by Ivan Trembow
Telligman and Martin Knockouts Handled Poorly by UFC

Commentary by Ivan Trembow

The knockouts of Tra Telligman and Terry Martin during last week’s UFC 54 event were two of the scariest knockouts in UFC history. Both fighters crumbled to the mat in a heap, both fighters’ bodies stiffened in the way that one normally does when a concussion has occurred, and both fighters remained completely motionless and unconscious for several minutes. Telligman and Martin ended up being okay by the time the night was over, but for a brief and horrifying period of time, many people watching had to wonder if they were even alive.

Compounding the situation was the fact that the UFC inexplicably chose not to acknowledge the status of the unconscious fighters in any way. They didn’t have Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan wish the fighters well, or update the fans on the fighters’ conditions in some way, or even just provide a generic statement in which they could have said that knockouts are a part of any combat sport and that the UFC has an excellent track record when it comes to safety. Instead, the fighters were not mentioned as they were quietly shuffled away by EMTs.

That was classless, in and of itself. What made it even worse was the UFC’s decision to do post-fight interviews with the winners of those two fights, in which the announcers marveled at how spectacular the knockouts were, while completely ignoring the fact that in the background of the camera shot, someone was being carried away on a stretcher while wearing an oxygen mask and a neck brace.

At those moments in the post-fight interviews, viewers at home had no idea if the fighters were seriously injured or even dead. For the UFC to ignore that wasn’t just classless; it was also just plain bad business because it reflects poorly on the sport.

One potential counter to this argument is that it would have also been sleazy to show extended close-up shots of the fighters as they were being attended to by medical personnel. I agree with that sentiment, and that’s not what I’m saying the UFC should have done. It’s possible to avoid close-up camera shots of the unconscious fighters, while at the same time not completely ignoring the existence of the unconscious fighters.

Another potential counter to this argument is that the UFC doesn’t want to present itself as a sport in which fighters could be seriously injured and/or knocked completely unconscious for an extended period of time, even if such a knockout has just happened. One could argue that the UFC might not want to show or talk about those images, in order to avoid creating the false perception that it’s a common occurrence in MMA.

This argument is also fallacious because all of that is out-weighed by the fact that the UFC actually comes off far worse for not acknowledging the fighters. Ask yourself, if you’re the UFC and you’re trying to avoid giving off a bad image when a fighter has just been knocked out cold, what is worse? Giving off the appearance, whether true or not, that brutal knockouts are commonplace in the UFC? Or giving off the appearance, whether true or not, that fighters are treated as meat puppets who can easily be replaced, and who will quietly be shuffled away and never mentioned again if they ever happen to be seriously injured? Neither one of those is desirable, but you would certainly rather convey the former than the latter.

The UFC gave off the worst possible image by not acknowledging the unconscious fighters, and the lack of any acknowledgment also made viewers at home naturally assume the worse. I can’t tell you how many friends I had call or e-mail me asking questions like, “Did Terry Martin ever regain consciousness?” or “Is Tra Telligman dead?”

The UFC may have the plausible deniability that they didn’t know enough about Telligman’s status before the show went off the air that night, but no such excuse can exist in the case of Terry Martin. After being knocked out in the first fight of the evening, Martin was back at the arena and made an appearance in the press section of the audience before the event was over.

Even if the UFC still failed to acknowledge the unconscious fighters in the immediate aftermath of the knockouts, it would have taken five seconds, and would have eased the concerns of a lot of fans, to have Mike Goldberg say something like this just before they went off the air: “Terry Martin was taken to a local hospital after his fight earlier this evening, but he has already been released and was back at the show walking around. We don’t know anymore about Tra Telligman’s condition at this time, but we will keep you updated on his condition on our web site.” And no, it’s not considered sleazy to say, “We’ll keep you updated on so-and-so serious situation on our web site,” as news organizations do it all the time. What is considered sleazy is ignoring the existence of two fighters who appeared at the time to have been seriously injured.

So, what should the UFC have done after two of the scariest knockouts in UFC history? It’s simple: They should have done what boxing typically does in the same situation.

It’s not rocket science. In that situation, acknowledge that it was a spectacular knockout if you want to, but make it very clear that the most important thing by far is the safety of the unconscious fighter, and make any post-fight celebration or interview with the winning fighter secondary to the fact that there’s an unconscious fighter in the ring whose health and well-being are hanging in the balance.

You would think that would be a given, but the UFC did the exact opposite during the UFC 54 telecast. The next time that a fighter is unconscious for a significant period of time in the Octagon (which hopefully won’t be anytime soon), the UFC should learn from the experience of this event and react to the situation with some class.