The month of August has not been kind to Rousimar Palhares.
The 35-year-old welterweight was stripped of his World Series of Fighting title and placed on indefinite suspension just days after his controversial victory over Jake Shields at WSOF 22. Two weeks later, the Nevada Athletic Commission doubled down on WSOF's suspension with a temporary ban of their own.
Palhares now awaits a formal disciplinary hearing with the commission, and considering the Brazilian's past indiscretions, a likelihood exists that he could face significant sanctions for his foul-laden performance against Shields.
"Listen, Palhares did it to himself. He did it to himself and he keeps doing it to himself," WSOF executive vice president Ali Abdel-Aziz said Monday on The MMA Hour. "For him, I don't think he should think about fighting anymore. He should think about his well-being. He should think about his mental state. The guy needs some help. I don't know what kind of help he needs, but he needs some serious help."
Palhares remains one of the most puzzling enigmas in the game, a supremely talented grappler who just can't seem to get out of his own way. His third-round kimura of Shields was brilliant, but wound up overshadowed by a litany of egregious fouls, as Palhares not only cranked on the fight-ending submission for several ticks after Shields tapped, but also gouged Shields' eyes throughout the bout's second round.
The fouls were just the latest in a systemic pattern of incidents that have followed Palhares throughout his fighting and grappling career. "Toquinho" drew a suspension in 2010 for a similar late crank on Tomasz Drwal, then lost his job in the UFC for an even worse instance against Mike Pierce. Palhares also tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone in 2012, and of his other two WSOF fights, both ended in minor controversy due to questionable cranks.
"I put my neck out there and I got smashed because I'm the one who signed him, and he did not make me proud," Abdel-Aziz said. "His management team, they've got to get together and they've got to be like, ‘listen, how are we going to fix this man's life.' I'm not even worried about him even fighting in World Series of Fighting again. He might never fight again. I want to see this human being do well in life, because he needs to fix something. I don't know what it is, he's a great guy, I really like him a lot, but he's got to fix something in his life.
"There's just something wrong there. We all know it, but I'm not a doctor. It's not my job to kind of figure out what's wrong with the guy. My job is to promote. I'm a promoter, I put on fights. But if I was on his team and I managed him or cared about him, I would take a completely different route with him."
While many lauded WSOF's decision to suspend Palhares, the fighter's manager Alex Davis was outraged by the actions, which he called "legally wrong." He also criticized WSOF officials for announcing the suspension without first consulting Davis himself, although Abdel-Aziz brushes off those accusations.
"Whatever Alex Davis said is bulls**t, because we talked to them," Abdel-Aziz said. "I talked to ‘Minotauro' (Nogueira). I don't care about Alex Davis, I talked to ‘Minotauro,' his coach, and this is the reason why we signed him. I didn't sign him because of Alex Davis. And Alex Davis should be like, ‘you know what, I understand, let's get some help for this kid and move on.' He can't be f**king complaining. He should be issuing an apology to Jake Shields and his team.
"I have nothing against Alex, but the whole thing is Alex should not be unhappy because you know what, when nobody wanted to give Palhares a home, I did. And I put my neck on the line for him. But Alex, he's got to do what he's got to do. But we did what we have to do, and everybody agreed with us what we did. And the whole thing is right now, it's the commission who's going to make the decision what's going to happen. I can say whatever I want about Palhares, the commission is going to come up with a verdict and we're going to go with it."
The situation itself is a bizarre and unfortunate one, as Palhares is unquestionably one of the best welterweights in the world. Since dropping down to 170, he's rattled off four straight submission wins, three of which were finished in under 90 seconds. He also became the first man in over 40 fights to submit Shields with his latest technical masterpiece.
So while Abdel-Aziz isn't yet sure how the future will play out, he holds out hope that Palhares can somehow redeem himself if he can eventually get to the root of his issues.
"If he goes there and gets some help and comes back, and says ‘listen, I'm healthy,' we're also going to put him through a lot of tests and we're probably going to send somebody to watch him train -- there's going to be a whole bunch of stuff," Abdel-Aziz said.
"I don't know what I'm going to do. Because right now I don't think Palhares deserves to go inside the cage. It's nothing personal, but I can't have a guy going in there trying to hurt people. This is martial arts and we are martial artists. Me and Ray are martial artists, this is what we do everyday. But it's unacceptable what he did."