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Rousimar Palhares: 'I am not a dirty fighter'

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LAS VEGAS -- Rousimar Palhares believes all the controversy over his World Series of Fighting 22 win against Jake Shields is much ado about nothing.

Palhares defeated Shields to retain his WSOF welterweight title on Saturday night, but his divisive tactics drew the ire of both Shields and promotion officials. The biggest point of contention was a series of eye gouges that seemed to swing the fight midway through the bout's second round. Shields had dominated Palhares up to that point and had the champion mounted, but lost via submission in the ensuing round.

Shields was ultimately transported to the hospital with complaints of blurred vision, and Shields' manager, Tareq Azim, posted a picture Sunday morning of the grim damage he claimed was from the eyepokes. For his part, Shields didn't mince his words, dismissing Palhares' tactics as "absolutely blatant cheating" and calling the Brazilian a "dirty, dirty, fighter" in a furious post-fight rant.

Palhares, however, denied any intentional wrongdoing.

"I just protected myself," Palhares told through a translator. "He put his head on my nose. I just put my hand there to protect myself. I did not put my fingers in his eyes. You can see it at the time."

Palhares also denied accusations that he deliberately cranked on his fight-winning kimura in the moments after Shields submitted.

"I did not hold his arm (after the tap)," Palhares said. "The [referee] said to me before the fight, ‘just go out there, if I put my hand on you, stop.' And when he put his hand on me, I stopped. I stopped. Sometimes in the fight, it's hard, it's difficult to feel something. When it felt it, I [stopped]."

While Palhares may continue to proclaim his innocence, WSOF officials do not agree. Vice president and matchmaker Ali Abdel-Aziz announced over the weekend that both of Shields' complaints were valid and the promotion intends to make an announcement regarding Palhares' future on Tuesday.

Abdel-Aziz previously floated the possibility of stripping Palhares of his WSOF welterweight title and suspending him for his actions, largely because of Palhares' lengthy rap sheet of past transgressions.

"I like Palhares, I think he's a nice guy, but I think he has problems," Abdel-Aziz said on Saturday night. "I think he has problems, and we had an amazing event, and he didn't have to hold (the submission late). He didn't have to hold at all because he won, he tapped him. Let him go. Let the guy go."

Palhares, 35, is one of the most talented submission artists in his division, but his repeated issues have tarnished his reputation to the point where his future among the top-tier of the sport may very well be in jeopardy.

His refusal to release submissions was the exact thing that caused him to be exiled from the UFC, and that troubling pattern has again come under fire in WSOF. That, in addition to the eye gouges, prompted Azim to call for Palhares to be banned from professional MMA competition, pointing to WSOF 22 as what he believed should be the final straw.

As he has done in the past, though, Palhares insisted the situation with Shields was nothing more than a misunderstanding.

"I'm so sad, because I'm not a dirty fighter," Palhares said. "I just had good position, you know? And sometimes the fight is difficult. If you see the fight, I won in the striking with Jake Shields, I put a lot of hands on him, and I put him in (bad) positions. So when guys say that I'm dirty, I'm so sad about that."

MMA Hour: Jake Shields talked about how dirty Rousimar Palhares was before their fight