In the main event at UFC 266, Volkanovski fought Ortega in an instant classic that went all five rounds. In the third round, the champion escaped two seemingly air-tight submissions. Once Volkanovski popped his head out of Ortega’s grasp, the champ began to rain ground and pound in a blatant attempt to steal back the round. At the end of the third stanza, Ortega was laid out on the canvas and appeared to have little to no willpower left to get up to his chair.
Referee Herb Dean was the third man in the cage that night and has since expressed that Ortega did not receive additional corner help. Even though Dean admits that the corner made contact with their fighter, he affirms that they did not lift him up to the stool. Instead, Ortega lifted himself up after being prompted by his corner, according to Herb Dean. Speaking with MMA reporter Helen Yee, Dean recounted his experience reffing the main event at UFC 266.
“I don’t think his cornerman helped him.” Dean told Helen Yee. “He was laying there, wasn’t getting up. I think it was more of a ‘hey, it’s time to get up, let’s get moving.’ Cause once they grabbed it was not like they had to lift him up. Once they put hands on him, he was getting up on the stool.
“At the end of the round, it was exhaustion. He had given it his all. Then the physician comes in and medically clears him, says he’s clear. Some of his answers weren’t exactly clear but then when he looked at me and gave clear answers like ‘yes, I see, yes, I want to continue’. You could see he was ready to compete again.” Herb Dean explained.
Following a minute of rest, in between rounds, Herb Dean and the ringside physician assessed Ortega’s condition. After being asked a series of questions, Ortega passed the test by the skin of his teeth. As one of the most difficult and criticized jobs in combat sports, officiating and stopping fights in live time remain paramount to fighter safety and longevity.
Do you think Herb Dean made the right call?