“Tap, snap or nap.” It is a common saying used by many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters aimed at giving their opponent a choice when they are applying a submission on them. The purpose of a submission in combat sports is not to insult one’s skills or heart as a fighter but rather a simple show of efficiency at executing a technique in a highly competitive setting. However, all is fair in love and war, and rules sometimes have a way of being broken. When they are, it can result in heavy repercussions for a competitor on the receiving end of their adversary’s brute force.

When the fate of his opponent’s well-being rests in his hands, Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares has been known to bend or break those rules. He has earned the reputation as a notorious figure in mixed martial arts for the past four years.

Standing with a career mark of 16-6 as a pro, Palhares has made his rise to the top of the MMA world and staked his claim to title contention in dominant fashion. The majority of his wins have been captured via his trademark leg-lock submission techniques. Yet, behind his impressive victories, there’s an eerie scene of controversy and recklessness. Many of his opponents have been left injured due to Toquinho’s failure to release a hold after they tapped out.

David Avellan, at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships, and many UFC contenders can all concur to the unjustified injuries they sustained courtesy of Palhares. Even after apologies from Palhares, warnings from his superiors and suspensions, it seemed that Palhares would not stop his recurring actions.

The final nail in the coffin for the UFC occurred in his battle against Mike Pierce at UFC Fight Night 29. Palhares’ debut in the welterweight division saw the proud Brazilian come away with an impressive 31-second heel-hook submission finish. However, in an all too familiar scene, his unsportsmanlike conduct continued that night as he proceeded to crank the heel after the referee stepped in to halt the bout. Palhares’ actions resulted in his immediate release from the UFC.

It seems as though everyone is pointing the finger at Palhares because all fighters are expected to uphold the standards that make them fit to being recognized as professional athletes. Palhares was seemingly scoffing at that notion.

Although it is a fact that a fighter is responsible for his or her actions, some accountability can also be directed to the fight promotions that hire them. After many labeled him unstable and it was revealed that he had been involved in similar incidents in training practice, as confirmed by former coach Murilo Bustamante, fight promotions knew what they had on their hands. Ignoring the warning signs, companies still allowed him to fight for their brands.

Just months after his release from the UFC, Palhares signed a contract with Ray Sefo’s World Series of Fighting organization. Making his promotional debut at WSOF 9, he captured the welterweight championship from reigning titleholder Seven Carl. Palhares claimed the title by catching Carl in an inverted heel-hook submission in the first round, maliciously rearranging Carl’s limbs in the process.

Even with the high danger risk that comes with Toquinho, hungry fight companies like WSOF are eager to add him to their roster. Revenue has always been the daily bread for any business. It has resulted in the rise of well-known organizations like the UFC and Bellator. Every company looks to gain an advantage to make themselves profitable, and Palhares is a marketable fighter that can contribute to any promotion’s revenue stream. Although dangerous to anyone standing across from him, Palhares offers the type of blood, gore and pain that most die-hard fans lust for and which the sport of MMA has promoted since its earliest days. This factor results in a major boost in ratings, something no marketing strategist would dare pass up. Sadly, Palhares’ co-workers can be caught in the crossfire of a company’s ambitions.

Will there ever be a line drawn which will set a disciplinary example for future fight prospects, or will the famous phrase “It’s just business, nothing personal” continue to be the credence for turning a company’s dreams into reality?

Nevertheless, make no mistake about it, Palhares will forever go down as one of the sport’s greatest submission artists. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, the controversy over his unsportsmanlike conduct will forever shadow his many great accomplishments.

About The Author

Monta Wiley
Staff Writer

Monta Wiley is an aspiring sports journalist that has covered the world of MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He has been a regular contributor to US Combat Sports. Monta has a Bachelor's degree in Aviation Administration from California State University-Los Angeles. Outside of his writing, you can find Monta at the gym honing his BJJ technique.