Dana White's Call out of SMMAF for Gustafsson's Removal Misses the Point
Earlier this week, it was discovered that the UFC was right to pull Dan Hardy from the upcoming UFC on Fox card when his electrocardiography (EKG) exam revealed markers for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.
The move showed that the UFC is looking out for the long-term health of its fighters. A day later, the goodwill garnered by that decision was significantly reduced when UFC president Dana White vehemently opposed the decision of the Swedish MMA Federation (SMMAF) to pull Alexander Gustafsson from Saturday’s UFC on Fuel 9 fight card.
Gustafsson was set to headline the card, facing former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi, but a training camp mishap left Gustafsson with a nasty cut on his eyebrow. The cut, sustained on March 28, left Gustafsson with three stitches. It also sent him to talk to the SMMAF about the situation.
The SMMAF doctors looked at Gustafsson’s cut and found that it was bad enough that he would most likely not receive medical clearance prior to the April 6 fight card.
However, the physicians that looked at the cut did not have the authority to pull Gustafsson from the card at that time. According to UFC Tonight’s Ariel Helwani, the SMMAF Medical Committee could not rule on Gustafsson’s cut until Tuesday due to the Easter holiday (h/t MMA News).
When they did rule, they agreed with the doctors and Gustafsson was pulled from the card. A late replacement was found to face Mousasi in Ilir Latifi, but that move significantly weakened the enthusiasm for the card and that’s where White came in.
On Wednesday, White tweeted the following:
I’m no doctor and I will assume White is not either, so to question the decision of you know, actual physicians, based on a photograph seems silly. Not only is it silly, but also it’s pretty reckless.
I understand the frustration on White’s part.
He’s the front man for the UFC and he’s the one that is going to get all the grief and blowback from the fans and media about how one injury pretty much put a damper on this card, but to call the decision “the worst decision I have EVER seen to pull a fight”—that’s wrong.
It’s wrong because it puts the health of his fighter at risk.
Mousasi, knowing Gustafsson was compromised, would have targeted that cut had the fight gone on.
How do I know that?
Well, because he told MMAFighting as much, “If he's cut, I'm going to make sure I hit him where he's cut. I'm not going to be Mr. Friendly and be very sporty, sport-like, man-ship. I don't care. I just want to win the fight."
So, why is it the right move to pull Hardy from a fight, but not right for Gustafsson to be removed?
I understand that Hardy’s condition could result in death (in very rare cases), so it’s kind of an apples-and-oranges argument, but when it comes to the health of a fighter, no chances should be taken, no matter how insignificant fans or even the president of the organization feel the situation is.
White can point fingers all he wants in this situation, but ultimately the SMMAF did what it felt was in the best interest of the fighter. The right call was made.