NEWARK – On a night when the UFC broke an ignominious record with 10 decisions, the hope was that the main event between Urijah Faber and Renan Barao would set everything right. Turns out the main event had the exact opposite problem; it ended too early.
Herb Dean, the longtime referee who is commonly called the best working in MMA, was the third man in the cage. When Barao had Faber in trouble in the first round, after a prolonged sally in which Faber was curling up – but still defending himself – Dean stepped in and called Barao off. The crowd let out a groan, and Faber instantaneously protested.
In the post-fight interview, it was shown that he gave the thumb’s up to Dean during the critical moment. Dean didn’t see it.
And afterwards, UFC president Dana White, who usually sings Dean’s praises, said even the best have off nights.
“You know you’ve heard me up here a million times talk about Herb Dean -- I think he’s the best referee in the business,” white said. “He rarely ever makes mistakes, but he made a mistake tonight. Faber was blocking those shots, he gave the thumb’s up. You know, the guy’s the best in the business as far as I’m concerned. Tonight he made a mistake.”
Even with the mistake, and even though this could possibly be his last shot at a title, the 35-year old Faber wasn’t about to pile on. He graciously defended Dean in taking the high road.
He even told a story about his history with the California-based Dean.
“This is the sport we’re in,” Faber said. “It’s funny, Herb Dean was the referee when I lost my first fight against Tyson Griffin. I did like a cage-dive into a steel bar and I ended up getting seven staples in my head in the first eight seconds. I almost got knocked out like two or three times, and he let me fight through it all. You know?
“I’ve had wrestling matches where I’ve been dazed before and had to do four or five matches in the same day. So it’s unfortunate, being a guy that’s very tough that prides myself on that, in a big show like the one we had today where I don’t get to fight to the bitter end.”
Faber was also quick to give praise to the defending bantamweight champion, Barao, who got his first title defense as the undisputed champion.
“On the same note, Barao is getting better and he caught me with a clean punch and went for the kill,” Faber said. “I don’t know how to defend myself, when you say intelligently defend yourself, pull on the leg, cover my head? If they’re asking me to defend myself and I’m already defending myself I had to do something, so I put my thumb up, but…it is what it is.
“Again, it’s not a situation where I can ask for an immediate rematch or anything like that, so I’m just going to get back on the horse…and work my way towards being champion again.”