John Danaher and the “safety first” dilemma

John Danaher speaks out about professionalism in a crisis in a recent Instagram post. In it, he explains that “there is always a chance in competition that something completely unexpected and detrimental can happen to you mid-match”. He goes on to explain exactly what happened when Gordon Ryan returned to his corner after tearing his LCL at Kasai.

Danaher further explains that “rule number one of all combat sports” is to never let your athlete compete in a match he doesn’t have a “serious chance of winning”. Gordon Ryan, showing his true measure of grit, looked him in the eyes and said yes. They re-tooled the game plan, agreeing that he ought to sit to guard and go for a submission.

In a business rife with mid-match injuries, Danaher argues against the “all in” approach of some competitors, and prefers to live to fight another day.

This goes directly against the philosophy preached by Dana White, who oftentimes seems to disbelieve injured fighters, sometimes openly mocking their injuries or otherwise penalizing them for not taking fights on short notice. This is, perhaps, a symptom of a larger divide between the sports, which see BJJ competitors seeking to avoid injuries and win, while UFC fighters place more emphasis on putting on a show for the fans. Afterall, the UFC was founded as a spectacle and a marketing tool.

Luckily, Danaher’s philosophy seems to be the leading attitude in BJJ. After Leandro Lo suffered a shoulder injury at the 2018 BJJ World Championship, fans chanted for him to come back to face Mahamed Aly. Lo opted to avoid further damage by settling for silver, and fans were able to see him return to competition later the same year.

Perhaps “professionalism in a crisis” can also be put simply “safety first”. This seems to be the best practice for training and competition – if you’re injured and cannot win, bow out, accept defeat, and train to return stronger. If you can still win, you must adapt, and attack accordingly.

Rachel Dows

Rachel is a 20-something year old writer and martial arts enthusiast. She works at a desk job all day to afford to be able to spend the majority of her free time at the gym, where she is a blue belt in BJJ. She also sometimes goes outside to run, hike, and enjoy living in small town USA.