Francisco Prado’s coach defends not throwing in towel at UFC Fight Night 237, clarifies ‘don’t need your eyes’ speech

Coach Asim Zaidi thinks his comments in the corner of Francisco Prado during Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 237 loss to Daniel Zellhuber were overblown.

After a competitive two rounds of lightweight action at Mexico City Arena, Prado (12-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) returned to his corner with a badly damaged eye courtesy of punches from Zellhuber (15-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC). He told his team he could not see, which prompted Zaidi, who is the CEO of the Miami-based GOAT SHED team, to tell his fighter: “You don’t need your eyes.”

Given Prado’s eye essentially was swollen shut, the comments, which were translated by the UFC broadcast, were met with skepticism about whether Zaidi was showing too much disregard for the safety of his athlete.

According to Zaidi, however, his statement wasn’t fully translated, and thus mischaracterized. He admits to being aware Prado’s vision was compromised, but his speech revolved around how his fighter could get through – and potentially win – the final round.

“The translator said, ‘You don’t need your eyes. Fight. Go to the center. Just fight.’ I said, ‘You don’t need your eyes. If you fight in the clinch, you won’t need your eyes. Do not fight in the center of the ring. In the center, you need your eyes. Get him to the fence, wrestle and clinch fight him so you don’t rely on your eyes,” Zaidi told MMA Junkie on Sunday. “Going into that third round, my fighter and I truly had a Rocky (Balboa) and (trainer) Mickey moment. Both of us were willing to die for a victory. He told me he couldn’t see, so I immediately gave him a strategy to continue fighting.

“The translator, unfortunately, was not able to translate properly and made me sort of look like a psychopath – not that I mind. The translator is a great dude and just spazzed a bit. I told my fighter that his eyes are needed in long-range fighting. Do not fight the opponent in the center. He does not need his eyes if he fights in the clinch. I asked him to focus on striking in the clinch and grappling on the fence so he will not rely on his eyes.”

Regardless of his statement or how it was interpreted, some in the MMA community expressed online that Prado shouldn’t have been sent out for the third round, regardless. The ringside physician also allowed Prado to continue after a wellness check.

The 21-year-old from Argentina seemingly has a long career ahead of him, and the momentum of the bout wasn’t going in his favor.

Judges Miguel Jimenez and Junichiro Kamijo had it 19-19 with Round 1 for Prado and Round 2 for Zellhuber. Judge Rick Winter, though, had Zellhuber up 20-17, giving him a 10-9 in Round 1 and 10-8 in Round 2.

Prado showed heart in Round 3 trying to work around his damaged eye. Zellhuber wouldn’t give up the lead, though, and took the final frame 10-9 on all three scorecards, giving him the unanimous decision win by 29-28, 29-28 and 30-26 scores.

The bout was awarded Fight of the Night honors after the event, with Prado and Zellhuber taking home an additional $50,000 each. And though Prado will be feeling the impact of the fight in the immediate aftermath, Zaidi said he doesn’t regret his advice or decision to have Prado go out for the final frame.

“It was very clearly 1-1 going into the third round,” Zaidi said. “Whoever won that third round would take the fight. No fighter or coach on the planet would throw a towel in for that. It’s easy for a casual to ask to throw in the towel. Most casuals don’t understand the sacrifices a fighter goes through.

“Francisco, his training partners, my assistant coach (Mango) and I all left our families and have been living in a town in Mexico for three weeks –
all of us in one small house, showering with buckets of water and grinding in the mountains. My fighter wouldn’t go through all that sacrifice only to give up in the third round of a close fight. We live by the sword and die by the sword. And I, too, am willing to die to see my fighter successful.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 237.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie