Yesterday Sean Salmon probed some of his own dark places in a first-person column for MMA Junkie about some of the ways he has screwed up his life in the past. One of those ways was just this past June when he fought Allan Weickert in a small promotion in Ohio, and he didn’t quite have his mind right. Salmon wrote that he was a paid sparring partner for the UK’s Wolfslair team at the time and was worried that he might get hurt in the fight and be unable to return to England and keep earning money in the gym. So when he found himself caught in an armbar in the second-round, Salmon says that he “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.”
If I need to tell you that this admission didn’t sit well with MMA fans, then you obviously don’t know any MMA fans. What’s worse, now the Ohio Athletic Commission is looking into the matter and there’s even some suspension talk. Some people will tell you that what Salmon did – or what he said he did (more on that in a moment) – amounts to “throwing” a fight. Those people are wrong. What Salmon did was give up. He quit. He failed to do everything he could to win. While that’s not going to help his already-ailing career any, and while telling everybody about it is going to help even less, it’s not illegal or even unethical. It’s just sad, and kind of dumb.
The difference between throwing a fight and quitting in one is all about premeditation and motive. If you go into a fight planning to lose in order to reap some form of reward, that’s throwing a fight. If you go into a fight with a messed up mind and a general lack of motivation that leads to you tapping out when you really didn’t have to, that’s just a sign that you either need to reevaluate or find a new line of work.
There is another possible explanation. It could be that Salmon just got beat that night. Maybe the account of him escaping and then giving up his arm is totally embellished, but it makes him feel better. As long as he can tell himself that he quit, at least he doesn’t have to ask himself whether his opponent was simply the better fighter that night.
Either way, unless anyone can prove that Salmon gained something – money, an opportunity that was promised to him, a trash bag full of bootleg DVD’s – by purposefully losing the fight, you can’t say he threw it. You can say he quit. You can say he took the easy way out. You can say he’s not too bright for telling everyone about it, thus somehow hurting his career even worse than a loss to a 6-6 fighter normally would. But you can’t say he did anything illegal. He has so little going for him right now. At least give him that.