Trevor Wittman had seen enough.
Nate Marquardt just didn’t look like himself in the Octagon against Kelvin Gastelum last Saturday night at UFC 188 in Mexico City. He was barely mounting any offense and, on top of that, had blood pressure issues leading into the bout.
In the second round, Wittman, Marquardt’s coach, was ready to put an end to the fight. The only problem was that no one would let him.
“He was really just defending,” Wittman told MMAFighting.com. “He was taking punches. I tried to stop the fight in the second round. There was a few guys in my corner from the commission, there was one guy from the UFC and I said, ‘Stop the fight.’ And they were like, ‘Sorry, no one can stop the fight but the referee or the doctor.’ That’s what they told me. So, I started freaking out.
“I was cursing out everybody.”
Wittman even went as far as to jump up on the apron in the corner yelling, at which point those officials pulled him down because they said he was blocking the view of fans.
“I’m screaming,” Wittman said. “I’m like, ‘Where’s the doctor, where’s the f*cking doctor? Stop the fight.'”
Marquardt calmed down Wittman for a moment when he almost landed a kneebar as the second round came to a close, but all that did was “play tricks on my mind,” Wittman said. Once Marquardt got back to the corner, Wittman didn’t see a fighter who necessarily wanted to continue.
“I was telling him to look at me,” Wittman said. “He wouldn’t look at me. And then he kind of whispered underneath his breath, ‘I have nothing left.’ After I heard that, I was like yeah it’s over.”
Marquardt (33-15-2) then begged Wittman not to stop the fight, but he did anyway. Gastelum was awarded a TKO in his return to the middleweight division. Marquardt, 36, has now lost five of his last six.
Wittman and Marquardt spoke the next day about what happened and Marquardt was quick to forgive him. Though this was Marquardt’s first time working with the highly regarded striking coach in four years, the two go back a long time. Plus, there were other things at play. Marquardt didn’t cut much weight, but had a terrible reaction to the elevation. Wittman said Marquardt’s pulse was between 88-95 at 2:30 a.m. in the hospital when it’s usually at 40 resting.
“There was something not right about Nate,” Wittman said. “He had some blood-pressure issues before going in there, so we came to the conclusion that it was probably the altitude that caused it.”
Wittman said he spoke with UFC president Dana White after the event and White told him next time he should just throw in the towel.
A coach stopping a fight in MMA is a rare occurrence. Wittman understands why, though he won’t hesitate to keep doing it. In 2008, Wittman stopped a fight between his boxer Verno Phillips and Paul Williams in the eighth round of an interim WBO super middleweight title fight that aired on HBO. Phillips, who Wittman helped win three world titles, cut all ties to Wittman thereafter — and he was someone Wittman described as “a great friend.”
“I haven’t had a conversation with him since that day,” Wittman said. “So when people go to stop the fight, when a coach goes to stop the fight, it’s kind of in the coach’s hands at that moment and it’s not the fighter’s decision. When that happens, you can lose their job as their coach.”
Wittman said there are also other repercussions. An MMA fighter can get cut by the UFC after such a loss and also stands to lose money, since there is typically a win bonus in MMA. If there is any possible path to victory, a fighter will almost always choose to stay in there. Even if there is not.
Still, Wittman said he’ll continue doing it if necessary.
“Once you get to the money train, whether it’s UFC or the top-10 of the rankings, you start making money and you want to have that longevity of being able to last on that money train,” he said. “The more punches you take, the more damage. Especially if the chances are very slim of winning that fight. The more damage you take, it’s gonna hurt you later on in your career as a fighter.”
As for Marquardt, many people are saying he’s nearing the end of his run as a successful fighter. Wittman said he thought that might have been in the case watching Saturday, but blames Marquardt’s reactions to things on the elevation in Mexico City. Since Wittman’s Grudge Training Center is in Denver, he didn’t feel like Marquardt had to worry about the altitude. He admits to being wrong.
Wittman said he’ll be watching Marquardt closely in his next fight, though.
“My eyes are definitely going to be open for the next fight he does take,” he said. “I will have his back and give the OK on this one, because I think there were other things affecting us. But if I do see any of that slowing down, that posture stuff, I’ll be the first to stop it again and then we’ll have that conversation. But that was going through my mind when I did stop it, yes.”