In the days leading up to UFC 149, Nick Ring was portrayed, justly in the minds of most, as a hero. Earlier in the year, the UFC middleweight had helped to stop a mugging in Calgary, a city which Ring calls home, and which played host to UFC 149. And despite that setting, following his fight with Court McGee, when Ring was declared the winner, there was more than a smattering of boos in the crowd.
Why? In the minds of those who voiced their opposition to the decision, it was a mugging of a different kind. According to FightMetric, during the course of the three-round bout, McGee had landed more than double the strikes of Ring, 146-71. He had also out-landed him in two of three rounds, and stopped all seven of Ring's takedown attempts, and for his efforts, he had nothing to show for it except the cuts and bruising on his face.
That is the nature of the sport in 2012. You might fight well, but unless the decision is absolutely clear-cut, you stand at the mercy of the judges.
But here's where the conundrum comes in for fighters. If you complain about the decision, you look like a sore loser; if you stay quiet, there's no incentive for judges to reassess what they're doing.
McGee, the season 11 winner of TUF, is electing to take the high road.
Less than 72 hours after the heartbreaking decision, McGee has replayed the fight in his head and on his television, and feels that he mostly did what he set out to do. Mostly.
While he feels he used his footwork to cut off the cage, was the aggressor for most of the fight and wore Ring down significantly by the third, he failed to finish a couple of takedown tries, he failed to capitalize on a few scramble opportunities, and more importantly, he failed to finish.
The "don't leave it in the hands of the judges" mantra is good advice, but it's not often very practical. Sometimes an opponent simply can not be put away, and on this night, Ring was one of those guys. By the end of the grueling third round, his face was bloodied and bruised, but to his credit he had refused to surrender.
For Ring, there was celebration; for McGee disappointment. But instead of ranting about how the judges got it wrong, McGee is electing to channel his frustration inward.
"I'd like to erase some of the memories but sometimes you cant," he told MMA Fighting. "Sometimes it’s a good thing you can't erase those memories because they give you a drive to come back and do better next time. That just gives me more of a desire to come out and search for a finish. If you don't leave it to the judges, they don't have nothing to say. You put them out of job. That's the answer right there."
McGee doesn't hold anything against Ring for what happened. In fact, the two are quite friendly, and have exchanged text messages with photos of their injuries after the fight.
Likewise, he has little bad to say about the judges, either. He knows he's hardly the first fighter to feel he was wronged, and he also knows there have been more lopsided fights that have left with the perceived winner shaking his head in exasperation. If there were degrees of fight robbery, this one would not warrant first-degree charges. Even so, that doesn't help make the process any less emotionally taxing.
"You just never really know what they’re looking at, what happened to them that day or what they’re going for, what the background of the judging is, or where they’re from," he said. "The judges are the one to tally all the little things. I just kind of show up to kick ass."
According to judges Peter Adamcik, Richard Bertrand and Chris Lee, Ring had done enough to win both the first and second rounds while McGee took the third.
McGee's performance was a slow build. In the first, Ring actually did out-strike him by a slim 27-25 count, but by the second, McGee had turned the tables, landing 33 strikes to Ring's 25. And the third was a blowout, with total strikes in McGee's corner by a huge 88-19 margin.
But McGee doesn't feel it was only the numbers that made an argument for him. He says that throughout the camp, he worked on aggression and cage control -- two of the scoring criteria used under MMA's Unified Rules -- and illustrated that in the octagon with his footwork in bringing the fight to Ring.
"I thought I won but I don't make the decision," he said. "I did the best I could do. I chased him down, I punched him. It's hard to sit down on my punches when a guy is backing up. You have to stick with them otherwise they get away. I just did the absolute best I could in putting it on him."
McGee says the feeling he experienced when the decision went Ring's way is indescribable, but he doesn't believe the performance is all for naught. Even though he didn't get to avenge another controversial loss to Ring while on TUF, he says he wants to pass on the message of persistence.
A few years ago, when McGee had just finished taping TUF, he was asked to do an autograph signing, and was approached for his signature by a man who requested an autograph for his grandson with an inspirational message. McGee had never before been asked for an autograph, but he came up with the words, "Always work hard, never give up on your dreams." To this day, that's how he signs all of his autographs, and it's a phrase he takes to heart.
For now, McGee will spend time healing up. While there was some speculation that he broke his nose during the fight, he says that belief is erroneous. At the same time, he jokes that since returning home, he's relaxed by spending time at doctor's appointments. In truth, he hasn't really been relaxing at all. This fight was close, and the judges didn't see it his way, so his focus is ensuring that in the future, their opinions don't matter.
"There's one thing in the back of my mind and that's to get back in the gym," he said. "To get better, come out and destroy the next person you fight. I've woken up with that feeling every morning the last few mornings. All I want to do is get back in the gym, come out and just hurt someone. I'm not going to dwell or hang my head. I'm going to get better and put on a show the next time."