Spirit of the game, in the "other" ultimate

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nep By nep

I thought this was amazing: A match in the mixed martial arts league (aka Ultimate Fighting) ended surprisingly last weekend when the fighter dominating the match, Mike Pantangco, suddenly stopped and "tapped out" -- essentially telling the ref he was giving up and the other fighter was the winner.


He said, "I just feel like we're amateur fighters. We don't get money. We don't get paid, and I know that the only thing that'd happen is him to go to the hospital or get hurt. I just feel terrible so I'm just going to give him the win."

Mutual respect, highly competitive play, understanding of the basic joy of competition, self-refereeing, and avoiding dangerous aggression or 'win-at-all-costs' behavior -- I thought it was pretty impressive to see that sort of behavior in a sport that I don't think you traditionally expect to show those sorts of qualities.  I'll be thinking about that next time I consider trying to sky someone to catch a "hospital pass."


Unfortunately, he took the chance of legitimate victory away from his opponent. Most people in the martial arts world do not want to win that way, ever. The referee is there to stop the fight if either fighter was badly injured or unable to defend himself, which really wasn't the case. I respect the fighter for showing concern for the safety of his opponent, combat sports like MMA are about incapacitating your opponent without killing them, there are lots of ways to submit your opponent without causing lasting bodily harm. If the dominating fighter was completely uncomfortable continuing to inflict punishment on his opponent, he did the right thing but he should think long and hard about what he's getting into before he ever steps into the cage again. Both people know the risks involved before they step into the ring/mat/cage, etc.

"Mutual respect, highly competitive play, understanding of the basic joy of competition", those are very strong qualities in the combat sports world. The aggression part though, that just comes with the territory :)

nep By nep

I definitely agree with you, TJ, that the situation was unfortunate, and that it would have been different if there had been a chance of legitimate victory.  Winning definitively, even against a less skilled figher, isn't unspirited.  While the video doesn't show every moment of the whole fight, I watched what it showed and can accept that there wasn't a chance of legitimate victory here -- and also, importantly, that it wasn't just a case of Mike tapping out because he didn't want to bother finishing off the fight or because he wanted to embarrass the other fighter.

Mike might have been skilled enough to win but also knew he couldn't guarantee not injuring his opponent of mismatched skill -- just like I've seen highly skilled and graceful ulti players sometimes knock over very new players just because the new players were unpredictable.

When playing against an opponent who might not have the skill to avoid self-injury or the wisdom to tap out before making the situation dangerous, it's spirited of Mike to put safety and respect ahead of his own win-loss record -- and I hope he does climb back into the cage to win more matches. And your point about knowing the risks involved -- I think that's totally true, and I'm not suggesting a one-to-one comparison with our no-contact sport :)

I think there are two different situations possible that lead to two different judgement calls. To use Ultimate examples... In one case, like in a tournament situation, I'd rather be beaten firmly by a better team than to have them play sloppy or "give" us a point. I would call the winning team spirited for playing hard the whole way through.  In another case, single header on Thursday league, I've had a team that was clearly better than us offer at half time to stop and mix up the teams in order to give both sides a more joyful playing experience in the time we had remaining. It turned a frustrating evening into a really lovely one, and was also a decision guided by spirit.