Rousimar Palhares cannot grasp the nature of his release from the world's premiere fighting organization.
Less than 24 hours after his crushing submission win over Mike Pierce at UFC Fight Night 29, Palhares received the news from his manager, Alex Davis, that he had stepped into the Octagon for the last time.
Palhares, who has flashed unsportsmanlike conduct as a grappler and as a mixed martial artist in the past, held on to his submission against Pierce well after the referee intervened, leading the UFC to cut him from their roster.
This decision did not resonate well with Palhares, who was "very sad," according to Davis (h/t MMAfighting.com).
"He's perplexed," Davis said. "He doesn't really grasp it. He doesn't really understand that he's doing something overly wrong. He doesn't get it."
These sentiments align with a recent post on Reddit's Brazilian jiu-jitsu subreddit, where many users who had trained with Palhares offered their opinions. This firsthand experience helps to shed light on Palhares' personality, and many echoed Davis' claims.
One commenter said that he and a friend had determined, after evaluating his upbringing and his life, that Palhares "doesn't realize the severity of his actions."
Another said that he found Palhares to be "one of the most gentle and genuine people I have ever met in my entire life."
Still, several other commenters relayed the same message found across Twitter and the MMA blogosphere during the past few days: Palhares is malicious, and he deserves to be cut.
Who is right?
The answer is everybody.
Palhares' childhood, as another Redditor explains, exposed him to a hell that most people cannot fathom. He literally fought for his life, and some of this animal-instinct fight mentality may be carried into the cage on fight night.
Which is exactly why the UFC made the right decision to cut him.
Are his actions justified? To him, maybe. Only he truly knows the demons circling in his head; only he can comprehend his feelings and his motivations as he sinks in a heel hook.
Is he thinking of the days spent fighting off attackers as a child? Is he imagining a better life, a life born through Submission of the Night bonuses and impressive performances inside the Octagon?
Only Palhares knows for sure.
What we, as spectators and as critics, know for sure is that his actions, even if they are not intentionally malicious, are malicious nonetheless. Palhares may be misunderstood as a person, but he is not misunderstood as a fighter, and that is the crucial qualifier in this situation.
Palhares puts fighters and their careers at risk through his reluctance to release submissions, and there is no place for that type of sportsmanship in MMA at any level, for any reason.
It is important to understand Palhares' personality with a bit more depth, but it is equally important to understand that these bits of information only factor into his release from the UFC so much.
Sportsmanship is a choice, and he repeatedly chooses to disregard the rules and the ethics of this sport.
For that, one must conclude that, while Palhares is perhaps misunderstood, his maliciousness—intentional or not, justifiable or not—does not belong in combat sports.
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