Banning a cage-fighter for punching his opponent in the face is kind of like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500. Of course, context is everything in MMA. Between the first horn and the final horn, you’re allowed to inflict massive head trauma and wrench limbs until they break apart, as long as you avoid the relatively small list of no-nos set forth in the Unified Rules. But if you hit a guy directly after the fight is over? You’re garbage, and nobody wants you.
I’m not trying to call that hypocritical in any way. In fact, it’s these small distinctions — these subtle nods to context and polite behavior — that prevent mixed martial arts from devolving into pure barbarism. Otherwise, MMA would eventually become Thunderdome, and nobody wants that. Well, I’m sure some people want that. But we’re not sociopaths, are we? We’re sports fans. At the end of the day, having fights end with mentally handicapped man-children literally dying in the cage does us no good as a society.
(By the way, how many times have I referenced Master Blaster while running this site? Dozens of times? Thousands? Indeed, it has been a long journey.)
Four years ago today — May 8th, 2010 — at UFC 113 in Montreal, Paul Daley spent three rounds being smothered by the superior wrestling of Josh Koscheck. The fight was as dull as it was predictable. Clearly, Koscheck wasn’t interested in a standup battle against Paul Daley, one of the most dangerous welterweight strikers in MMA history. So, Kos scored a few takedowns and hung out in top position for fifteen minutes. And when it was all over, Paul Daley got to his feet and popped him one.
It was a desperate move born out of frustration and a total lack of impulse control. Apparently, Koscheck was talking shit to Daley during the entire fight, which doesn’t excuse Daley’s actions, but helps to illustrate what an unpleasant experience that fight must have been for the British slugger. As soon as the sucker-punch landed, referee Dan Miragliotta jumped in to restrain Daley, barking “ARE YOU KIDDIN’ ME?” in his burly East Coast accent, reflecting the utter disbelief of everybody who was watching this unfold live. The infamous Strikeforce Nashville brawl had happened less than a month earlier, and now the sport had another public embarrassment to deal with. Suddenly, Paul Daley was the biggest heel in MMA. Then, Josh Koscheck grabbed the mic and immediately reclaimed that title…
Whatever sympathy Koscheck briefly gained from being cheap-shotted was immediately snuffed out when he started insulting Montreal’s sports heroes, unprovoked, in a classic example of his cartoonish assholism. Seven months later, Koscheck returned to Montreal to get torn apart by Georges St-Pierre, in a beatdown so satisfying that we named a Potato Award after it.
But back to the night in question: Immediately after the sucker-punch incident, UFC president Dana White buried Paul Daley in the post-fight press conference, promising that “Semtex” would never fight in the UFC again:
“He’s done. I don’t give a shit if he’s the best 170-pounder in the world. He’ll never come back here again…I’m probably the most lenient guy in sports. And this is probably one of the most lenient organizations. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, things happen. [But] there’s no excuse for that. These guys are professional athletes. You don’t ever hit a guy blatantly after the bell like that whether you’re frustrated or not. It was probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen…I don’t care if he fights in every show all over the world and becomes the best and everybody thinks he’s the pound-for-pound best in the world. He will never fight in the UFC ever again.”
So far, White has stuck to his word, and Daley has spent the past four years roaming the Earth. He missed weight for a September 2010 Shark Fights appearance against Jorge Masvidal (which Daley won), and missed weight for two separate BAMMA fights in 2011 (which he also won). He went 1-3 in Strikeforce. He showed up in Bellator in 2012 to knock out Rudy Bears, before being released from the promotion due to visa issues stemming from a bar fight arrest. He’s done some kickboxing, and scored violent KO’s in minor promotions east of the Atlantic. He has pleaded for another chance.
And if he hadn’t punched Josh Koscheck after the bell, that one fateful night in Montreal, then what? Maybe he’d stick around for a few more years, collecting UFC knockout bonuses against mid-level veterans, winning a couple and losing one, winning a couple and losing one, until finally the UFC realized he was making too much money for a guy who would never work his way up to a title shot. And in that alternate universe, Paul Daley would be signed to World Series of Fighting right now. I’m not sure which scenario is worse.
Also at UFC 113…