On Saturday night at UFC On ESPN 14 there was a moment of controversy during the prelims when some people believed that referee Herb Dean was late to stop a fight in which Francisco Trinaldo floored Jai Herbert with an overhand left and then had to land further blows in order to secure the TKO stoppage.
sitting Octagon-side as part of the commentary team on the night, former fighter Dan Hardy was particularly unhappy with the late stoppage and could be heard yelling at Dean to “stop the fight”, and then had words with the veteran referee afterwards.
Most of what was said between then was inaudible, but at one point Hardy could be hard sternly telling Dean, “that’s my job, now you do yours.”
Since then both men have aired their thoughts on the matter via Instagram, and it seems that they haven’t buried the hatchet just yet.
“I love Mixed Martial Arts,” Hardy wrote. “Sometimes it doesn’t love me back though, and that’s alright. Regardless, I’ll always do everything in my power to protect it, and those dedicating themselves to it.
“Sometimes you may disagree with me, and that’s alright as well. I’m always going to speak my mind, and it will always be backed by what I feel in my heart.
“If you understand what it takes to get in there, then you understand my passion and anger when I see a fighter left unprotected. It isn’t the first time it’s happened, and twice in a night is clear negligence, in my opinion.
“The referees job is more important than any other person in that building. It is on their shoulders to protect fighters from getting seriously hurt when they are unable to protect themselves.
“You may just see UFC fighters in there, but I see friends, teammates, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers, competing in the sport that they love.
“When I make a mistake, I look stupid on live TV. When a referee makes a mistake, people are left vulnerable and can be seriously damaged. That can be life-changing, and we all have someone to go home to, that loves us and wants us back in one piece.
“Thank you for all of the kind words and messages I’ve received. I am truly grateful. I’ll see you all around…”
Herb Dean has since responded with his own opinion, defending his decision and suggesting that Hardy had no right to be telling him what to do in the heat of the moment.
“There’s a fight that some people said could have been stopped earlier, think it was stopped late. By no means was that a late stoppage,” Dean said in a video post.
“Anyone who believes or not is maybe just following because someone with a microphone says it’s a [bad] stoppage. But if you know anything about fighting, a fighter got hurt, fighters get rocked all the time but we’re looking at his actions. He’s tracking his opponent. He knows where his opponent is. He’s put both arms in between him and his opponent. He’s lifted his leg up, head off the mat. He’s doing everything I can ask for him to do to stay in that fight. There wasn’t a bad stoppage.”
“…During the match, someone yelled out ‘stop the fight. This is really interesting because there’s only professionals there. There’s not one fan in the building. Everybody has a job there, everybody knows what they’re job is and they have specific duties. I have a job to referee the fight. One of my duties is to stop the fight when the fighter’s taken too much damage.
“There’s two people who are authorized to advise me during that to maybe yell out those words ‘stop the fight.’ There’s one, the physician — we have a ringside physician who knows more about the physical body than I do. He’s there to give me advice. If he can’t get my attention, maybe he might yell stop the fight. Then there’s the fighter’s corner. They train with him, they know about him, they know more things about him than I do. They may know something I don’t know so that’s why they would give me some advice to stop the fight. Ultimately, to stop the fight is my decision.”
Dean went onto explain that having another person outside the cage shouting at him to stop the fight could adversely affect his ability to properly call an end to the contest.
“I don’t know who it was that did it cause I was looking at the fight but I heard it,” Dean said. “But I assumed that it was either the two people authorized to do it — the doctor or the corner.
“After the match, I followed up, I asked the physician, he goes ‘no, that fight was fine, I’m perfectly fine with everything you did in that match.’ I didn’t get the chance to ask his corners but I asked the inspectors who were in charge of his corner. They said no, the corner did not yell out to stop the match.
“This is a very dangerous thing to do,” Dean said. “If you put on your Superman shirt and decide that you’re the smartest person in the room. Smarter than the physician, smarter than the corner who works with the guy and smarter than the referee, you’re doing a chance that you could bring in information that could do the fighter disservice. I’m looking at the match, I believe I’m getting information from the people qualified to do it.
“Under no circumstances, even I as a referee, get up and yell and tell another referee to stop the match. If I were to do that, I would know it would be a situation where I couldn’t live with myself otherwise. I know that there could be consequences that you’d never see me in that position again but I would sleep well knowing that I did that.
“If you open your mouth and yell the words ‘stop the fight’ it could easily be mistaken for the people who are officially qualified to yell stop the fight,” Dean said. “It should never be done.”