After submitting Mike Pierce with an inverted heel hook just 31 seconds into their match Wednesday at UFC Fight Night 29 in Barueri, Brazil, Rousimar Palhares vowed he would donate the potential $50,000 Submission of the Night bonus he might receive to Doctors Without Borders.
On the surface, it seemed like a great gesture. What it was, though, was really a case of Palhares trying to cover his butt and save his job.
Doctors Without Borders is an incredibly worthy charity that won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. It aids persons in need in countries overrun by violence, medical epidemics, malnutrition and natural disasters, among other things.
Palhares' vow was hollow, though. As he has done frequently in the past, Palhares refused to let go of the submission when Pierce tapped, not only physically but verbally. Referee Keith Peterson physically intervened and desperately tried to pry Palhares' legs apart before Palhares released the hold.
UFC president Dana White, watching on television in Las Vegas, was outraged, and ordered that Palhares not be given a Submission of the Night bonus because of unsportsmanlike conduct. Prompted via text message by Yahoo Sports for comment, White wrote, "He's in trouble," and "I'm disgusted by that [expletive]!"
Palhares took to Twitter after the outrage online and wrote, "I never meant to hurt anyone, as a jiu-jitsu fighter I always seek for the submission, but I would never be evil to any athlete."
His manager, Alex Davis, defended Palhares later. He told MMA Junkie on Thursday that Palhares did not maintain the hold in an attempt to intentionally hurt Pierce.
We have talked about it at length. The one thing I can certify is that Rousimar does not hold on to a sub out of malice. It's unconscious, a mix of adrenaline and years of being conditioned to not let go.
But Palhares was suspended for 90 days by New Jersey following UFC 111 in 2010 for not releasing a submission on Tomasz Drwal. He has also done similar in jiu-jitsu competitions.
Davis told MMA Junkie that Palhares has adjusted his submissions in training and could do so in fights, too, given time.
I can attest to the fact that Rousimar is a very simple, humble and well-meaning person. This is not malice but instinct, nature of the beast.
That said, we need to keep on working on it. Rousimar used to hurt people in training, but he has become very controlled now. Now we need to work on the fights, work on keeping him conscious rather than just automatic.
But Davis' words are essentially an admission of Palhares' guilt. Would it be acceptable if, out of instinct, a fighter continued to punch a knocked out opponent after the referee stopped the bout? Clearly not. It's the type of action that can't be tolerated, and with a repeat offender, the punishment must be much harsher than the withholding of a bonus check.
The UFC has no choice but to cut Palhares, despite the clear evidence that he could become a major player at 170 pounds. He has incredible submission skills and by dropping to welterweight from middleweight, would likely have a strength advantage over many of those he fights.
But the UFC can not tolerate such behavior. White cut Paul Daley on the spot for throwing a punch at Josh Koscheck after their bout at UFC 113 ended in 2010. He still has not allowed Daley back. Daley's act, while reprehensible, was clearly done out of frustration.
The same can't be said for Palhares. The UFC can't allow fighters to pull such maneuvers, particularly with a very dangerous submission like the heel hook, and then simply walk away to fight another day.
The UFC should cut Palhares to send a very clear, loud message that it demands its fighters to respect one another and that they must release a submission as soon as possible upon the end of the bout.
If Palhares isn't dealt with harshly, it could happen again, and the results could be worse. Pierce appears to be all right, though he will be taken for a precautionary MRI.
No fighter will try that if he or she thinks it will cost him or her their job.
The UFC needs to act decisively on this one.