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Nelson's camp disappointed after appeal against controversial loss fails

The UFC welterweight felt illegal eye pokes were decisive in his recent defeat to Santiago Ponzinibbio.

Gunnar Nelson (right) and SBG head coach John Kavanagh.
Gunnar Nelson (right) and SBG head coach John Kavanagh.
Image: INPHO

GUNNAR NELSON HAS been unsuccessful in his bid to overturn the result of his controversial defeat to Santiago Ponzinibbio.

Nelson was knocked out by Ponzinibbio in the first round of their headline bout at UFC Fight Night 113 in Glasgow in July.

However, footage appeared to show that Nelson was the victim of several eye pokes — which are illegal in mixed martial arts — in the build-up to the finish.

The Icelandic welterweight, who regularly trains under John Kavanagh at Straight Blast Gym in Dublin, subsequently appealed to have the outcome changed to a ‘no contest’ as his team were adamant that the final eye poke was a decisive factor in leading to the knockout blow.

His management have released a statement confirming that in spite of the appeal, the result will be upheld:

“We are disappointed with the UFC’s recent ruling to uphold the result of the 16 July, 2017 bout between our client, Gunnar Nelson, and Santiago Ponzinibbio.

“While we understand the outcome of a fight is difficult to overturn, we maintain that the blatant eye pokes were a major factor in the stoppage and the final eye poke was certainly a fight-ending foul because Gunnar had no opportunity to signal the referee.

“A more stringent application of the Unified Rules of MMA should have been applied here to rule this fight a ‘no contest’. We stand behind Gunnar and Team Nelson, and we hope this unfortunate situation will lead to more careful application of the rules regarding eye pokes, as fairness and fighter safety must always be a priority.”

UFC Fight Night - Gunnar Nelson v Santiago Ponzinibbio - SSE Hydro Gunnar Nelson in the aftermath of his defeat to Santiago Ponzinibbio. Source: Craig Watson

In the aftermath, Nelson said he experienced double vision during the fight and regretted that he didn’t alert referee Leon Roberts to the initial eye poke.

“I don’t like to make excuses, but this is the truth. How I feel anyway is that I should have stopped the fight when I got poked. I should have stopped it then because I’m seeing two Ponzinibbios in front of me. It was like that until I remember standing up and the fight was over,” said the 29-year-old, who’s now ranked 11th in the welterweight division.

Coach John Kavanagh took to social media today to express his dissatisfaction regarding the decision to uphold the result.

Kavanagh said: “The real point is this: there was no time to signal to the referee between the final eye poke and the KO blow. It was a ‘fight-ending foul’. What the UFC, athletic commissions and MMA officials have to ask themselves is ‘is eye gouging legal?’

“I constantly see fighters doing it, or with fingers outstretched, and I don’t remember ever seeing even once a fighter be penalised. What are they waiting for, permanent loss of sight?”

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Paul Dollery

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