This isn’t a post to vilify, but it is still regardless a legitimate issue to discuss and resolve.
Is fighter safety a concern in Chinese Mixed Martial Arts?
As one who lives in Thailand, I know a handful of fighters who have fought in China, my own missus included. China fights are not as unavailable for non-Chinese people as is so popularly believed, and plenty of fighters from MMA and Muay Thai camps alike around East Asia regularly head over there, though in the knowledge they will/could be fighting in the most partisan conditions imaginable and that any form of scandal or corruption could occur.
I will use two examples in this piece, but they are but the tip of the iceberg with regards to an overall culture that does not value the safety of foreign fighters nor strictly maintain the rules already in place.
Example 1: Brian Robertson.
Brian was a Muay Thai fighter from Tiger, in Thailand. He was booked in a Mixed Martial Arts contest in China on TFC 3: On Top of the Forbidden City, against a then-unspecified opponent, who turned out to be World Sanda champion Aotegen Bater. Upon arrival, the rules meeting was conducted in BOTH English and Mandarin, so that the several non-Chinese fighters from Thailand there could understand exactly what was expected and allowed.
What was not allowed (not quite properly shown on the videos) under what amounted to something similar to the unified rules, is several soccer kicks to his head when downed.
The fight was halted after one such kick that dazed Robertson, allowed to continue, and then the second series of kicks just about knocks the Thailand based Muay Thai fighter unconscious. Cornerman Boyd Clarke jumps into the ring to protest, and the bout is stopped only to clear him from the ring. A soccer kick follows that finishes the still-helpless Robertson.
His opponent was declared the winner, to the delight of the partisan crowd.
At least an explanation was given.
The result was not overturned.
No rematch was given.
Insufficient care was given to Robertson following the vicious knockout sustained via illegal strikes under the rules of the fight.
Not cricket. Wouldn’t fight for TFC, as they say in England, for all the tea in China.
Example 2: Ramsey Dewey
Ramsey Dewey is a now-retired Mixed Martial Artist, who many may remember last in losing to Leandro Issa in Martial Combat (the precursor to One Fighting Championships). But his last fight actually occurred months after this bout, in China, at the very first Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation (RUFF) event, Genesis. The-then 3-3 Mixed Martial Artist ex-pat was matched up against decorated kickboxing champion Wang Guang, and what followed was catastrophic for Ramsey.
See 1:25-1:33 for the end to the fight.
As the video shows, Dewey throws a kick that is caught, countered with two right hands, the second of which lands flush and dazes Dewey. The issue is not the result of the fight, or any illegality on part of the strike.
The issues, as Dewey so combatively yet frankly detailed on MMA forums, was that the punch occurred when he was already knocked out, but more importantly, what contributed most to his career-ending skull injuries; the loading of tape in gloves (referred to as “attempted murder” by legendary boxing trainer Freddy Roach).
Read the following – all from Ramsey Dewey;
The biggest problem I had with RUFF was the officials they hired to check the tape and gloves. Those guys did not do their job at all. They didn’t watch the fighters tape their hands and signed off on anything. There were fighters loading their wraps, taping over their knuckles, wrapping their hands with yards and yards of adhesive elastic instead of gauze and sports tape, leaving the room before the officials signed off on their gloves, etc… all illegal under unified rules, and extremely dangerous.
I had my frontal bone (the hardest part of the human skull) shattered in two places with a single punch from lightweight fighter Wang Guan in their first event. I don’t care if he’s the #5 pound for pound top fighter in China and the current lightweight sanda, Muay Thai, and K1 rules kickboxing national champ of the PRC- human hands can’t do that without a little extra help.
I’m not accusing anyone of cheating. They don’t have regulations about wrapping hands in most Chinese fight shows (RUFF was the first MMA show claiming to be held under unified rules in China.) The Chinese fighters just taped their hands with the material they were given by the promoter (a combination of gauze, sports tape, and illegal elastic adhesive tape) in the way they were familiar with (loading the tape over the knuckles to make a cast)
No one explained unified rules standards for taping to the fighters or the officials before the show. Sanda fighters usually make a tape cast over their knuckles to make their punches harder- which isn’t that big of a deal under 12oz boxing gloves. However, under non-padded MMA gloves (especially the cheap imitation leather Badboy gloves they used for RUFF) that kind of tape job turned fists into literal hammers. It’s very illegal, and very dangerous.
There are 27 separate bones in the human hand that shift around on impact. Taping the hands is meant to secure the wrist to the metacarpals in order to avoid injuries to the hands. However, loading the tape into a cast over the knuckles locks those bones into a solid block, effectively weaponizing it.
Imagine a bag of 27 marbles. You could throw it at somebody, and it would hurt, it would cause some bruises, maybe open a cut if the angle is right, but you wouldn’t shatter the hardest most reinforced part of the human skull with one. In fact, you probably couldn’t break any bones with it. But take that bag and wrap it up tightly on all ends into a solid block with tape, and suddenly you’ve got a rock-hard projectile that you can kill someone with.
Anyway, I think RUFF has a lot of potential to be a positive force to build the sport of MMA in China into something substantial, and I’m not trying to slander them at all. The promoters are genuinely good guys who are doing what they can with what they have. And I’m sure if they were aware of what was going on backstage they would have stepped in to correct the situation- and hopefully it’s no longer an issue.
This is just a precautionary tale to fighters, conermen, refs, officials, and promoters alike: check the tape properly.
