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UFC Referee Marc Goddard Explains His ‘Knee To The Spine’ Call

Due to the uproar caused by Anderson Silva’s octagon antics, BJ Penn’s shock defeat, Judge Doug Crosby’s baffling 50-45 score-card, and the snooze-athon that was Matt Hughes Vs Renzo Gracie you could be forgiven for having forgotten about a curious referee decision that took place earlier on the main card during Rafael Dos Anjos fight with Terry Etim.

To refresh your memory, in the first round the referee Mark Goddard stood the fight back up after accusing Dos Anjos of elbowing / kneeing Etim’s spine.  This led to some confusion amongst fans and even the commentary team considering that A) he hadn’t been elbowing him, and B) There was as to whether he had actually made contact with Etim’s spine in the first place.

Considering everything else that went on that night it’s an incident that could easily be swept under the carpet, especially as it did not effect the outcome of the fight since Dos Anjos went on to win the bout.

Goddard, who was once an MMA fighter himself with a record of 7-6-1 felt he owed fans an explanation however, which he posted up on the CageWarriors forum today.

“Hi everyone, just some clarification for the subject of the knees to the spine :

If you watch the fight back when Dos Anjos passes through to side mount in Round 1 he keeps his right arm underhooking Etims right leg whilst maintaining forward [in the direction of his head] posture and a good heavy base, you will clearly see Etims right side hip up in the air thus coupled with Dos Anjos underhook of the leg resulted in Etim exposing his back, he was not flat on his back where knees would then land on the ribs. Dos Anjos then delivers two knees both of which land on Etims spine and not his ribs due to his positioning. Under the unified rules direct striking to the spine [ including the back of the head ] is illeagal.

Now the confusing part! When I moved in to warn Dos Anjos and stop the knees I said elbow instead of knee, my fault and a brain fart on my account so sorry for the confusion you must have have had whilst watching at home and trying to understand my actions. I remember as I stood back up thinking “f*ck! I just said elbow not knee” Dos Anjos then delivers a 3rd knee to exactly the same spot as Etims back was still exposed. I then move in to stop the action and stand Dos Anjos up for the repeated foul after he had been warned. My use of the word elbow instead of knee caused confusion for Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg allthough Mike did pick up on my clear explanation once I had stood them up.

As you can tell and hear clearly on the replay when I stand Dos Anjos up I explain clealry to him that he was striking directly to the spine with the knee [ 3 times ] and this is not allowed under the rules, thankfully this time I use the correct body part and told him about the knee! I also opt not to deduct a point at this stage purely in the interests of fairness and giving the benefit as I had wrongly used the word elbow to him when Dos Anjos was committing the foul so with the small language barrier also added to the confusion for him and deducting a point would have, at this stage been an unfair action from me. The fight was restarted in a neutral position in lieu of the point deduction negating any advantage that Dos Anjos had gained at that point by moving to side control, again as hopefully you can appreciate and as are all decisions within the cage, all made in a split seconds call in my mind as we have no luxuries of replays etc. To say that I had to think fast and act on my feet is a little understated !

I also expalined this fully to his coach Gordo [bjj legend] and he understood fully the reason behind the stand up etc.

So there you have it! I hope that you do not mind me expalining this to you as I can understand the confusion that may have been caused to you watching by me using the word elbow instead of knee, but I did clearly explain it when I stood him up, however this does not make my earlier mistake and use of the word elbow any better and it was mis-leading to you all watching at home – the ones who spotted it great but remember guys sometimes this is watched people who have no idea what they are looking at! I hope that I can be excused for the little indiscretion on my part if that was my only fault on the night ;-)

I love my role as an MMA referee and take it with extreme responsability and pride, I have trained, coached and fought in all aspects of MMA for years and years before becoming a referee so knowing all the little in’s and outs of the game and the fact that I can relate and understand fully both physically and mentally what a fighter is going through, as well as understanding fully what is happening technically in front of me give’s me the confidence to keep building on my past and become better known [worldwide] in the sport that I hold so dear and the UFC are certainly giving me that opportunity for which I am most gratefull and humbled.”

It’s refreshing to see a referee taking the time to explain their actions in this manner, and apologize for his error.  Other referee’s would do well to take note of this for future reference as it certainly helps to break down the barriers between the officials and the fans.

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