If 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had been around to give Junior dos Santos a post-fight pep talk after the beating he took from Cain Velasquez, he might have said something like, "that which does not kill us makes us stronger."
The cliche may not always apply, but when a man, or woman, decides to try their hand at being a professional fighter—be it boxing, mixed martial arts, or some other permutation—for all intents and purposes, they know what they are getting themselves into. Whether or not they have enough personal clarity to know if they're biting off more than they can chew is an entirely different matter.
Fighting, as a professional sport, provides fans of caged carnage with a moral dilemma in that we are essentially, for the purposes of entertainment, rooting for the expedited destruction of our fellow man.
UFC President Dana White appears to be aware of the fine line between rooting for violence—and enjoying it—and knowing when the action inside the Octagon has gone too far.
In the post-fight presser for Velasquez vs. dos Santos III, White goes from declaring UFC 166 "the greatest fight card in UFC history"—he is probably not far off there—to making sure people know he thought the main event should have been halted in the third round.
White was not the only man who thought the one-sided affair should have been stopped in the third frame. Or, at least, he appeared to be considering it, if only for a split second.
Referee Herb Dean moved in after Velasquez had dropped dos Santos for the second time in the round and was going in for the kill. Dean looked to put his hand on the back of the champ, but pulled back and let the action continue.
Dos Santos survived. And the mugging continued for one-and-a-half rounds more than many thought it should have.
Velasquez kept up his relentless pace until dos Santos was completely exhausted in the fifth and final round. The Brazilian striker desperately attempted a choke, but Cain shrugged him off, and he dropped down to the canvas floor hunched over. Dean, finally, was forced to put an end to the action.
There was one man who actually thought the fight had been stopped before the third round. That man was dos Santos himself.
According to a report from Fighters Only, dos Santos does not remember most of the UFC 166 fight with Velasquez. Afterwards, he was under the impression that he had been knocked out in the second round. His corner believes he fought from round two onwards “on autopilot.”
If you thought that having no memory would give dos Santos some pause about getting back in there and doing it all over again, guess again. Instead, he proclaimed, "Now it’s time to go back to the gym and train, dedicate myself to come back stronger than ever and, who knows, some day dispute the championship again and be able to honor the support from everybody who believed in me.”
Perhaps Nietzsche whispered in his ear after all.
In an editorial over at Yahoo! Sports, Elias Cepeda postulates that dos Santos was failed by those who were supposed to protect him at UFC 166.
Dean is singled out by name, but Cepeda believes there are several parties at fault: "But that doesn’t mean that his corner, the ring side doctors and the referee should allow him to take damage that will undoubtedly color his health in the years to come."
Circling back to White, who also made mention of dos Santos' corner and their lack of "caring."
"If you watch that third round again when he's getting hit, his arms are [out]. He's not defending himself, he doesn't have his hands up. He's out."
"There's no need for a young, talented guy to take that kind of punishment when he's out on his feet," White said. "I was kinda hoping somebody was going to throw the towel in or the ref would come stop it, or the doctor was going to stop it. One eye was closed, and the other was cut wide open. He was hurt.
"I don't want this to come out the wrong way, but I'm a believer. I always like to say that if anybody in his [expletive] corner cares about him, please, throw in that towel. I thought the fight was done in the third round. Is Junior dos Santos tough enough and does he have the heart to go through it? Yeah, but does that mean he should?” White went on.
“If you look at the fight, it ended in the fifth. That guy took seven, eight minutes more punishment that he didn't need to take until it ended. That seven or eight minutes, I don't know man. I just, I don't like it.
Those who disagree may argue that dos Santos was still throwing hard punches throughout while intelligently defending himself to some extent. Others, like Cepeda, would counter that he appeared to be "out on his feet"...that his brain had rattled around in his skull but he was too tough and well-conditioned to actually go unconscious.
John S. Nash over at Bloody Elbow furthers the discourse on cornermen with his contribution "Throwing in the Towel on MMA Cornermen." He points out differences between cornermen in MMA and boxing and says that it is time for the cornermen of mixed martial arts to get with the program of throwing in the towel when warranted—that some men have to be protected from themselves.
The question then becomes: what if the current culture of MMA lends itself to cornermen not protecting their fighters? And what happens when things are compounded by the referee not stepping in when he or she should?
Going back to White one last time, who said post-fight, "I wanted to throw in the towel. I had Tilman Fertitta, Lorenzo and Frank’s cousin, sitting next to me (asking me) 'How does this work, can you throw in the towel?'" That’s a good f***ing question. I think if I threw the towel in, I’d get f***ing beat to death by his corner and half the fans here and probably the next time I went to Brazil."
Should White have the power to throw in the towel? If he had that power, would he actually use it? Obviously being the promoter provides a clear conflict of interest, but the point remains on whether or not someone should be able to press the eject button if the corner and referee do not? And if so, who would that be?
How many of you would have have thrown in the towel if you had been cageside, on the edge of your seat, somewhere between intoxicated by the spectacle and taken aback by the brutality?