Would 'throwing in the towel' have saved Joe Warren from excessive trauma at Bellator 60?

Pat Curran (right) knees Joe Warren (left) in the face at Bellator 60 on Friday March 9, 2012. Photo via Bellator

You don't hear much about a corner throwing in the towel these days.

A symbol of surrender, the throwing of a white towel into the cage by the corner was one of the original means of victory when mixed martial arts (MMA) debuted at UFC 1 in 1993. Royce Gracie's corner famously threw in the towel because of exhaustion before his UFC 3 fight with Harold Howard.

The corner stoppage only really existed because referees in the early days of the sport didn't have the authority to stop a fight unless the fighter was knocked unconscious or forced to tap out, even if a fighter was getting severely beaten.

"Big" John McCarthy finally gained the authority to stop fights at UFC 3 after finding out that some fighters had told their corners to never throw in the towel and realizing that many cornermen didn't have their fighters' best interests at heart.

As referees became more knowledgeable and capable of making correct stoppages, the need for a corner to stop a fight became practically nonexistent.

That is, until last Friday night (March 9, 2012) at Bellator 60 when featherweight champion Joe Warren received a sustained and brutal beating at the hands of Pat Curran in the third round of the main event that lasted at least 15 seconds too long.

You can see it here, Warren eats a big knee to the face at the 14-second mark while ducking down for a takedown and it stops him in his tracks. From here on out, it's a complete one-sided thrashing by Curran.

Curran destroyed Warren, hitting him with about 40 unanswered blows for a full 28 seconds. On major rubbery legs, Warren turned away from punishment twice during this flurry of strikes and went down hard along the fence just eight seconds after absorbing another pair of knees.

Stopping the fight while Curran was swarming him then would have been acceptable. Commentator Jimmy Smith even said "This is gonna be stopped right now" during the sequence.

But, referee Jeff Malott allowed the action to continue.

After Curran continued to crush Warren and sent him reeling into the fence once more, Smith announced, "They need to stop this, he's done." This time, there was serious concern in his voice.

Nonetheless, the fight continued until Warren ate a pair of huge uppercuts, which finally sent him crashing to the canvas completely out cold.

When a referee is not protecting the fighter, that's when corner intervention could have been an option.

Bellator follows the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, which allows a corner to stop a fight. While some commissions don't allow an actual towel to be thrown into the cage (because an audience member could do it too), they do allow corners to step in and inform the commission they want the fight to be stopped. After all, they know their fighter better than anyone else.

The most recent example of this was the epic Jorge Santiago vs. Kazuo Misaki 2 fight that headlined Sengoku 14 in 2010. Misaki was exhausted and taking serious punishment on the ground from Santiago. Despite the fact that there were only 30 seconds left in the five round bout, his corner threw in the towel to save their fighter.

Yes, Joe Warren was the champion and might get the 'benefit of the doubt' and yes, Warren has a reputation for being able to take a beating and keep on coming, but a fighter's safety should always be the first priority. That's especially the case due to the fact that Warren was coming off a violent first round knockout defeat at the hands Alexis Vila last September.

Something, anything, would have been better than what ended up happening, with Warren likely receiving a severe concussion. The self-proclaimed "Baddest Man on the Planet" didn't need to lose consciousness and brain cells to lose his title.

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