UFC 244 doctor responds to controversial main event stoppage, receiving threats

Nate Diaz, UFC 244
Image Credit: Steven Ryan/Getty Images

In the aftermath of the UFC 244 main event, it would seem that you would want to be anyone else besides the doctor who called a stop to Saturday’s BMF Title fight.

Dr. Nitin K. Sethi, a New York-based neurologist, was the cage side physician called into the Octagon after the third round of the bout between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz at Madison Square Garden on Saturday evening. Diaz had suffered a pair of cuts around his right eye, including a highly visible one above the eye. Sethi and Diaz conversed with the fighter saying, as expected, that he was OK. Sethi would then head over to referee Dan Miragliotta and made the decision to stop the fight, which lead to a third-round TKO win for Masvidal.

Sethi spoke to MMA Fighting about the reason he stopped the bout.

“I made an objective call based on my assessment of the fighter,” Sethi said. “Not just the cut, but the overall assessment of the fighter (and) how the fight was going. Once I felt I could not guarantee the health and safety going forward, I had to make a tough call.

“The moment I lose my objectivity and I’m concerned how my actions are viewed by the UFC, by the fans, by the media, then I cease to be a ringside physician, and I cease to be doing my job. I have to be objective, and objectively, you make a call”

In addition, Sethi explains that Miragliotta had expressed his concerns to the New York State Athletic Commission about Diaz’s overall health after the second round of the UFC 244 main event. Masvidal had won both rounds pretty easily, having Diaz dropped and hurt on different occasions. Sethi said the Miragliotta was going to give Diaz another round to turn it around — he didn’t.

“Going forward off that third round, I could not guarantee his health and safety,” Sethi said. “When in doubt, you have to do what you have to do to protect the athlete’s safety. His health and safety comes first. Every action of mine has to be viewed with that foremost in everybody’s mind, but that doesn’t happen.

Jorge Masvidal, Nate Diaz, UFC 244

Sethi completely respects the toughness of Diaz and also understands why fans would be upset about the fight being called off. What Sethi can’t fathom is why fans would go as far as to threaten him following his decision at UFC 244 — which in all honesty, was done to protect a fighter.

“I’m a very good neurologist and a very good doctor, and calling me f*cking scum online and calling my office staff and yelling at them, threatening me, I fear for my health and safety,” Sethi explained. “Somebody’s going to get hurt, and it’s probably going to be me this time.

“People don’t realize what they do when they talk about these things. But that’s the hard reality of this sport.”

Despite the loss to Masvidal — in a fight he was down on all three judges’ scorecards — Diaz is still a huge star and will live to fight another day. Could Diaz have gone two more rounds and taken more punishment, maybe turned the fight around? Sure, he could’ve. But  was it worth risking his long-term health in a fight that didn’t look to be turning around anytime soon? No, it wasn’t, according to Sethi and his decision to stop the fight.

Sethi welcomes the feedback as long as it’s warranted and constructive. The biggest fear from the New York doctor is that the treatment he has received will lead to other doctor’s not making the hard call when it’s needed.

“After what happened to me, let me tell you one thing: The only thing sad about this will be you’ll have doctors who will now be very afraid to make calls,” Sethi said. “And when people are scared to make calls because they’re so afraid of the repercussions, I think we’re entering dangerous territory.”