For a fight on the prelims of a television card lost in between the two biggest UFC events of the year, Scott Jorgensen vs. Alejandro Perez elicited quite a bit of discussion.
Jorgensen, a hard-nosed veteran, injured his left leg at the very end of the first round. He then proceeded to limp and hop through almost the entirety of the second before his leg gave way during a kick attempt and he tapped out to end the bout.
It was painful to watch -- and obviously more painful for Jorgensen to participate in -- but should the fight have been stopped? Referee Gary Copeland and Jorgensen's corner were hit with blame from fans and media. But Jorgensen is adamant that he wanted the bout to continue until he decided himself that he was done.
According to referee John McCarthy, the godfather of MMA officials, Jorgensen is incorrect on his first point. While the physical act of throwing in a towel is outlawed in some states like Nevada, Jorgensen's corner "absolutely" had the ability to stop the fight in light of the injury, McCarthy said.
The unified rules of MMA had a ban on the act of throwing in a towel up until 2010, but some states still employ the towel outlawing, McCarthy said. However, that does not mean a corner has not always had the ability to stop a fight in any state.
"You can stop the fight anyway," McCarthy said. "It's stupid."
The proper procedure for a corner person in some states is to alert the commission inspector in the corner, tell him or her that you want the fight to end and then the inspector will jump up on the apron to alert the referee. At that point, the referee will wave off the bout.
The fight between Jorgensen and Perez at UFC Fight Night: Magny vs. Gastelum was in Mexico, which does not have a commission. The UFC regulates itself in such cases and uses the unified rules of MMA. So, Jorgensen's cornermen definitely could have thrown in the towel if they wanted the fight to be stopped, per McCarthy, who also worked the event as a referee.
Jorgensen told MMA Fighting in a text message that someone from "the commission" told him and his corner people after the fight that they wouldn't have been able to stop the bout if they wanted to (which they did not anyway). Grudge Training Center coach Trevor Wittman had a similar claim in June when he attempted to stop his fighter Nate Marquardt's bout against Kelvin Gastelum. Wittman said inspectors on hand in Mexico told him only the doctor or referee could stop the fight.
Whoever was passing along that information was wrong, according to the unified rules of MMA, which has always had a provision allowing a corner to stop a bout, McCarthy said.
Copeland also came under fire for letting the fight go on when it was clear Jorgensen could not defend himself properly. McCarthy calls the situation a "gray area" and empathizes with Copeland being in a tough spot.
"He didn't want to end the fight on the fighter, because the guy wants to continue to fight," McCarthy said. "But he knows he's got a problem and he wants to protect him."
What Copeland could have -- and should have done -- is paused the fight and brought Jorgensen over to consult with a doctor, according to the man who started his refereeing career at UFC 2.
"Take him over to a ringside physician and say, 'I want you to tell me that his foot is OK for him to continue on in this fight in a fashion that he is not going to bring injury to himself,'" McCarthy said. "And the ringside physician is going to say, 'No, he's got a problem, because his foot is flopping.' They're not going to able to say exactly what it is, but if they move his foot, Scott is going to go 'ugh!' And guess what's going to happen? The fight is going to stop."
Jorgensen, as illustrated by his tweet, clearly and nobly wanted to fight on. And there is a section of fans who believe that if a fighter wants to stay in there, he should be allowed to do just that.
Not so, says "Big John."
"This is not life or death," McCarthy said. "For some fans, it is. And they look at it like that. 'Oh, if he wants to continue on, let him continue on.' No. You do not let him continue on, because he can't fight at a level that he is normally capable of in protecting himself. You can't do that, the fight is going to end up being called. But I'm going to go through a procedure. I'm not going to just sit there and take the fight away."