Crazy knockouts are a big part of what makes mixed martial arts so exciting, but we're so used to seeing downed fighters back on their feet for the official announcement that you can forget how dangerous being knocked out is. Honestly, it seems crazy that guys like Alistair Overeem can be fine after what Francis Ngannou did to him at UFC 218. If humans were one iota less resilient, the medical stretcher would be a regular sight in the cage.
The stretcher did make one of its rare appearances last night at UFC Fresno. Aljamain Sterling ate a massive knee to the face from Marlon Moraes that left him splayed on the canvas with his legs stiffened an inch off the ground. For those of us that watched the event via television, the replay was the last we saw of Sterling. And aside from Moraes taking the time to wish him well during his victory speech, that was the last we heard about him on the broadcast too.
Meanwhile, those in the Save Mart Center saw this:
Folks tuned into Twitter got regular updates on Sterling's condition from MMA journalists as he regained his faculties and was taken to the hospital as a 'precautionary measure.' But there were no such reassurances made to viewers during the UFC event broadcast itself, which seemed a bit strange to me.
I understand why the UFC doesn't have a camera out there capture their fallen athletes being strapped to a gurney and wheeled out. But why not at least update us on a fighter's health when something particularly scary happens to them? I'm not trying to call the UFC callous in how they handle things now. I’m just suggesting that a bit more transparency following situations like Sterling's would be a welcome addition to broadcasts, just so less connected fans don't go to bed wondering if they just saw someone get seriously hurt.
Past Your Bedtime
Speaking of going to bed, UFC Fight Night: Swanson vs. Ortega wrapped up at 1AM eastern time, which is starting to feel a bit late now that my aging garbage body is starting to break down. Sure, back in the old days I'd stay up til one and beyond to watch the post-event press conference and then a PRIDE event if we were lucky enough to have one on the same weekend. But this was also a time where there were 9 UFC events a year, not 39 as there will be once 2017 is all said and done.
I don't know what the experience is like on the west coast, but being a fan in the eastern time zone can be exhausting. I love this sport. I'm blessed to be able to cover it for a living. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit I sometimes find myself fried out by the time the main event rolls around. I remember that feeling being particularly noticeable during UFC Sydney (aka the longest event in UFC history). And this event in Fresno marks the eighth straight weekend of UFC programming, nearly all of which have run late into the night.
Why are so many of these UFC Fight Nights stacking six fights on a main card that starts at 10PM, guaranteeing that the event will flirt with 1AM finishes on the regular? How many casual fans get turned off because they can't stay up that late even for a main event they're interested in? How much less of an impact is UFC event news making when it comes out at 1AM or later versus a more reasonable time like 11PM?
Some New Color
Felder keeping it real on both the bad corner advice and the bad standups— Dave Doyle (@davedoylemma) December 10, 2017
Good lord. Paul Felder is about as naturally talented a broadcaster as they come. What a revelation he is in this role.— Luke Thomas (@lthomasnews) December 9, 2017
The UFC has a somewhat unique tradition of staffing its news shows and event broadcasts with fighters from the roster. The latest example? “The Irish Dragon” Paul Felder doing the color commentary at UFC Fresno. UFC announcing has been a bit of a mixed bag since Joe Rogan downsized his schedule and Brian Stann left the booth. But by unanimous Twitter decree (something truly rare these days), we can report that Felder did an outstanding job. He let us know what to watch for as the fights were unfolding, provided the kind of insight that only a fellow UFC fighter could provide, and conducted post-fight interviews like a seasoned pro.
For those reasons I'd say more Paul Felder on the mic please, but that raises my main issue with the UFC recruiting active fighters: at what point could this stuff become a distraction from fighting? That may be more of an unfounded fear than a real concern ... after all, Daniel Cormier doesn't seem to have an issue juggling his heavy load of UFC broadcast duties and the UFC light heavyweight freakin’ belt.
So let's hope for a perfect world where we can have both the Paul Felder we heard on Saturday night in the booth and the Paul Felder that wrecks people with elbows in the cage, with neither task impacting negatively on the other.