It’s truly amazing. Everyone he fights knows what is coming, but very few have been able to stop Rousimar Palhares’ vicious leg-lock attacks. His latest victim was Steve Carl on March 29 during World Series of Fighting 9’s main event for the welterweight title. Palhares locked in an inverted heel hook early in the first round, forcing Carl to submit in agony.

The impressive and decisive win is not without controversy, however. Many onlookers feel as though Palhares held the submission for too long. It would not be the first time Palhares has been guilty of the offense. He was released from the UFC following his win over Mike Pierce in October for holding a heel hook too long. As a result, Pierce suffered a sprained MCL and a torn ankle ligament and has yet to return.

Palhares didn’t hold the submission too long as far as Carl is concerned, though, and much of the thought otherwise likely stems from the perception of Palhares as a dirty fighter. While we can label the Carl submission as a non-issue, the questions still remains—because of his history, is Palhares a danger to the sport and his fellow competitors?

First, let’s dispel the argument people like to make that fighters go in there to hurt one another and that injuries are part of the risk. This is only a half-truth, because while there is always the potential for injury in athletics, especially in combat sports, the motivation of a fighter should never be to injure his opponent.

The point of any sport is to win, but fighters need to take responsibility for each other’s safety in the cage. Going beyond that point to where a fighter looks to purposely cause unnecessary damage to another competitor is unacceptable.

When two fighters step into the cage to compete, they are not only entrusting their well-being to the referee, but each other as well. Even though there is a primal wave that overtakes a fighter during combat, they are professionals and must be able to turn it off.

There is no denying the fact that Palhares is a tremendous fighter and an absolute beast at welterweight now. In his two fights at 170 pounds, he has dismantled two quality opponents in a total of one minute and 40 seconds. But Palhares has a history of holding submissions too long in both MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition, and he has already been cut by the sport’s biggest promotion for his actions. He is dangerously close to being blackballed from competing for any recognizable promotion.

WSOF president Ray Sefo has made it clear that one slip-up will result in Palhares being fired from the promotion. Even with WSOF executives and fighters coming to the defense of Palhares’ most recent stoppage, people are going to question his motivation and sportsmanship.

Once you are labeled “dirty,” it is nearly impossible to change the perception. In Palhares’ case, he has earned the distinction for his antics and that cloud of doubt will follow him for the rest of his career. He is walking a fine line right now, and one little slip-up can and will result in him spending the rest of his time fighting for peanuts in small, questionably run promotions.