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Miss Manners: Post-Victory Etiquette

Matthew Polly returns with another important list of proper fight etiquette, this time on how to behave after you’ve won. Hint: what you see above may be considered a slight faux-pas in certain circles.

If and only if you finished the fight with a slick submission, a sweet knockout, or the referee tackling you off your opponent’s bloody, limp, lifeless body, then by all means throw a party for yourself. ABC’s Wide World of Sports did not coin the phrase “ “>the thrill of victory” for nothing. Throw your head back and howl to the heavens, run around the ring like a coked-up Charlie Sheen, make an Iceman X, or create your own signature dancing-in-the-end-zone move. Heck, climb on top of the cage and give the Standing-O/Raise-the-Roof signal to the bloodthirsty crowd. This is your moment, and if you are a UFC regular you have at best three of these per year. Just be careful about attempting any back flips. It rather spoils the moment if you land flat on your face and knock yourself out.

Judges’ decisions require a more muted response. Even if you are sure you won, you didn’t really WIN. Fanboys, of which Dana White is the biggest, would rather you had gone out on your shield than dry-hump or jab your way to the scorecards. A couple more decisions and you’ll start to get a reputation, and it’s not the kind of reputation that sells tickets or PPVs. So no running, leaping, or howling. Stick your arms up in the air and slowly strut around the cage, making sure the judges see you act like the victor. They are MMA judges after all and so by definition know next to nothing about MMA. Even if your opponent is a bloody sack of shattered bones that you beat from pillar to post for fifteen straight minutes of non-stop brutality, they still might fuck it up.

You won. Chill out, bro. The fight is over. Even if your only friends are NoCal thugs who are one probation violation away from being sent back to San Quentin, do not ask them to be your cornermen for a nationally televised event. The sportswriter Jimmy Cannon once said, “Boxing is the red light district of sports.” MMA, at least in New York, is still at the streetwalker stage, doing around the worlds for $20 per pop. So wait until the cameras are turned off and the after-party drinks roll before keeping it real and authentic, like when the bank robber Lee Murray back alley blacked-out Tito Ortiz back in the gold ole, bad ole days of MMA.

First, it is very hard to spit while wearing a mouthpiece. It tends to catch in the plastic and can lead to choking of the non-rear-naked kind. Second, “>taking out your mouthpiece shows premeditation, which is much harder to justify in the court of public opinion. Third, unless you are an expert marksman, it is difficult to spit through the Octagon’s chain link fence. The globules are more likely to stick to the cage than fly through and hit your intended victim. And it is embarrassing to end the night with a miss.

It’s easier to be gracious when you win than lose, but harder not to come off as a patronizing prick. Shake your opponent’s hand, give him a quick hug, say something positive but neutral like “good job” or “tough fight,” and walk the fuck away.

1) Do not linger. He is devastated and does not want or deserve to hear a soliloquy about how great he is. If he had been that great, he would have won.

2) Do not kneel and bow to your opponent. It is not a sign of respect; it is contempt masked as respect. Even the bobble-headed Japanese will not get on their knees before someone they knocked out in the first round.

3) If you left your opponent lying semi-conscious on his back, do not hover. You are not a doctor or his mother. You are the asshole who put him there. Don’t try to act like you care. You just crushed your enemy. Enjoy hearing the lamentation of his women. It is sweet, sweet music.

(Matthew Polly is the author of American Shaolin. He writes for Slate and other publications, which pay actual money. But he has a soft spot for his buddies at

  • Omomatta

    “ABC’s Wide World of Sports did not coin the phrase “the thrill of victory” for nothing.”

    Man………Now I’m missing Saturday morning cartoons and NBA Inside Stuff.

  • glassjawsh

    i laughed at this when i first saw it on cagepotato like a year ago

  • frickshun

    Polly is working his new material on us……

    Incidentally, Rogan’s comedy set in person was waaaaaaay funnier than the abomination on Spike.

  • CAP

    I hate guys that get all huggy when the opponent JUST lost or try helping them up and they aren’t ready. Let them process the loss before the humble humiliation sets in at least.

  • CAP

    And who’s the dooosh dancing up there? That’s not Varner is it?

  • CAP

    WTF that was great!

  • Letibleu

    Really funny stuff! Keep it coming!

  • agentsmith

    I would add:

    Better yet, don’t talk to or even acknowledge your opponent at least until after or just before the official announcement, unless he initiates it first.  Give the poor guy a minute to process what just happened, odds are you’re the last fucking person in the world he wants to see right now.  Don’t get in his face and try to give him a handshake and/or hug like 2 seconds after you crushed him… it’s not sportsmanlike, it’s rubbing his nose in it.

    And if you do, especially don’t act insulted when he’s not interested in acting like your buddy just yet… Joe Lauzon, I’m looking in your direction.

  • glassjawsh


  • matthewpolly

    glassjawsh, by all means, please, show me the cagepotato link. My subconscious is always curious about who it is stealing jokes from.

    frickshun, my book is with my editor, so I’m trying to keep my fingers busy. PS that’s good to hear that Rogan is better in person, because his Spike show did not do him justice.

    Letiblue & CAP, thank you, sirs. Always good to know if the new material is hitting its marks.

    agentsmith, I second your additions to the resolution.

  • Jarman

    yeah, that’s Varner there….don’t really like him, but his fighting style’s alright…..who’s that he’s celebrating beside? Was there trash talk? I’ll decide how superbly awful I think that chicken dance -> Passout -> worm was once i know that.

    Nice piece! Like the writing, and particularly the end. Look forward to more!

  • glassjawsh

    upon second viewing, ben’s piece is far enough apart from yours that it won’t be confused with stealing, but it covers exactly the same material

  • matthewpolly

    Oh, that’s the piece you were referring to. Yeah, I liked it. But, yes, very different approach, but similar material. There is only so much ground to cover in the fight game.

  • scissors61

    NBA Inside Stuff.

    Yus! Good article, matthew. I enjoyed it a lot, if only because it reminded me that yeah, I really do dislike Jamie Varner a lot.