The more you watch mixed martial arts, the more you realize rules aren’t really rules as much as they are suggested guidelines to follow or ignore at a fighter’s discretion. You’re not allowed to grab the cage ... but if you’re about to get taken down, it’s probably worth doing it anyways. Don’t worry, the ref will warn you before he takes a point. You’re also not allowed to kick someone in the dick or poke them in the eyes, but you’ll almost always get the benefit of the doubt the first two or three times you do it.
But there’s a few dirty tricks out there that seem like they deserve to be treated like hard rules. Actual rules. Rules with firm consequences. Eye gouging, the oldest of the oldschool UFC rules, should be one of them ... or so you’d think. We learned at UFC 221 that it’s just another one of those ‘rules’ after Li Jingliang stuck his fingers in Jake Matthews’ eye to escape a tight guillotine. The ref saw it. The ref even smacked at Jingliang’s arm a bit over it. Yet nothing was done about it even though it was a blatant foul used to get out of a fight ending submission.
Not only was nothing done about the eye gouge, the UFC actually ended up rewarding Li Jingliang with a $50,000 Fight of the Night performance bonus. Sure, we’re happy that Jake Matthews also gets the same amount, but is this the message we really want to be sending fighters when it comes to illegal moves as serious as an eye gouge? Is the UFC not even going to go through the motions of a finger wag in Jingliang’s direction over his foul filled fight?
One of the UFC’s old slogans was ‘There are no rules!’ Sometimes it still feels like that to this day.