As fans of combat sports, we acknowledge that injuries—sometimes serious ones—are a part of the brand of entertainment we choose to indulge in.
To a greater degree, fighters make the same agreement with themselves.
As a matter of fact, many of us have probably had a moment or two where we wondered why we even like such brutality.
The answer may vary depending on the person. Whenever we sit down to watch a UFC event, or boxing fight card, we never know if this telecast is going to contain one of those awful moments where a guy or girl gets seriously injured—maybe even killed.
Mike Pantangco took matters in his own hands and decided he wasn't going to be a part of the next potentially tragic moment in combat sports.
Unless you're aware of the story, you're probably saying: Who's Mike Pantangco? He's an amateur Filipino fighter who competes in the Michigan-based Prison City Fight League. Recently, Pantangco was competing against an overmatched opponent named Jeremy Rasner.
Pantangco was giving Rasner the business with a variety of muay thai strikes and seemed to be headed for an easy win via stoppage or a bloody-decision victory.
Instead of going through the motions of beating his opponent down, Pantangco kneeled and tapped out to surrender the victory to Rasner.
Here's a look at the video, per AXS TV on YouTube. The video also contains a brief interview segment with Pantangco explaining his actions.
In every way, Pantangco's actions were compassionate. Seeing the humanity in the situation clearly demonstrates that Pantangco values human life and well-being more than an amateur victory.
But what about a professional one?
Pantangco says in the video: "We don’t get paid, and I know that the only (way) I’m going to finish the fight is him to go in the hospital or get hurt."
This would lead you to believe that if this were a professional bout, perhaps taking place in the World Series of Fighting, Bellator or even the UFC, Pantangco would have felt more licensed to finish his demolition of Rasner.
Even Bas Rutten, MMA legend and one of the hosts of Inside MMA, jokingly—but genuinely—offers: "We'll see if he does that in a bout when he's making a lot of money."
So while Pantangco was nice to show his opponent mercy, his actions create a bit of a paradox. Is sportsmanship and mercy only cool when no money is involved?
Some fans were very critical of Pantangco on Inside MMA's Facebook page, and the fighter offered this response:
I am sorry for all you guys (who) think I did him wrong or disrespect him … But guys, we’re ammy fighters. We don’t get paid...and if I would keep going I would’ve hurt him more, and maybe get in serious injuries, and maybe that makes him stop doing what he loves to do...(or) maybe he becomes one of the best fighters alive. Who knows? Just think about it guys. … I don’t care if my ammy record has one loss. Big deal? I know what I did, and enough is enough.
Fighting is a brutal game, there's no two ways around it. It's what you agree to participate in when you step in the gym, the cage or sit down on the sofa and turn on a fight card.
When people in any of those realms injects their own unstructured morality into the game, they are not wrong, but they are certainly out of place.
It's almost like coming to a friend's house with the understanding that you and a group of others are there to bad-mouth another guy or girl who isn't present. Suddenly you get hit with a bit of righteousness and decide you're going to tell everyone, "enough is enough."
Your message is almost certainly the right one, but everyone in the room is probably looking at you wondering why you're there. You knew what this was.
Essentially, didn't Pantangco know what he was getting into as well?
On a much larger scale, there's a current UFC fighter who may be dealing with the same type of conundrum Pantangco faced—and he is getting paid.
Uriah Hall is one of the most physically gifted athletes you'll ever see in MMA. He's explosive and dangerous with his strikes. As a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 17, Hall strung together a pair of highlight-reel and vicious finishes.
Check out one of them here.
After each devastating finish, Hall seemed more remorseful about his brutality than he was happy to have won. Toward the end of the tournament and in the finale, he didn't seem to have the same killer instinct.
“I love Uriah Hall. I have a great relationship with this kid. He’s one of the nicest human beings you’ll ever meet. He’s not a fighter, man.”
It seems clear, Hall doesn't enjoy hurting people. As bad as it sounds, don't you have to if you're going to succeed in this—or any other combat sport?
Pantangco may have his moral priorities in some order. Perhaps he has a viciousness meter by which he abides, and it's programmed to exceed certain levels when the money is right—or present.
However, morality isn't supposed to have a price tag. Either you're a fighter or you're not.
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