MMA Referees are often questioned about the decisions they make during an MMA fight, and for a variety of reasons: if they stop a fight too soon, too late, at the wrong place, if they stand up the fighters, if they don’t stand up the fighters, etc. – they just cannot please all the people, all the time.
Last week on the TUF 10 show, most fans saw “Big Country” Roy Nelson, uh, defeat Kimbo Slice in what has become a controversial ending.
I don’t understand why.
Herb Dean did his job, and that was to protect the fighters. He did it based on his knowledge of the sport, of the fighters and of the rules.
If you watch the fight, you’ll see that clearly Nelson had Kimbo on the ground, and in a submission hold that made it nearly impossible for Kimbo to defend himself. But it was the end of the round with about 30 seconds remaining, and Nelson wasn’t punching that hard. It was more like he was just patting Kimbo on the head. I’m sure if he patted me on my head like that, I probably wouldn’t have liked it, but we’re talking about experienced fighters here, and it really didn’t look that hard or like Nelson was making much effort.
In Round 2, Nelson quickly had Kimbo on the ground, with full side control and in a crucifix position (a type of submission hold) again. After taking some shots to the head, Herb Dean stopped the fight.
The difference? Time. That is the time left on the clock. Could Kimbo have improved his position, gotten out of the crucifix and reversed Nelson’s hold, stood back up and exchanged punches? Possibly. But it didn’t look very likely from where I was sitting, and apparently Dean felt the same way.
Steven Marrocco from MMAWeekly.com conducted an interview with Herb Dean, and asked him about the controversial elimination fight between Roy Nelson and Kimbo Slice on the third episode of “The Ultimate Fighter: The Heavyweights” and about Nelson’s subsequent critisisms of Dean’s judgment regarding the end of the first round. He also gave Dean an opportunity to respond to Nelson’s claims and the reasoning behind his call of the fight, as follows:
“MMAWeekly: Firstly, Roy claimed that you didn’t stop the fight in the first round because of Kimbo’s status on the show. How do you respond to that?
Dean: Well, it’s not that complicated. I’m there to protect the fighter’s safety. Kimbo got up after that round pretty quick and spry, right? If I stop a fight it’s because I believe a fighter’s not fighting back, because he can’t. And there’s reasons why a fighter can’t fight back. One is a positional reason like Roy had on Kimbo. It was positional. Could (Kimbo) handle blows and continue to fight? He did. He made it to the end of the (first) round and continued to fight. If the blows were any less, I would have actually stood them up. The blows were strong enough to warrant being on the ground, but they weren’t strong enough for me to stop the fight.
MMAWeekly: Were you looking at the clock at all and weighing the force of the blows with the time left in the round?
Dean: Most definitely. I believe that if (Roy) has position on him in the beginning of the round, that means that he’s going to stay there for the whole round, obviously Kimbo couldn’t solve that position. But with those blows, was he not fighting back because he was hurt? No, he was fine. So I didn’t have any reason to stand or stop the fight. If the fighter is not hurt, why should I stop the fight?
MMAWeekly: So you felt the blows that Kimbo was taking in the second round were, whereas the ones in the first round weren’t?
Dean: Well, I believe that the blows were solid blows. In the first round, they were solid blows, just like in the second round, but in the second round, it was the beginning of the round that he was down there. I can’t allow him – he was not going to improve his position, he was not going to solve it – I couldn’t allow him five minutes of that in the second round. Could I allow him to take it for 30 seconds in the first? Sure.
MMAWeekly: Were your decisions in the ring influenced at all by Kimbo and his standing with the UFC?
Dean: No, I make calls based on my conscience, based on what I think is fair, what I think is the right thing to do. I’m the one that has to sleep at night. I sleep fine. I believe that I try to make the fairest, safest calls. This job is more serious than me continuing to do my job. People’s careers and their safety are on the line. I’m not going to make a political decision when the stakes are that large.
MMAWeekly: Roy said that he got into it with you after the fight…
Dean: Well, that’s not getting into it with me. He’s made a statement. By getting into it means that I guess I have to respond. He said some things. Whatever. Fighters say things all the time. I have a lot of respect for Roy, what he’s done in the sport. His statements that he’s making, I don’t really understand those. You’re there to try to win, try to beat the fighter, try to win in the most decisive way possible. Not to not be hurting your fighter, but taking advantage of a technicality for their safety.
MMAWeekly: Did you receive any feedback from the Nevada State Athletic Commission? Any from the UFC?
Dean: The commission was fine with my decision. The UFC doesn’t talk to me about my decision. I don’t know why people think that there’s a lot of communication with us going back and forth as far as what’s going on in the matches. There wasn’t anything that we needed to discuss. The fight was done, and we went home. It was pretty clear.”
Once again folks, Dean makes it clear he’s an employee of the state athletic commission, not UFC. I think what he says in his interview makes sense, and it was pretty much what I was thinking while watching the fight.
The problem, as President Lincoln said, is that “You can please some of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.” Interesting – I never knew Lincoln was a fan of MMA!
Double Whopper with cheese? That would explain a few things…