Sickening scenes as MMA ref 'almost lets fighter die'

WARNING: The above video contains images that some readers may find confronting.

A shocking refereeing call has almost claimed the life of an MMA fighter in Brazil.

The main event of the Demolidor Fight event was close to ending in tragedy after Melquizael Costa was choked out by Rafael Barbosa for a prolonged period.

At one stage, Barbosa claims he told the referee to stop the fight because the anaconda choke he had on Costa had him limp and unconscious.

“He locked the anaconda choke, and when I turned to the wrong side, I went out,” Costa told MMA Fighting.

“The first thing I remember is opening my eyes and seeing my coaches and a doctor over me, calling my name, and I couldn’t breathe.”

“It was agonising. I only came back to normal when I got to the hospital and they gave me some serum.”

The incident happened during the third round of the featherweight title fight, leaving fans, viewers and former UFC official John McCarthy outraged at the delayed call.

The referee’s failure to stop the fight initially meant Costa spent almost an additional 90 seconds in the choke hold whilst unconscious.

The fighter believed his life was in danger due to the way referee Emerson Pereira Saez failed to conducted the fight.

But the referee has since spoken out, saying he told Barbosa to eventually release the choke and end the fight.

“He was in the anaconda choke, and I didn’t notice he was having a seizure,” Saez told MMA Fighting.

“He had his eyes open and didn’t present any symptom of loss of conscience. I thought he was trying to escape.

“He was calm, breathing, and I didn’t notice his leg shaking. His arm, the one that wasn’t trapped in the choke, was pushing his opponent’s belly the entire time.

Rafael Barbosa looks at the ref whilst he holds Melquizael Costa in an anaconda choke. Pic: SUJO De BARRO
Rafael Barbosa looks at the ref whilst he holds Melquizael Costa in an anaconda choke. Pic: SUJO De BARRO

“Everything happens too fast in there, it’s different than looking at the video later.

“At the same time, I thought if I stop this early and he’s in the fight, it will be controversial.”

Costa reportedly spent the night in a local hospital before being released the next morning.

“I saw in the video that I went out and my eyes were open,” Costa said.

“You might think I’m awake, but I was already out. I moved a couple of times, but I was having seizures.

“My corner and his corner yelled that I was out, but the referee said he would only stop the fight if I was out.

“Every referee touches the fighter to see if they are out, but he never touched me. My opponent stopped the fight. Otherwise, I would be dead.”

The referee has since retired from refereeing and will not officiate an MMA fight again.