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| | Dana White on officiating gaffes at UFC 96: Referees "need to be confident"
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Source:Dana White on officiating gaffes at UFC 96: Referees "need to be confident" - MMA - Yahoo! Sports
Dana White, the Ultimate Fighting Championship president, waged war on the octagon as the fight progressed. |
Inside the cage, Matt Brown was dismantling Pete Sell in a main card welterweight fight at UFC 96 on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. As blows progressed, Sell continued to fall, rise, backpedal and take punishment.
After about a minute of the one-sided match, Brown paused at a stumbling Sell and turned slightly, looking for the referee. It was clear that Brown, in an act of mercy, was asking for the fight to be stopped.
It wasn't. Brown continued advancing. After 1 minute and 27 seconds, the referee did thankfully call it off, giving Brown his third win in four UFC fights.
"I wanted him to stop the fight because it was clear to me Pete Sell was pretty much done," Brown said. "I didn't want to inflict any unreasonable damage he didn't have to take for (the) purpose of winning or losing the fight."
The referee, Ives Lavigne, was one of two who made questionable calls during UFC 96 that drew White's ire in the post-event press conference and underlined the ongoing issue of in-cage management during these crowd-pleasing but sometimes-dangerous bouts.
The first fight of the night, a preliminary card matchup between Shane Nelson and Aaron Riley, ended far too soon, after just 44 seconds while an on-the-ground Riley still seemed coherent and defensive. Lavigne then let the Brown-Sell fight go on too long, and the result was a Sell trip to a Columbus hospital for an MRI.
It was a night that once again brought MMA refereeing to the forefront, mostly for the negative. During the Sell fight, White became physical himself.
"I'm serious, I'm not even kidding, I hurt my arm tonight beating on the octagon screaming to stop that fight," White said. "I've never done that in eight years."
But the handling of fights has been an issue for just as long, and it will continue to be. White hinted fans will be seeing much more on the topic during upcoming episodes of the upcoming ninth season of the UFC's reality series, "The Ultimate Fighter," which debuts April 1.
"And wait until 'The Ultimate Fighter' comes out talking about reffing and judging," White said. "It's one of the hardest things in the sport right now."
A fight stopped too soon
Nelson and Riley entered the Nationwide Arena octagon for the first of the night's 10 fights just after 8 p.m. local time. The lightweight bout matched the more experienced Riley (27-11-1) against Nelson, the "TUF" veteran who entered with a 12-3 record.
Boos, though, soon filled the arena. Ohio-based referee Rick Fike watched Nelson land a hard right hand on Riley then advance on Riley as he tumbled to the ground. Fike quickly stepped in, waving off the bout after just 44 seconds.
Riley jumped up immediately to protest. He took only a few tough punches, and he seemed prepared to fight more. No medical personnel were needed. The arena echoed with the heavy protests.
"It was definitely an early stoppage," Riley told commentator Joe Rogan in the octagon afterward. "Everybody saw me take a whole lot worse than that. I had all my faculties about me then, and I still do."
The fight, though, was over. There were no re-dos, no restarts. It was a win for Nelson, and a loss for Riley, all decided by Fike in a split second.
"It wasn't my call," Nelson told the still-booing crowd over Rogan's microphone. "It was out of my hands if the ref stopped it."
That's true. It was all in Fike's hands, hands that maintain the Madison Combined Martial Arts Association in northeastern Ohio and hands that created Sanchi Ryu, an American form of karate.
Despite his significant martial arts experience, Fike faced the barrage of contempt. He also got a handful of criticism from White afterward.
"It drives me crazy; it's such a personal thing for me," White said. "These guys train so hard. Those two kids have been in camp for six to eight weeks training, they fly out here to fight, and the fight gets stopped like that. Listen, people make mistakes all the time. That was a bad one."
A fight stopped too late
The second mistake was almost worse. The Brown-Sell bout received higher billing on the main card and a place on the live pay-per-view broadcast. Brown dropped Sell early, but Lavigne stepped in to break up the action though he ultimately let it continue. Once both were set again, Brown again toppled Sell with a right hand and continued the blows.
Somehow, Sell rose again, and Brown continued the punishment. As White throttled the cage and Brown glanced for a reprieve, Lavigne finally called an end to the carnage. Brown was so untouched, in fact, that he was seen ringside not long after the fight ended posing for pictures with fans. Sell, meanwhile, was headed for medical testing.
White acknowledged afterward that the first fight's result the early stoppage call by Fike might have factored into Lavigne's patience.
"When they see a guy make a mistake that was a brutal mistake like the one in the first fight, and then it messes with their head and they think, 'I don't wanna do that,'" White said. "These guys just need to be confident, go in and make decisions. Stop the fight. That's your decision. Let them boo you. Who cares?
"There's nobody … I shouldn't say there's nobody. There are a few [referees] out there who are real good, and there are a whole bunch of guys who aren't."
But the UFC must go on, good referees or no good referees. White and his fellow UFC officials will continue to ask for better fight management while hoping the fights remain fair. They hope the bouts don't end too early and upset the crowd or too late and endanger health.
In the meantime, refereeing will remain an issue, and one White will surely continue to address.
"I hate dogging refs because they have a hard job; I know they have a hard job," White said. "To me, I think there are a couple guys in this business who know what they're doing and go in there and take control and take charge. When you're a referee, your job is to go in, and you're in charge. When you step in there, step in there and stop that fight. Fight's over. That's it. End of story."
Last edited by ColdMolasses; 03-10-2009 at 09:44 AM.