In less than two weeks, Rousimar Palhares has become a divisive figure in world of MMA. He was cut and banned by the UFC for holding a submission too long on Mike Pierce at UFC Fight Night 29 in Brazil on Oct. 9, which prompted plenty -- including the Nogueira brothers, who train with him -- to come to his defense.
Others, like UFC president Dana White, have made it clear that there is no room for repeat offenders. Palhares was suspended back in 2010 for 90 days for holding a similar lock on Tomasz Drwal at UFC 111, and has had other issues with sportsmanship in jiu-jitsu competitions.
On Monday, "Toquinho" spoke publicly for the first time since the fight on The MMA Hour, and made it clear that he didn’t think he was in violation of the rules until he watched the fight later on.
"I did not want to hurt him," Palhares said through his manager/interpreter, Alex Davis. "In the heat of the fight, I didn’t feel him tap. Afterwards, when I watched the fight, I’d realized that I’d held on too long. But I really didn’t mean to hurt him, you know? He’s a fighter like I am, and I know that he does this for a living, and I’d never want to hurt him."
Though Palhares did apologize to Pierce and Dana White later on, particularly when it was brought up that Pierce had a sprained MCL and torn ankle tendons, he also tried to explain his defiance on holding submissions beyond the threshold of what’s right. He made it clear he was sorry for the result, but as for the action itself, he segued into reasons and justifications.
"I think it has a lot to do with my style," he said. "I’m really aggressive when I go after the submissions, and there’s been times also when I’ve not held on and people have gotten out of it, and I end up losing the fight. So, it’s kind of the way I fight, but I’ve been getting better, and working a lot on this. But it’s just the way I fight, it’s my style.
White has said that Palhares wouldn’t be welcomed back to the UFC, a closed door proposition that the 33-year old Palhares hopes was also made in the heat of the moment.
"I don’t know, I think time will tell," he said about the possibility of one day returning. "I’m going to continue fighting, and I’ll do my best. I want to be the best in the world, and the UFC is where the best in the world are. And time will tell. I will keep on doing it and getting better and let’s see what happens."
Though Bellator has gone on record saying that it is not interested in bringing in "Toquinho," Davis said that there has been interest from other promotions to sign Palhares, yet that right now nothing has been signed or finalized. Palhares had an 8-4 run in the UFC and at one time was nearing contention in the middleweight division, but the asterisks piled up on his name. Not only did he have the incidents for holding submissions too long, but he was popped for elevated testosterone following his 2012 fight with Hector Lombard, which landed him a nine-month suspension.
Asked outright if he regretted how he handled the end of the Pierce fight in his welterweight debut, Palhares said, "No, I wanted to win by submission." When clarified to mean the particular infraction, not the submission itself, he changed his tune.
"Yes, that part I need to apologize to Mike Pierce and to Dana White," he said. "I was so focused on the fight, I didn’t feel it. I only saw that afterwards."