There is more. One poster, who took it upon his or herself to defend RUFF, was countered time after time by an insistent Dewey.
Is there a video of the fight so we can see the punch you talk about?
Yes, there are several videos online. The best view is the slow motion replay shown on several of RUFF’s promotional highlight videos (cue forward to 1:26-1:33). Just check their website or look it up on youtube. I’m the bald guy who is not Chinese.
Here’s the play by play: I threw a kick, he caught it and countered with an overhand right which missed, sliding down my chest. I tried to clinch up with him, and he threw a quick short right hook that clipped my chin at the right angle to score a knockout. Up to that point, everything was fine… he won the fight based on superior skill. Cool, props to him. What happened next is what all the fuss is about:
After a brief pause, while I was already unconscious on the ground, Wang Guan threw another punch, this time connecting with my forehead. This is the one that did all the damage, shattering the frontal bone of the cranium, leaving a 2″ depression fracture and a 5″ hairline fracture up the entire front end of my skull.
I could show you the CT scan, but this picture would make more immediate sense:
This is the skull of a guy killed with a hammer. The depression fracture in my skull is narrower, taller, and located directly over the right frontal sinus (the most well reinforced part of the human skull, most capable of deflecting blunt force impact) My hairline fracture is in roughly the same position on the opposite side of the skull.
Simple: The RUFF fighter contracts didn’t specify the opponent. Essentially, it was a legally binding agreement to fight anyone anytime. Myself, and most of the other fighters did not know who our opponents would be until a couple of weeks prior to the event.
When I found out that I was scheduled to fight China’s lightweight kickboxing champ, Wang Guan, my gameplan was simple: put him on the ground and submit him. While he has all kinds of striking experience that I don’t, I trusted that my ground game was better. It seemed fair to me in that regard. Unfortunately, I never got close enough to clinch with him and take the fight to the floor.
I had previously fought a couple members of the China Top Team in MMA fights (one win via triangle choke, one loss via doctor’s stoppage due to a cut) and while I was impressed with the professional level of their striking, their grappling was extremely amateur. I honestly thought fighting Wang Guan would be no different and that I stood a good chance of making him tap out.Quote:
Nobody is saying that you haven’t trained in martial arts for many years… I’m saying that you didn’t train well or long for THIS MATCH.
No, you said I only trained for two weeks. That’s incorrect. I did nothing but train for RUFF for the entire 4 months preceding that fight. Physically and mentally I was ready. I made a split second mistake and my opponent capitalized on it- that doesn’t take away from the hours I spent drilling and sparring and sweating and bleeding to get ready for it.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a choice in the matter. My skull is no longer structurally sound enough to fight. According to the doctors I consulted, the damage from the depression fracture is irreparable. At this point, what was once the hardest part of my head is now the weakest and getting hit there by anyone at a professional level will result in serious brain injuries or even death.
If I could fight again I would have- half a dozen more times between then and now. I’ve missed out on more pay from those fights I’ve had to turn down than I make in a year teaching at a university. Money aside, competitive martial arts have been an integral part of my day to day existence for entire adult life. Why would I give that up if I didn’t have to?
I’m not going to sue anyone. I’m not a spiteful, vengeful person- and while I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t need to take someone else’s hard earned money to get by. I like Joel Resnik, the founder of RUFF, he’s a good guy, and his heart and intentions with this venture are in the right place. I wish him all the best with RUFF. I even like Wang Guan, believe it or not. He’s one of my favorite Chinese fighters and I think it would be cool as hell as to train with him some day. I hope he makes it to the UFC one day.
However, I won’t leave the issue alone until it’s resolved- meaning until there’s a commitment to to enforce all of the rules, and to explain these rules and expectations to officials, fighters, and trainers accordingly- just like any other professional organization is required to do. Is it that so hard? Until that happens, nothing that goes on in the cage here means anything.
The issue is fighter safety in China is not confined to these examples, of course. That would be sensationalist and irresponsible pseudo journalism, and I have no reason to attack Chinese fightsport. From Brian Robertson’s head being illegal kicked like a football (for his opponent to be awarded victory) and Ramsey Dewey and others being damaged by punches from loaded gloves, to “one girl I know” known for fighting in Phuket (initials T.L.) being flown to China for a “Muay Thai bout” only to fight a Sanda opponent 12kg heavier than her, under Sanda rules, to her friend arriving expecting a fight under K-1 style kickboxing rules to be told she was fighting MMA against a San Shou champion with grappling experience, to only partial pay being awarded, to countless other stories being whispered across the campfire in Asia about fighting heavier, much more experienced or simply far superior opponents, and/or opponents loading gloves, inadequate medical attention given to fighters following the bout (which can be serious in the event of neurological trauma from a bad knockout) and issues over money, judging decisions…
The unfortunate fact is that in fightsport, bad things can and do happen, it is inevitable when the name of the game is to inflict physical pain on your opponent. But word on the street is simply that certain expectations of undesirable occurrences have to be raised when fighting on Chinese soil.
This was not intended as an attack on TFC, the now seemingly defunct Art of War (remember that ’09 hype train?) or RUFF. In fact, I would NEVER attack Art of War, regardless of any wrongdoing, simply because they used Oasis “Fuckin’ In The Bushes” on their events (the Oasis song best known from Brad Pitt’s fight scene in Snatch) But while this isn’t an attack per se, this is an issue that needs raising, and if it can lead to some quality debate on the subject and hopefully some of the addressed issues being dealt with, it will have been worth writing.
Cheers and be good. Don’t stay out late.