I watched IFL Battleground last night and there were yet again some fighters holding onto the ropes. I thought Tito Ortiz’s comments on Saturday that “you’re not trying if you’re not cheating” but the more I think about it, the more I think there’s some validity to what he said.
As someone who has fought on low-level amateur cards and has no takedown skills, I can’t think of a time where I didn’t use the cage to help stop a takedown. Hell, there were times during sparring practice when I would hold the cage. Part of it is instinctive and the other part is just being competitive and trying to do everything in your power to avoid a situation where there’s a high percentage chance you might lose.
Personally, I can’t blame a fighter too much for grabbing the cage or the ropes. I also believe that the way the infraction is dealt with in MMA should be changed. Forget warnings! A fighter’s first and only warning should take place before the fight at the rules meeting. If a fighter holds the ropes of the cage, that’s it, he’s violated the rules and should be penalized.
The first penalty right now is to have a point deducted but my thinking is that if a fighter uses the rope or the cage to prevent a takedown then the fight should be stopped and re-started with the fighter who attempted the takedown being awarded top position. Losing a point might not be a big enough deterrent if its means allowing yourself to be taking down could lead to the end of the fight.
I compare grabbing the cage/ropes to pass interference in football. If a cornerback gets burned by a wide receiver and grabs the guy’s jersey, the ball is awarded where the infraction is committed. I think placing the ball at the point of the infraction is better than just awarding 10-15 yards. If it was only a 15-yard penalty, then it would be stupid for a defensive back that got burned not to interfere with the receiver. I think that being deducted one point is almost the equivalent to only being penalized 15 yards.