There’s a fine line between motivating a protégé and risking his well-being. Friday night, Nathan Coy captured the Maximum Fighting Championship middleweight title by dominating TUF alum Ryan McGillivray at MFC 33. Coy showed incredible ground and pound and McGillivray—the hometown favorite—showed incredible courage. But that wasn’t the main story here. Instead, it begs the question, what is the corner’s role in a fight? Is it to encourage the fighter and help him win? Or is it more than that? Does a coach have an obligation to protect his fighter when things get out of hand?
That’s a tough question, especially when it concerns one of the most respected and successful coaches in all of MMA, Greg Jackson. After 2 rounds it became apparent that McGillivray was getting manhandled by Coy. When the bell rang to end the 2nd frame, McGillivray curled up and didn’t move for a moment. The ref—who’s main job is also to protect the fighters—didn’t take action, but instead posed a question to the bloodied McGillivray. “Ryan can you get up now?” When no answer came, he asked another, “Can you answer the bell and get to your corner?”
The fighter somehow managed to get up and stagger to his corner and get some medical attention. The announcers wondered aloud if the fight would be stopped and commented on the amount of blood. When he finally sat in his corner, he was met with veteran coach Jackson’s word of wisdom: “Get your posture up; you’re fine. It’s just a little blood.” McGillivray was clearly exhausted and leaned on the ropes until told to fight again.
The third round began and it was more of the same. McGillivray mounted very little offense before ending up on the ground again eating even more shots—especially elbows. You could hear Jackson off camera from the corner, “work back up Ryan!” he yelled. Perhaps the only thing preventing Coy from dishing out even more punishment was the fact that he couldn’t seem to get his footing due to the large amount of blood all over the canvas.
With just under 2 minutes to go in the round, the ref warned McGillivray that if he didn’t fight back, he’d stop the fight. He didn’t fight back—he threw exactly zero punches the rest of the way. But the fight wasn’t stopped. Instead, when the bell rang to signify the end of the 3rd round of the 5-round fight, the ref told him to get up “under your own power.” He could barely do so and basically crawled to his corner. The announcers—Michael Schiavello and Pat Miletich—wondered what Jackson would say and do. Good question.
What McGillivray did was pretty normal. He sat unresponsive in the stool, appearing to have fallen asleep. Jackson again told him “you’re fine” and even had to slap him in the chin and on the arms while yelling at him to “wake up.” Unbelievably, Jackson added, “you can win this fight.” Fortunately, the ringside physician had other plans. While Jackson cajoled his fighter to start the 4th round, the doctor saw that he couldn’t safely continue and stopped it.
The beating McGillivray took was among the worst I’ve seen over a prolonged period of time. Miletich seemed to agree when he suggested Jackson should have thrown in the towel. But in fact, Jackson never even considered throwing in the towel. He sent him back out there in a no-win situation until the doctors saved his fighter. Is that Jackson’s job? Telling a guy to “wake up” doesn’t constitute solid coaching or motivational speaking, in my opinion. Talking a guy into standing up when he doesn’t want to can’t be called inspirational, can it? I seriously question Greg Jackson’s actions in this fight. He put Ryan McGillivray in danger that night. That’s not something I expect out of a long-time and well respected coach like Jackson.