Joaquin Buckley put himself at the top of every highlight reel last Saturday night (Oct. 10, 2020) after knocking out Impa Kasanganay at UFC Fight Island 5, which went down on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, with a spectacular spinning kick (see it).
While most were quick to give Buckley his props — including his colleagues and UFC President Dana White — others weren’t as quick to do so. Among them was ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt. According to The Athletic, Van Pelt was being very sarcastic when rolling out the clip of the highlight, which saw Kasanganay drop backward, slamming his head on the canvas after Buckley tagged him with the unique shot.
“I get that people love it ... I don’t. I don’t love that. The guy is out! Mashes his head on the ground! Yay! (sarcasm),” said Scott on “SportsCenter.”
As a result, he garnered plenty of criticism online and was called a hypocrite for his love of football and boxing. They also questioned why he’d be so negative toward the amazing finish since UFC and ESPN are currently tied up in a long-term deal.
Van Pelt decided to respond to some of the criticism he received on social media in an effort to explain himself:
Luke, the sport has grown on me and the people in the sport are compelling as hell. I was talking only about the sight of a man out on his feet falling and hitting his head.— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) October 11, 2020
Being called a bitch all morning is par for the course. It's a passionate fan base.
“Lots of folks in MMA bitter at Scott Van Pelt about his views on MMA without realizing at most media companies, this view is the norm,” wrote ShowTime’s Luke Thomas. “Media companies got into MMA because they wanted web traffic or to keep up with competitors. They don’t ‘believe’ in MMA. It’s all transactional.”
In response, Van Pelt stated that he wasn’t jumping for joy for the simple fact that Kasanganay took a hard fall on his head, and it had nothing to do with Buckley’s execution of the kick.
“Luke, the sport has grown on me and the people in the sport are compelling as hell. I was talking only about the sight of a man out on his feet falling and hitting his head. Being called a bitch all morning is par for the course. It’s a passionate fan base.”
Furthermore, he went on to explain how football is drastically different after several people asked him to explain the difference.
“There is a reason segments like ‘Jacked Up’ long ago went away,” he explained. “It’s still violent, but the highlight of an unconscious player wouldn’t be shown like it was something to be celebrated.”
Indeed, the NFL has gone through lengthy measures to protect players from the brutal hits we were accustomed to seeing on the gridiron little more than 10 years ago. In fighting, however, nothing much can be done when an unconscious fighter is knocked out cold.
Van Pelt went on to respond to several other critics when asked to explain the difference between boxing knockouts and those that occur in MMA. One fan went as far as to dig up an old video of Van Pelt laughing at boxer Usman Ahmed after he was brutally knocked out.
In his defense, Van Pelt says he only laughed because Ahmed was mocking his opponent and dancing around the ring prior to the fight.
“Because he danced and clowned like his opponent wasn’t worthy of any respect and then he got KO-ed,” he wrote. “Your point is a fair one. I laughed at one and not the other. But when you present them without showing the lead up to Uzzy — as if there were presented the same — it’s not.”
In the end, the long-time ESPN anchor didn’t try to drill his beliefs into the readers heads, and even went as far as to agree with several points made by his critics.
“It was an incredible KO. I should have said as much. I reacted to the fall. Boomer grievance? That’s not what it was, I don’t think. I wish you the best in your career,” he responded to one amateur MMA fighter.