The Denial of Gunnar Nelson Appeal a Black Eye for UFC

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It’s not a surprise that Gunnar Nelson‘s protest of his UFC Glasgow headliner has been denied, but it is indeed an big opportunity missed for the leading MMA promotion that self regulated the event.  “We are disappointed with the UFC’s recent ruling to uphold the result of the July 16, 2017 bout between our client, Gunnar Nelson, and Santiago Ponzinibbio.” posts Paradigm Sports Management today on Facebook.

Nelson Regrets Not Stopping Fight After First Eye Poke

“We maintain that the blatant eye pokes were a major factor in the stoppage and the final eye poke was certainly a fight ending foul because Gunnar had no opportunity to signal the referee. A more stringent application of the Unified Rules of MMA should have been applied here to rule this fight a no-contest.” continues the Iceland fighter’s team.

One of the more popular photos from one of the several eye pokes

Gunni knew he was wronged immediately after the bout. “I don’t like to make excuses, but this is the truth, how I feel anyway, is I should have stopped the fight when I got poked” said Nelson in the post-fight press conference.

Although the action was fast in the cage, it became apparent after several pictures and videos showed the exchanges early that eye pokes and gouges occurred up to the stoppage, including an early one-hand double eye poke and a left eye thumb fishhook.  All these actions are illegal in the the unified rules of mixed martial arts.

While it may be hard to place the blame solely on the referee with the high-speed action, with the opportunity for the UFC to review the video over the last two months in slow motion and with several angles, the promotion can only take full responsibility for the decision based on all the evidence available.  It sends a message that although illegal actions (several in this case) take place and contribute to ultimate outcome of the fight, the results will not be overturned.  Am I missing something?

“I should have just stopped the fight, recovered my eye, and carried on from there” reflected Gunni that said he will learn from the bout. The commission for the UFC Glasgow event is the UFC itself, unlike most events will fall under the jurisdiction of a third party that would oversee such matters. For example The Nevada Athletic Commission for Las Vegas bouts or the Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission (CABMMA) in Brazil would oversee and determine any appeals.

The CABMMA has overturned a similar situation, where an illegal headbutt while going for a take-down prior to a TKO.  The reasoning for the change was “the incident did have an effect of the outcome of the fight since it was part of what ended the fight.”  If this bout took place in Brazil, it seems that things could have been different.

Now, Nelson has 82 second TKO loss on his record, which stopped a two fight winning streak and potential title shot.  The Argentinian denies any intent of eye pokes (or any eye pokes occurred at all), and for now is on a 5-fight winning streak.

“The UFC should have responded to this incident and in my opinion ruled this a no contest to show that safety and fair play are primary concerns and they will not allow eye gouging and poking of any kind at their events. It’s sad that they didn’t and this will never be a loss for Gunnar nor a win for Santiago Ponzinibbio in my eyes.” says father and manager Haraldur Nelson on Facebook.

The UFC decision is indeed more complicated than just one isolated decision here.  A no contest for the bout would set a precedent for future decisions, where the burden of the UFC, when self regulating events, would take on a whole new responsibility of oversight to insure both fighter safety and a step toward a fuller implementation of rules and regulations would be taken.  An opportunity missed indeed for the leading promotion in the world.

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