UFC 156, which takes place this Saturday, Feb. 2, in Las Vegas is headlined by a featherweight title fight, pitting champion Jose Aldo vs. former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar.
Last week the Nevada State Athletic Commission tapped veteran referee Steve Mazzagatti to officiate the main event. Mazzagatti, who was chosen for the assignment over Herb Dean and Yves Lavigne, will earn $1,200.
Mazzagatti has refereed dozens of high-profile bouts in Nevada, and is frequently maligned by UFC president Dana White, who has said "this guy shouldn’t even be watching the UFC, let alone reffing it."
This weekend was no exception.
“I could go off for 45 minutes on officiating over [in Nevada],” said White recently. “Steve Mazzagatti is the ref reffing the superfight. What more can I do (while turning his hand into a gun and pulling the trigger against his head)? Mazzagatti is reffing the superfight. What more needs to be said than that?
“I can’t do anything. As a promoter, I can’t do anything. The fighters can. The fighters can say, ‘Oh my God.’ They can say, ‘I don’t want him,’ and they gotta go in and give good cause on why they don’t want him.”
“I can tell you this, if I was a fighter, the last thing I would want to see when I got in the cage is Mazzagatti. That’s the last thing I would want to see.”
Mazzagatti has defended his performance in the past.
“[White] has criticized us and we get a lot of criticism for not standing them up – at least I do,” said Mazzagatti said in July of last year. “They say we let fighters lay on the ground too long and we’re not doing anything. We don’t make the rules. We enforce them. It’s not our job to make sure the fight goes the way the promoter wants it to go. It’s the fighter’s job. It’s their show."
“I don’t make the rules. If you want to make a 15-second standup rule, then come up with a 15-second standup rule and I will stand them up in 15 seconds. I can only go with what’s given to me. I don’t judge fighters by who they are and what they’re known for.”
“You gotta understand, I don’t work for Dana and we don’t work for Dana. I feel I’m a public servant for the fans and the fighters. I want to make sure the fighters have a good, clean, fair fight that they trained for and expect.”