Melquizael Costa explains what it was like after a referee almost let him get choked to death during a Demolidor Fight event in Brazil.
Back in the ‘60s, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram put together a controversial experiment to see how far the average person can be pushed into behaving unethically if prompted by someone in a position of authority. Subjects were placed in a room and prompted by scientists to press a button delivering electrical shocks to an unseen victim. The number of people who followed those prompts even as the (fake) victim screamed was disturbingly high.
In MMA, we sometimes see a different sort of Milgram experiment. A fighter has defeated their opponent, yet the referee isn’t stepping in. Will the fighter stop attacking his defenseless victim or wait until the referee stops the fight?
The latest terrible example of this came in the main event of Brazil’s Demolidor Fight main event this past weekend. Rafael Barbosa put Melquizael Costa to sleep in a choke, only to have the ref not realize the fight was over. Watch:
As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, now MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz has some words from Costa.
“He locked the anaconda choke, and when I turned to the wrong side, I went out,” Costa told MMA Fighting. “The first thing I remember is opening my eyes and seeing my coaches and a doctor over me, calling my name, and I couldn’t breathe. It was agonizing. I only came back to normal when I got to the hospital and they gave me some serum.”
“I saw in the video that I went out and my eyes were open,” Costa said. “You might think I’m awake, but I was already out. I moved a couple of times, but I was having seizures. My corner and his corner yelled that I was out, but the referee said he would only stop the fight if I was out. And I was! Every referee touches the fighter to see if they are out, but he never touched me. My opponent stopped the fight. Otherwise, I would be dead.”
“My wife is still in shock,” Costa said. “My wife and friends were watching the fight online and they cut the stream when that happened, and everyone was in shock because they didn’t know what happened. I saw death so close. My opponent let me go, otherwise I would be dead if I had to wait for the referee. It was horrible. It was agonizing for me when I came back because I couldn’t breathe.”
The referee involved has already announced his decision to retire, which is probably not a terrible idea given how badly things almost turned out in this situation.