We’ve seen scandals rip apart even the biggest professional sports, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that a recent column from Ohio mixed-martial-arts fighter Sean Salmon has sparked so much controversy.
What’s troubling, though, is that fans have confused giving up in a fight to throwing one.
First, though, some background. Salmon, a four-year pro fighter, is a longtime contributor to MMAjunkie.com (a Web site I run) and writes a column about the struggle mid-level fighters face while trying to make a living in the sport.
In his latest piece, Salmon detailed the situation. The former Ohio State University wrestler had been hired as a guest wrestling coach for the Wolfslair fight team in England. When he briefly left the team in early August to take a fight with the Ohio-based NAAFS organization, they essentially told him to come back healthy and able to train their fighters — or don’t bother coming back at all.
That stress, coupled with a recently strained marriage and personal life, eventually led Salmon (16-8) to give up when he couldn’t finish opponent Allan Weickert (6-6) in the first round.
“In the second round, he went for an arm-bar, I defended it (only to prove to myself that he couldn’t get it), and then I put my arm back in to give him the win so that I could return to England, healthy,” wrote Salmon, who detailed a trodden mental state heading into the fight. “Just so you all know, that is the most embarrassing thing that I have ever admitted out loud.”
Salmon quit, plain and simple. Self-preservation and financial well-being trumped his competitive drive. But he didn’t “throw a fight” as so many have alleged.
At any MMA event, especially amateur and small regional shows, you’ll see at least a fighter or two who simply breaks mentally. He’ll stop fighting off a submission attempt, will quit fighting and cover up, or will simply tap-out. Like Salmon, they just don’t have the heart to continue that night.
Criticize them all you want. But suggesting someone “threw a fight” — that he or she went into a contest with the intention of losing — is a whole different matter. Unfortunately, some otherwise intelligent and well-informed MMA insiders have significantly and sadly confused the two in Salmon’s case.
The outrage has already cost Salmon two future fights, and the Ohio State Athletic Commission has told him he must attend a hearing next month to discuss the situation.
Salmon may be guilty of bad judgment. Perhaps he’s open and honest to a fault. But he’s definitely not guilty of throwing a fight.
Dann Stupp is editor-in-chief of MMAjunkie.com, voted best media outlet in the 2008 World MMA Awards. For the latest mixed-martial-arts news, go to www.MMAjunkie.com.