For the second week in a row, we’re here in this column reveling in the toughness and durability of a main event loser. Last week it was Marvin Vettori who got to work by Jared Cannonier at UFC on ESPN 46, and this time it was Josh Emmett who took a sound beating from Ilya Topuria.
Emmett (18-4 MMA, 9-4 UFC) surprised me with his ability to take all of Topuria’s shots over the course of five rounds, but that amazement quickly turned to sadness when he saw that his face was completely damaged. Was. After this fight. The corner should have tried harder to avoid all the damage done to Emmett, as the result was academic after the second – and at worst third – round.
There’s still more talk to be had – and we’ve had it over and over again – about the responsibility of the corners to give up or stop fighting. MMA culture has bred the idea of it being taboo, so I’m not surprised that Emmett’s corner crew from Team Alpha Male didn’t dismiss it, and even went as far as round 5 before Emmett that he is “still in this fight,” despite this being fundamentally untrue.
However, I understand it to some extent. Even though there was a 0.1 percent chance that Emmett was going to connect with a Hail Mary shot in those later rounds, he needed to go for it because losing this fight would, in essence, end Emmett’s time as an elite featherweight contender. Done.
Emmett, 38, is the oldest fighter weighing 145 pounds. As you approach 40, survival in these lower weight classes becomes nearly impossible, and that’s the unfortunate reality for Emmett now. Sure, there are still some ranked opponents he can beat, and possibly do so convincingly. The idea of Emmett building another long winning streak to set up a title shot seems far-fetched at this stage, so in that sense I understand why his team tries to give him every chance he gets.
As we consider the next day, though, it has to be asked, is leaving Emmett out there worth it to take all that extra damage knowing he might not mount a spectacular comeback? These are questions that will persist for a long time.