There’s debate over whether the ref waited too long to stop the fight in Saturday’s light heavyweight championship bout between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, but maybe the real controversy should be over why a clearly concussed and struggling Cormier wasn’t allowed to immediately leave the octagon after that.
Cormier suffered a third-round knockout at the hands (leg) of Jones, who caught him with a flush head kick, then pursued him to the ground and rained a dangerously long series of punches on his prone form before the referee waved things off.
Dana White said the fight could have been called off “three, four, five punches earlier.” Referee John McCarthy tweeted, “I should have stopped the fight two punches earlier.” It was a disturbing ending, but maybe not even as disturbing as what happened immediately after.
This ISO cam followed Cormier the entire time, and it shows him unsteady and in need of medical care, and being denied it for the sake of good TV.
After being pulled to his feet by his corner, Cormier stumbles toward the octagon’s exit at 0:25, clearly trying to leave. He’s blocked from doing so by a number of officials. At 1:09, they try to get him to sit on a stool, but he refuses as he barks at the referee. Why was he still in there? So he could stand by for the cameras when the ref raised Jones’s hand.
At 1:35 of the video, Cormier is herded to the center of the ring for the decision, but it’s not ready so he tries to leave the octagon again. He’s again stopped, and spoken to by officials including White. Finally, at 2:03, he wanders back just in time for the ref to declare Jones the winner.
Even then the UFC wasn’t done with him.
Analyst Joe Rogan corralled Cormier for an uncomfortable, bizarre interview. A teary Cormier clearly had trouble stringing his thoughts together. Asked what happened, he told Rogan:
“I don’t know, man. I thought the fight was going well. I don’t even know what happened. I got kicked in the head. ... Oh, man, I am so disappointed.”
Rogan asked a second question, about the rivalry, before Cormier was finally allowed to leave the octagon.
Cormier’s trainer, Javier Mendez, was furious that Cormier was forced to stay and answer questions.
“He had no business being interviewed,” Mendez said in a text message to USA TODAY Sports. “Bad move. Rogan probably feels bad.”
Dana White said there was a mix-up, but defended the interview.
“They told Rogan not to do the interview with him,” White said. “Rogan did it (anyway). You have to let the guy talk. I think you have to let the guy talk.”
This is a touchy situation for Rogan. After interviewing Alistair Overeem following a knockout loss at UFC 203 in September, Rogan swore that he would no longer speak to fighters who had just been knocked out, no matter his marching orders. “I’m not doing it,” Rogan said on his podcast at the time. “If guys get knocked the fuck out, if someone really wants to talk to them, they’re gonna have to talk to them. I’m not talking to them anymore.”
(Here’s video of those Rogan comments from September, mashed up with his post-match interview of Cormier on Saturday.)
Rogan admitted on Sunday that he fucked up.
Cormier was, to no one’s surprise, diagnosed with a concussion. He was held overnight at UC Irvine Medical Center and released on Sunday.
Late last night, Cormier posted a message to his Instagram account. In it, he apologized to referee John McCarthy and thanked him for letting the match go as long as he did.
“[T]o Big John McCarthy, I would like to apologize for acting up with you. I am thankful for the time you gave me to try and defend myself and stay in the fight. You are the best in the business for a reason.”
As always, a fighter immediately following a fight is the last person who should be counted on to watch out for his health and his best interests. That’s on all the people surrounding Cormier, and most of them failed him.