A renowned MMA coach Duke Roufus‘ perspective on when and how to stop fights was altered as a result of two separate bouts. However, as a result of this, he has disclosed his thoughts on the problem.
Roufus, the longstanding head coach and owner of Roufusport, confessed that earlier in his career he gave his fighters too much latitude in deciding whether or not they were still competitive in a fight. Roufus did this because he believed that his fighters would make the best decisions for themselves. This began to alter after two of his most prominent students, former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and Paul Felder, suffered major injuries while competing.
“Anthony broke his orbital against [Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 185], and we kept trying to have a song and dance and a prayer that he pulled something out. And you know what? He ended up getting thrashed for many rounds, which was detrimental to his career at that time,” Roufus said in an interview with MMA on SiriusXM.
“Paul Felder, when he broke his arm against Mike Perry [at UFC 226], should have stopped that fight, and I learned a lot from those experiences, when I had to live with the regret of that, and it’s something I bring now into my coaching skill set is empathy, sympathy.”
Because of the high cost of losing a UFC bout, Roufus argues, fighters’ corners are less likely to make risky strategic decisions that could ruin their careers.
“The title is so hard to get in MMA that sometimes our passion for glory is too strong for our wits and humanity in doing what’s the right thing,” he said.
Longtime mixed martial arts coach John Hackleman made this statement while reflecting on his attempt to cancel the main event of UFC 283, which was between Jamahal Hill and Glover Teixeira. Even though he was relieved that Teixeira didn’t sustain any more harm after he tried to get the fight stopped, the referee decided that the fight should be stopped after the third round since he had seen enough. One of the factors that led him to make the decision to stop cornering fights was the realization that he would have to watch his fighters suffer.
The topic over fighter safety and the responsibilities of a corner to defend their fighter was rekindled after the Hill vs. Teixeira fight as well as another horrific battle that took place at UFC 283 – The fight between Jessica Andrade and Lauren Murphy.
Roufus stated that the knowledge he received as a professional fighter, in addition to the lessons he learned from his own failures, helped him obtain a fresh perspective. According to him, this is something that can be absent in larger gyms, where fighters have less one-on-one time with their coaches, and where those coaches might not devote as much effort to teaching defensive strategies.
“What I’ve got going for me is I’ve gotten my ass kicked,” Roufus said. “I’ve been destroyed, been wrecked in fights. I know what it feels like. I think there’s a lot of coaches who’ve had some success coaching, but they’ve never gotten their heart torn out and destroyed in the ring like some of these kids are getting, and I think we’ve got to shift that culture. It’s your job to protect the fighter.”