MANILA, Philippines – In a surprising act of mercy and sportsmanship, a Filipino mixed martial artist competing in a Michigan fight card chose to tap out rather than inflict more punishment on his clearly overmatched opponent.
Mike Pantangco, an amateur MMA fighter born in the Philippines, was fighting Jeremy Rasner in the Prison City Fight League and dominating the fight, landing knees and punches, as well as a well-executed spinning back elbow.
But with just seconds to go before the end of the round, Pantangco backed off, took a knee, and tapped the mat, giving Rasner the victory in a match that he had been winning.
The video has been viewed more than 2.4 million times on YouTube since it was posted on May 20.
Pantangco explained his actions in an interview with ASX TV, saying: "I just feel that there's no point fighting him, because he didn’t train against me and I didn’t train for him."
"I just feel like we're amateur fighters," he added. "We don't get money, we don't get paid, and I know that the only thing I'm going to finish the fight is (for) him to go into the hospital or get hurt."
"I just feel terrible, so I'm just going to give him the win."'
Rasner had been a late replacement for the fight after Pantangco's original opponent backed out at the last minute, according to the fighter.
Pantangco's decision was met with mixed reviews, with some fans saying it was "disrespectful" of him to essentially gift-wrap the victory for Rasner. Yet he stands by his decision to tap out.
"Jeremy is our gym friend, and he just stepped up to give me a fight," Pantangco explained in a Facebook post on Inside MMA. "I am sorry for all you guys (who) think I did him wrong or disrespect him."
"Guys, we're (amateur) fighters. We don't get paid. If I (had kept) going, I would've hurt him more and maybe, he gets serious injuries, and maybe that (would) make him stop doing what he loves to do," he added.
"I don't care if my (amateur) record has one lost. Big deal. I know what I did, and enough is enough."
Others were impressed by Pantangco’s show of sportsmanship. James Patrick Quizon of the International Business Times called it a "very professional decision," while Nate Scott of USA Today commended him on his "class move."