Coach’s Controversial Corner: Prado’s ‘No Eyes’ Strategy Takes Center Stage at UFC Fight Night 237

Coach's Controversial Corner: Prado's 'No Eyes' Strategy Takes Center Stage at UFC Fight Night 237

Coach Asim Zaidi believes that the reaction to his remarks during Francisco Prado’s corner talk in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 237 was exaggerated.

During a hard-fought lightweight bout at Mexico City Arena, Prado (12-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) came back to his corner after two intense rounds, sporting a severely injured eye from strikes by Daniel Zellhuber (15-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC). When he informed his team of his impaired vision, Zaidi, the CEO of the Miami-based GOAT SHED team, encouraged his fighter with the words: “You don’t need your eyes.”

Considering Prado’s eye was nearly completely swollen shut, these remarks, as translated on the UFC broadcast, raised concerns about whether Zaidi was neglecting the well-being of his fighter.

Zaidi, however, contends that his comment was not completely translated, leading to a misunderstanding. He acknowledges recognizing that Prado’s vision was impaired but explains that his advice was focused on strategies for Prado to endure and possibly secure a victory in the final round.

He clarified, “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 shared that entering the third round, he and his fighter experienced a moment reminiscent of Rocky (Balboa) and his trainer, Mickey, ready to give their all for the win. “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,” Zaidi recounted.

“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.” Zaidi then detailed his actual advice, “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.”

Despite the debate over Zaidi’s comment and its interpretation, there was sentiment within the MMA community, especially on social media, that Prado should not have continued into the third round under the circumstances. Even after a medical evaluation, the ringside doctor permitted Prado to proceed with the match.

Prado, a 21-year-old fighter from Argentina, is seen as having a promising future in the sport. However, the tide was not turning in his favor at that point in the match.

Judges Miguel Jimenez and Junichiro Kamijo scored the fight evenly at 19-19 after two rounds, attributing the first round to Prado and the second to Zellhuber. However, Judge Rick Winter saw the match differently, scoring both rounds in favor of Zellhuber with a 20-17 lead, marking the first round 10-9 and the second 10-8 for Zellhuber.

Despite his impaired vision, Prado demonstrated determination in the third round, attempting to adapt to his condition. Nevertheless, Zellhuber maintained his advantage, securing the round with a 10-9 score from all three judges. This performance led to a unanimous decision victory for Zellhuber, with final scores of 29-28, 29-28, and 30-26.

The match was awarded as the Fight of the Night, rewarding both Prado and Zellhuber with an additional $50,000 each. Despite the physical toll on Prado from the bout, Zaidi expressed no regrets over his guidance or the decision to let Prado compete in the final round.

Zaidi emphasized the critical situation before the final round, stating, “It was very clearly 1-1 going into the third round,” and highlighted the decisive nature of the upcoming round. He strongly believed, “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.”

He further detailed the commitment and sacrifices made by his team, “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.”

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