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Thursday, January 25, 2007
Mixed Martial Arts--- UFC Handles Brutal Knockout Poorly
by Ivan Trembow

The UFC showed a lack of class in its handling of the brutal knockout of Sean Salmon on the UFC Fight Night card on Thursday night, just as was the case when Tra Telligman and Terry Martin when they were both unconscious for an extended period of time after being knocked out in separate UFC bouts in 2005.

If you didn't see it, Salmon was knocked out cold by a high kick from Rashad Evans in the main event of the UFC Fight Night broadcast on Spike TV. He was unconscious for several minutes, and the UFC never acknowledged or updated viewers on his condition. (UPDATE: We now know, not from the UFC but from the web site of one of Salmon's sponsors, that Salmon is scheduled to be released from the hospital later tonight and thankfully it looks like he's going to be okay.)

As was the case with Telligman and Martin, there was no on-air acknowledgement by the UFC that Salmon was unconscious for a significant period of time, nor were there any general updates on his condition. In fact, the commentators were still yelling about what a "beautiful knockout" it was 30 seconds after it happened, when Salmon was still completely limp and it was clear that there was a potentially serious situation unfolding.

After the event, numerous people on message boards were asking questions like, "Is he okay?" and even, "Is he dead?" You literally would not know from the UFC broadcast itself whether Salmon was dead or alive when the show went off the air, which left a lot of people wondering about his condition.

Name any other sport where someone has a potentially serious injury and the response is to not acknowledge it or update the viewers on the injury.

It would be the equivalent of an NFL player going down from a big hit and not moving for several minutes, and the camera on the television broadcast cuts to a crowd shot or commercial break, and then the injured NFL player is never acknowledged again during the broadcast.

That’s exactly what happened in the UFC when Telligman and Martin were knocked out (and in both of those cases, they had hours to offer any kind of update or acknowledgement to the PPV viewers), and that’s exactly what happened tonight. It was classless and it’s not something that you’re going to see in other sports.

If you're the UFC, you don’t have to say, “He’s okay!” You don’t have to put the camera on him non-stop and “play up the spectacle” of it. That’s not what I was suggesting at all. What I was suggesting is that they acknowledge the fact that someone is unconscious and that the fighters’ safety is the most important thing, and that whether Sean Salmon ends up being okay or not is ultimately more important than the fact that Rashad Evans just scored a highlight reel KO. It would take maybe two sentences and it would make a world of difference in terms of the image that the UFC is portraying.

In Salmon's case, there may not have been enough time to update viewers on his condition in the few minutes before they went off the air. The UFC would deserve and would receive the benefit of the doubt in this situation if it weren't for their previous actions when Tra Telligman was unconscious for an extended period of time due to a Tim Sylvia high kick, or when Terry Martin was unconscious for an extended period of time due to a flying knee from James Irvin. In Telligman’s case, they even kept going with the post-fight interview without skipping a beat as Telligman was in a neck immobilizer and being taken out of the cage on a stretcher in the background of the camera shot.

Again, even if there was literally no new information to give before they went off the air, they could read two sentences about how fighter safety is the most important thing in the UFC, and that there is a great team of doctors helping Salmon right now, and that there will be updates on the UFC web site later tonight as they learn more about his condition. (Yes, that would have been a plug for their web site, but when it’s a legitimate news story, it’s no different than ABC News saying, “We’ll have more on this developing story throughout the night on our web site.")

That would have been the decent thing to do. It wouldn't be "shining a light on the negative aspects of the sport," because the fact is that viewers could see with their own eyes, whether the UFC acknowledged it or not, that there was a team of doctors in the background trying to help a fighter who was still not moving. All the lack of acknowledgment did was make the UFC look bad for not acknowledging it.

A brutal knockout, in and of itself, does not make the sport of mixed martial arts "look bad." Brutal knockouts are going to happen in any combat sport, though MMA has a far better safety record than boxing. Serious injuries like those that could have been suffered by Salmon are going to happen in any contact sport, though MMA has a far better safety record than football. What makes the sport of MMA look bad is when a fighter has been knocked unconscious for several minutes and the promotion in three separate cases doesn't even acknowledge the unconscious fighters' condition.

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