Experienced UFC referee Mario Yamasaki has broken his silence after a firestorm of controversy over his decision to not stop a one-sided bout sooner.
Yamasaki was overseeing the women's flyweight bout between Valentina Shevchenko and Priscila Cachoeira last weekend in Brazil, but was slammed for not doing more to protect one fighter's safety.
During a fight in which Cachoeira was battered by her stronger opponent, and lost the significant strike count 217-1, the referee did very little, even missing the original tap out attempt by the fighter.
UFC president Dana White led the torrent of anger agains Yamasaki, saying his performance was "disgusting".
Now the Brazilian referee has had his say, responding to the anger in a statement sent to MMA Fighting.
“During the second round, I signaled to ‘Pedrita’ (Cachoeira) that if she didn’t move I’d stop the fight, and every time I’d stop, I told her and she moved to try to escape from the punches.
"Unfortunately, I also can’t control the number of blows thrown — again, when a fighter is trying to come back she’s game,” Yamasaki told MMAFighting.
“Fighters go through times of hard effort and dedication to be there. MMA is a contact sport and no fighter likes his fight to be stopped with no chance to revert the result.
"In my opinion, I allowed Pedrita to be a warrior and keep fighting. I could have stopped the fight in the second crucifix or in the mount, but she moved the whole time.
“I also recognise that I should have stopped when she tapped the first time to the rear-naked choke. I only stopped a few seconds later.
“About other people’s opinions, it’s their right to say.”
Veteran MMA journalist Ariel Helwani was quick to assess the statement, saying the ref's use of the 'warrior' line showed he was out of touch, and unfit to continue in his profession.
The “warrior” line confirms to me once and for all that Yamasaki isn’t fit to ref anymore. https://t.co/fqPUjrcqYD— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) February 6, 2018
One thing Yamasaki does deserve credit for is he is always accountable. A lot of officials disappear after controversial calls. He is not required to issue statements, but he always does. Of course, not something you want to do regularly but he doesn’t hide, which is commendable.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) February 6, 2018
Fighters, MMA journalists and even pro wrestlers took to Twitter in the immediate aftermath of the fight to express their outrage at Yamasaki’s inaction.
UFC lightweight Gilbert Burns had harsh words for Yamasaki’s work.
Yamasaki is the worst referee ever!— GILBERT BURNS (@GilbertDurinho) February 4, 2018
So, too, did former UFC fighter and current broadcaster Kenny Florian, particularly when he saw a tweet pointing out the 217-1 disparity in strikes.
Ohhhhhh...The 1 strike is the reason Yamasaki didn’t stop the fight. https://t.co/Wl7HkAX3vs— Kenny Florian (@kennyflorian) February 4, 2018
WWE wrestler Big E wondered like the rest of us what it was that Yamasaki was waiting for as Cachoeira absorbed a beating without ever intelligently defending herself.
Not sure what Yamasaki needed to see for a stoppage. Foaming at the mouth? Full body spasms? #UFCBelem— ShinigamE (@WWEBigE) February 4, 2018
The retired UFC fighter Patrick Cote expressed similar feelings.
OMG Yamasaki WTF are you doing !!!!!— patrick cote (@patrick_cote) February 4, 2018
And a raft of fight experts couldn't help but express their disgust, with one describing Yamasaki's officiating as "criminal".
The year is 2074. Earth has been overrun by martians, who make their way to Belem, Brazil to find Valentina Shevchenko still punching a lifeless Priscila Cachoeira as Mario Yamasaki looks on, emotionless and cold.— Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com (@SeanRossSapp) February 4, 2018
Mario Yamasaki let the fight go on way too long. Referees are supposed to be the most important figures in our sport.— MMA History Today (@MMAHistoryToday) February 4, 2018
They're the ones that are responsible for fighter safety. That was criminal.
UFC President Dana White even took to social media to slam Yamasaki's performance.
“Priscilla Cachoeira, you showed so much heart and toughness in that fight. I’m honored to have you fight in the UFC,” White said.
"Unfortunately the ref is there to protect you and Mario DID NOT do that. This isn’t his first disgusting performance in the octagon. Another unfortunate thing is that I can’t do anything about it, only the Brazilian commission can and I am hoping after this scary, incompetent showing, he hopefully will never set foot in that Octagon again. Strikes landed was 230-3.”
Safety must always come first. Referees are hesitant to stop a fight too quickly, because they want to give the fighters every chance.
But the referee must also be aware of who is fighting and the situation.
It's not the first time Yamasaki has been slammed for his controversial performances.
With Yahoo Sports