By: Jesse Donathan
All hell broke loose Saturday night immediately following the main event of UFC Fight Night 159 between Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens that saw the featherweight showdown end in a no contest (NC) after just 15-seconds in due to an eye poke from Rodriguez that unfortunately saw Stephens unable to continue much to the dismay of the fans in Mexico City. Following referee Herb Dean waving the fight off, the crowd immediately began pelting the Octagon with bottles and whatever else they found handy. It was an ugly scene that saw security and event staff form a human shield as they protected the fighters who were immediately ushered into back rooms of the arena with beer and debris raining down over top the entourage.
In comparison to the very respectful crowds regularly found at mixed martial arts events in Japan, or the grateful MMA fans in Australia, the crowds behavior in Mexico City Saturday night was downright disgraceful, with the crowd targeting UFC fighter Jeremy Stephens, the victim of Yair Rodriguez’s eye poke, with derogatory anti-homosexual slurs in the wake of the fight being called off. Stephens, who appeared to have great difficulty opening his left eye as the ring side physician examined him, is reported to have spent $30,000 in the lead up to Saturday nights fight against Yair Rodriguez and arrived in Mexico City well in advance to this weekends contest in order to acclimate himself to the city’s 7, 380 feet above sea level altitude where the thin-air is a known threat to the cardiovascular fitness of the unprepared.
UFC Fight Night 159’s no contest is at least the third such NC this month alone to end due to an inadvertant eye injury, with UFC Fight Night 158’s clash between Todd Duffee and Jeff Hughes ruled a no contest due to an eye poke and Bellator 226’s main event between two-division champion Ryan Bader and Cheick Kongo ruled a no contest after Kongo suffered an accidental eye poke of his own, an incident that nearly sparked a post-fight brawl between Bader and Kongo’s teammate Quinton “Rampage” Jackson who insisted the move was intentional. Though upon instant replay, the ultimate sequence of events remains unclear and open for debate with Bader insisting there was no eye poke at all, a sentiment many fans seem to be in agreement with.
While attending professional sporting events is an increasingly costly affair and the amount of time spent in these arenas, sometimes under less than ideal conditions while waiting for the evenings main event to kick off can lead to anxious and perhaps even contentious situations when unfortunate events such as Saturday nights main even being ruled a NC occur, the behavior of the crowd in Mexico City Saturday night was simply reprehensible and not likely something that is going to be forgotten anytime soon by a mixed martial arts community who revere their fighters and sport with great passion and defensive flare.