The Severe Spotlight: Gregory Rodrigues

There is a part of our sport, that deserves highlighting. It’s a dark disposition and it was on full display on Saturday night, as Gregory Rodrigues suffered one of the worst cuts seen in UFC history. The co-main event fighter faced off against Chidi Njokuani, an alumni brother from the school of first round finishes.

Very early in the first round, Rodrigues was caught with a knee whilst shooting a takedown that split open the centre of his head, the middle of his eyebrows. That cut immediately looked unordinary in nature, both from placement and the amount of blood spilling from Rodrigues onto the canvas and Njoukani. Previously in the night, Javid Basharat suffered a cut over his eyebrow after a clash of heads, the referee Keith Peterson stopped the action to have the cut checked – the same did not happen for Gregory Rodrigues. This initially highlights a need for clarity on the process of treating cuts.

After the first round ended, and Rodrigues guided himself back to his corner, the gruesome nature of the cut was more evident, it looked to be around an inch deep, puncturing a hole in the head to reveal not only the innards of the head, but an extremely thick vein. The doctor was called in, and the fight continued. We as a fan base are not medical professionals and cannot estimate the strength of a vein wall, however that vein wall was exposed to an external scenario that could see a leather glove, the toe of a human, the finger of a human, or worse, the solid cap of a knee, find its way to testing the strength of it. This seems ludicrous.

MMA is a sport. It is a combat sport, and therefore the lines between the nature of sport are blurred. But this is something that the community of MMA, from fan to promotional CEO should be actively working to draw with the thickest line of Sharpie pen available. It is often spoken about how weight cutting might be the root of the first catastrophe in UFC history. It feels like Gregory Rodrigues slimly missed being on the catastrophe shortlist on Saturday night. It is unknown what could or would have happened should Chidi Njokuani had landed another clean shot to that area, and there is a large percentage of certainty that the community would not like to have found out.

There is also questions to be raised about how a cut of that nature effects the ethics of an opponent. We have seen in other fights (Rafael dos Anjos vs Renato Moicano) that fighters are cognisant of the damage being inflicted on their opponents, and remorse begins to seep in. Guilt and rage begin to seep in at having to continue to inflict damage on an opponent and that the officials are allowing a sport to slip into the realms of something darker. How does Chidi Njokuani feel when he sees that cut blast open on Rodrigues’ face? How does that affect his mentality to continue the fight?

Gregory Rodrigues fought on and managed to finish Chidi Njokuani via TKO in the 2nd round with some trademark vicious ground and pound. Continually cementing into the pantheon of knowledge that we as the MMA community are privileged to bear witness too and draw information from; that fighters are some of the toughest humans on the planet. They are willing to endure a level of suffering and fight away a level of human panic that seems unfathomable, for the love of the sport, for the love of the cheque, and for the fact that for the most part, most do not know how to lose.

However, this once again shows that fighters can not be trusted with their own health. They cannot be trusted to put their own wellbeing first. This is a decision that must be taken out of their hands in situations as egregious as this.