Salmon a target of unfair criticism?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

We’ve seen scandals rip apart even the biggest professional sports, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that a recent column from Ohio mixed-martial-arts fighter Sean Salmon has sparked so much controversy.

What’s troubling, though, is that fans have confused giving up in a fight to throwing one.

First, though, some background. Salmon, a four-year pro fighter, is a longtime contributor to MMAjunkie.com (a Web site I run) and writes a column about the struggle mid-level fighters face while trying to make a living in the sport.

In his latest piece, Salmon detailed the situation. The former Ohio State University wrestler had been hired as a guest wrestling coach for the Wolfslair fight team in England. When he briefly left the team in early August to take a fight with the Ohio-based NAAFS organization, they essentially told him to come back healthy and able to train their fighters — or don’t bother coming back at all.

That stress, coupled with a recently strained marriage and personal life, eventually led Salmon (16-8) to give up when he couldn’t finish opponent Allan Weickert (6-6) in the first round.

“In the second round, he went for an arm-bar, I defended it (only to prove to myself that he couldn’t get it), and then I put my arm back in to give him the win so that I could return to England, healthy,” wrote Salmon, who detailed a trodden mental state heading into the fight. “Just so you all know, that is the most embarrassing thing that I have ever admitted out loud.”

Salmon quit, plain and simple. Self-preservation and financial well-being trumped his competitive drive. But he didn’t “throw a fight” as so many have alleged.

At any MMA event, especially amateur and small regional shows, you’ll see at least a fighter or two who simply breaks mentally. He’ll stop fighting off a submission attempt, will quit fighting and cover up, or will simply tap-out. Like Salmon, they just don’t have the heart to continue that night.

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