The light heavyweight contenders barely got going this past Saturday at UFC 294 before their fight was paused after Ankalaev landed an illegal knee to a grounded Walker, and then stopped altogether after a ringside physician determined that Walker was unfit to continue. Officially, the bout ended in a no-contest.
An enraged and bewildered Walker had to be held back by various officials as he stomped around the cage. Though there was was some pushing and shoving, the situation eventually deescalated, with Walker and Ankalaev leaving the arena unsatisfied.
Walker appeared on The MMA Hour on Monday to give his take on how the doctor handled the situation.
“He asked me if I wanted to continue fighting,” Walker said. “I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Where are you?’ I didn’t want to say the wrong answer because I was excited when he was doing the test and I wanted to say the right answer. I thought to say Abu Dhabi … and then I said, ‘Fine, I’m in the f****** desert, bro. I’m here. I’m good. … I’m in the desert. I’m in the Middle East.’”
“I can speak good English,” Walker continued. “The doctor wasn’t in his native language and had a heavy accent as well, I understand what he said. I tried to explain and give the right answer to him, but in the middle of the situation, maybe I fight for the title shot and everything, my mind is going a thousand miles an hour. I received the shot in my face and I was OK to fight. Even my last fight against Anthony Smith, he said I attacked his family, I had no idea what he was talking about. ‘You attacked my family.’ ‘What?’ I didn’t understand.
“It’s the same situation. It’s very complicated because you go a thousand miles an hour, you’re fighting for your life and your career, hopefully get a title shot after, and everything’s over, it’s very disappointing.”
It didn’t help that the doctor who stopped the Ankalaev-Walker fight had also made his presence felt earlier in the night. During a preliminary bantamweight bout between Javid Basharat and Victor Henry, a kick below the belt left Henry writhing in pain on the mat. When the doctor entered the cage to check on Henry, he was heard telling the fighter that the shot didn’t land low, a suggestion heavily criticized by several of Henry’s peers. UFC CEO Dana White also called the doctor “inexperienced.”
Walker isn’t sure what more he could’ve done to convince the doctor that he was able to continue.
“I think that was it,” Walker said. “Maybe he asked me which fight is that, maybe I answered, ‘Bro, it’s a very important fight. It’s a fight to get a title shot, for the champion, come on.’ I was trying to show that I was OK. I was getting desperate a little bit because I don’t want the fight to stop. We train so hard for that moment, I was a little bit desperate in that moment as well.
“I think he should give me five minutes first to try to settle me down and then come ask me. Maybe he brings the f****** translator, he can speak my language properly.”
Making the scene even more harrowing for Walker is that the decision was made fairly quickly following Ankalaev’s foul. Walker doesn’t understand how the situation is all that different from Aljamain Sterling’s infamous UFC 259 fight with Petr Yan, which ended when Yan connected with a knee to a grounded Sterling and ended up handing Sterling the bantamweight championship via disqualification.
“They didn’t give me time to calm down, to recover,” Walker said. “If I had gotten kicked in the balls, I have five minutes to recover. I’m kneed in the face, I have nothing to recover. An illegal knee in the face? It’s more disappointing because the same thing happened with Aljamain and he became a champ after a knee like that.
“I don’t want to become champion [like that], but maybe take points off of him and the fight continues, or maybe disqualify him or whatever. It’s an illegal shot. He could put me out with a very illegal shot. I could have damage in my brain. Before, I gave him a legal and intentional knee on the middle, I came in with the flying knee and I missed. But on the floor, you know the rules. It’s a very dirty move. I’m upset.”
Afterward, Walker could hardly hold himself together as it looked like an in-cage melee was about to break out.
“You don’t want to take points off, you don’t want to disqualify him, I want to keep fighting,” Walker said. “Let’s f****** fight anyway. It’s so much hard work. The dreams, the career, many people depend on me. My family, my future, and I was like, ‘What the f***?’ I want to fight everyone here then. I was losing my mind.”
Walker said that Ankalaev appeared to be trying to say something to him, though he didn’t understand because he was in Russian. Much of the Brazilian fighter’s frustrations are directed at Ankalaev, who he blames for throwing an illegal strike in the first place. Asked if he had anything to say to his UFC 294 opponent, he concluded his MMA Fighting interview by throwing up a pair of middle fingers directed at Ankalaev.
If there’s any positive news, it’s that White was heard telling Walker and Ankalaev that he would make things right for the fighters following the conclusion of their bout. Walker hasn’t been told what that means just yet.
“I don’t know,” Walker said. “I can’t wait to know because I have no idea. Hopefully, he makes this right. There’s so much investment and it’s just disappointing. … I’ll come back and wait for the decision, what’s going to happen next, and just wait. I have nothing to do. Check if I have any injuries and then see what’s the next step to do.”
“Probably I’m not getting the win bonus,” he added. “I don’t know how much money I’m going to get. I spent so much money on this fight. I booked a big house for my whole team, I booked everybody’s flights, my wife came with me. It’s so much money. I’m in the red now, I can’t wait to receive some money so I can start paying my bills. It’s just sad because I was doing so good in the fight. He didn’t touch me, no significant strikes, one was [the illegal] strike. I’m 100 percent sure I can finish him and knock him out, but now it’s just disappointing.”