To better understand the dynamics of the fake glove touch, consider the case of Victor Ortiz.
The Fake Glove Touch
On September 17th, 2011, boxing welterweight Victor Ortiz crouched slightly and then launched a headbutt into Floyd Mayweather’s face. It was, I have to say, hard to see as unintentional.
As referee Joe Cortez called for a timeout, Ortiz walked over to Mayweather and gave him a hug and a kiss which, maybe he believed, was the going price for one headbutt.
Cortez deducted a point for the illegal blow and when the action was restarted, Ortiz slowly approached Mayweather with his arms out in a hugging motion and gave him a light-hearted embrace. Then, as they separated from their second hug in 30 seconds (an adequate number of hugs), Mayweather struck him down with a left hook and a right straight.
The fight was over, and a debate caught fire. Was it a “cheap shot?” Did Mayweather win unfairly? Or does Ortiz carry the blame?
The infamous “fake glove touch” is MMA’s analogue, and one of the only opportunities for a cheap shot in the cage. And while sportsmanship still occasionally falls in short supply in MMA, the move draws ire almost universally among fans. One Twitter user has this to say about fake glove touches . . .
Bellator lightweight Nick Newell states it differently.
But wherever you fall on the “hoe” to “jabroni” spectrum of the argument, the question persists: Are fake glove touches the basest form of poor sportsmanship or a justifiable reminder of the well known pre-fight referee warning to “protect yourself at all times?”
Let’s explore the topic with four examples of the fake glove touch, and what happened next.
Colton Smith vs Jesse Barrett
In his elimination fight to qualify for the 16th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Colton Smith extended his patriotic hand and arm (more on that later), and feigned a glove touch before immediately shooting for a successful takedown. He went on to win the fight and, in fact, win the entire season.
His opponent Jesse Barrett expressed his disdain afterward.
“I thought we agreed to touch gloves,” he says with the look of a cry-he’s-not-going-to-cry on his face. “Felt like he cheated a little bit . . . I made the gesture to touch gloves . . . he made the same gesture back . . . um, that’s not exactly how it went . . . I put my hand out and he just shot underneath. ”
In Colton Smith’s post-fight interview, and without a hint of irony let’s point out, Smith says, “I want this bad, you know? I wanna be a role model for young soldiers, um, a role model for young guys thinking about joining the military. . . .”
Well hey, all’s fair in love and war, right? Of course, not everyone agrees, and if this example makes you yearn for karmic justice you should know that, following the TUF finale he won, Smith was matched up with Robert Whittaker, Michael Chiesa, and Carlos Diego Ferreira. Respectively, Smith was TKO’d, choked, and then choked again for good measure before being asked to pack his UFC bags and clean out his UFC desk.
Ibragim Khalilov vs Bakhtiyor Barotov
One year after Khabib Nurmagomedov’s MMA debut in 2008, fellow Dagestani Ibragim Khalilov made his own debut. As of this writing, his career has spanned nine fights, and his final fight in 2017 has to qualify as the most successful deployment of the fake glove touch in MMA history.
Khalilov approached his opponent Bakhtiyor Barotov, touched his glove briefly, and then knocked Barotov out cold with a surprise punch.
Boom. Done. Over. Three seconds.
HOLY SHIT. 3 second (??) KO at WBK 22. pic.twitter.com/Bx3JZqtiDr
— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) January 7, 2017
It is perhaps the dirtiest fight to be in possession of the numerously-tied trophy for “fastest knockout in mixed martial arts history.”
Neither man has fought since, and maybe — for one of them — it’s out of shame.
Erick Silva vs Nordine Taleb
Smitten by the many flashes of brilliance Erick Silva showcased, UFC commentators were quick to excuse his failures and shortcomings, often repeating (which fans still enjoy mocking), that we have to keep in mind Silva is only “___ years old.” He was “only 27 years old” when he lost to Carlo Prater. When he was TKO’d by Matt Brown, he was “only 29 years old.” And when he faked a glove touch against Nordine Taleb, he was “only 31 years old,” whatever that means.
With just over 1:30 left on the clock in his first round against Taleb, Silva grinned and stuck his arm out for a fist bump. As Taleb accepted the gesture, Silva hit him with a left hook. He then made a gesture as if to say, “What? You don’t like it? I’m only 31 years old.” At least, that’s how I interpreted it.
What happened next is our first sign that there may in fact be some justice in the world, and that the darkness in men’s hearts may yet be checked by an unseen celestial force some call “karma.” A few minutes later, Taleb grabs a teep kick by Silva and blasts him in the face with a chopping right hand. Silva turns and faceplants like a 31-year-old gunshot victim, and Herb Dean rushes in to save him.
Ryan Hollis vs Cody Williams
Wait, Hollis? From Texas? I swear I’m not related to this guy. I think I would remember a cousin with a tattoo on his abdomen that reads, “Hard Head Hitters.”
In any case, Mr. Hollis earned his spot on this list with his fake-glove-touch-to-two-hit-combo at LFC 58 in 2016. He surprises Cody Williams with these surreptitious strikes and Michael Schiavallo, ever the optimist, says, “Ah, smacks him with the jab early does Hollis.”
Not to get sidetracked but I have to say, as someone with the last name “Hollis,” it really helps my self-esteem to listen to the commentary for this fight.
“Let’s see if Hollis can sit behind that magnificent jab of his.”
“Hollis, nice job getting out of there.”
“I tell you, Hollis is a lot stronger than he looks.”
The only problem is that I can’t enjoy the fantasy of imagining this is me fighting without also taking responsibility for the cheap shot I landed.
I honestly feel ashamed. I think back to when my fantasy father (who I imagine to be named Bryan) told me, “Winning is great, but never lose sight of what really matters. And what really matters is that you don’t tattoo your current gym in bold letters across your stomach. And don’t fake a glove touch if you want to have any fans.”
I think of these words, and I lose the will to fight just as Cody Williams sets up an arm-triangle choke. I preemptively tap out.
“Devastating for Hollis,” Schiavallo cries out, “Jubilation for Williams.”
“Go ahead kid,” I whisper to Cody Williams in my fantasy, my dad’s ethereal hand resting reassuringly on my shoulder. “You earned it. You’re only 32 years old.”