in a row and was looking to make a statement. It was the ensuing few seconds, though, that were embroiled with controversy.
Pierce tapped immediately when he felt the pressure of the lock, yet Palhares didn’t let up. In fact, even as the referee came into get Palhares to release the hold, it gave it a final crank. On Friday, just two days after the event, the UFC told ESPN that they were letting Palhares go for his "unsportsmanlike conduct." Palhares was also a repeat offender. In 2010, at UFC 111 in Newark, Palhares was suspended 90 days by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board when he held a leglock for an extended period of time while Tomasz Drwal tapped out.
Pierce, who has an MRI scheduled for Tuesday morning, appeared on the Monday edition of the MMA Hour to discuss his thoughts on the loss and the aftermath.
"I felt it pop a couple of times, once in my ankle, and once in my knee, but the MRI is going to be the determining factor," Pierce told Ariel Helwani. "I felt it [pop] after the ref was already on top of us and I was tapping the ref. So it was long after the fact."
Though Pierce (9-4 in the UFC) said he hasn’t required the use of crutches and has been able to put his pressure on the knee and ankle, he also said he wasn’t 100 percent sure if there was real damage done.
The one thing he was clear on was that he thought Palhares was way out of bounds.
"I think it’s pretty clear, from almost everybody looking at it honestly, that he held onto it for too long," he said. "I have no problem submitting if I’m caught and there’s the potential of serious danger -- that’s why I tapped to begin with, because I was caught and I wasn’t getting out of it. But to hold onto it to the extent that he did, there was no need for it. It was unnecessary. I was already giving up at that point, I knew I’d been caught."
Since being released from the UFC, Palhares put out a videotape when he explained his actions. Though he pleaded with Dana White and talked about his passion for the sport, it didn’t feel like much of an apology to many who watched it. As for Pierce, he hasn’t watched the Palhares tape, and nor does he intend to.
When asked if he thought that Palhares might have a psychological issue, where he just zones out and doesn’t feel the taps, Pierce said that’s none of his concern.
"I don’t know," he said. "I’m not a psychologist, and nor do I really care. The fact the matter is it’s been a chronic problem for a long time and he didn’t let it go, so he needs to address the problem one way or another."
Pierce had half-suspected there could be issues ahead of the Palhares fight, when he said, "He’ll do anything to win, because he’s either desperate or an a--hole. I’m not too concerned about that. I come in expecting him to be mean, try to be a bully, try to cheat. I have to deal with it."
Now that some version of that came into fruition, Pierce said he got what he expected.
"It’s been an ongoing problem with him for a long time," he said. "He got nailed for this in the UFC a couple of fights back. And even before the UFC there were problems with that in jiu-jitsu tournaments -- and for Murilo Bustamante to come out and say it was a problem at American Top Team, there’s obviously a history of this guy holding onto leglocks and heel hooks much longer than he needed to. Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, it didn’t really matter."
As to whether Pierce agrees with the UFC’s decision to cut Palhares after this latest incident, Pierce said he felt the UFC was vindicated.
"That’s totally up to Dana [White], but I think the right decision, and the commission made the right decision. Like I said, this guy’s hurting people unnecessarily. I understand that people get hurt, and that that’s part of the sport, so it’s going to happen. But to do what he did was very unsportsmanlike and pretty much goes against all code of conduct that the UFC puts on us athletes."