Controversy would rear it’s ugly head during the bout between Francisco Trinaldo and Jai Herbert, which was a part of the preliminary card of UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs. Till.
Trinaldo dropped Herbert with an overhand left in the third round of their encounter and while Herbert was out, referee Herb Dean allowed the fighter to eat a plethora of unanswered strikes, despite the hesitation from Trinaldo to throw them. Two others who weren’t happy with Dean and what went down were color commentators Paul Felder and Dan Hardy.
Felder and Hardy had the following exchange after the controversy went down (transcript via MMA Junkie):
“I’m gonna give a lot of credit to Trinaldo in that moment right there. He could’ve just started teeing off, but he saw what we saw, and that fight should’ve been stopped,” Felder said.
“He does not want anymore shots in that moment,” Hardy said. “That fight was over. That’s terrible.”
“That pisses me off. You know, that’s not normally Herb. Herb is usually a fine referee, but tonight that’s two calls now where I think the fight should’ve been stopped. That’s even worse. Herbert had a beautiful performance. He’s a young guy making his debut, and Trinaldo rocks him. He falls back the way he falls back like a board. He was out,” said Felder.
Hardy would confront Dean after the bout, despite being a member of the commentary team, Greg Rosenstein of The Athletic capturing the following image on Twitter:
Matthew Wells of FanSided and other places also posted the following image on Twitter:
Caption this photo— Matthew Wells (@MrMWellsArt) July 26, 2020
Wrong context only pic.twitter.com/GfPHSlKVVN
The incident didn’t go unnoticed by the UFC, as UFC Senior Vice President David Shaw says the promotion will investigate what went down between Hardy and Dean.
“I wasn’t on the floor when it happened. I did hear some of the comments on the broadcast. Here’s the thing: Being a ref in MMA is one of the hardest roles that you can have, and Herb Dean is one of our best, categorically. (The) bottom line is, health and safety of the athletes is of paramount importance. On the other side, you’ve got a guy like Hardy who, very successful MMA career, an excellent analyst right now, but he’s passionate, and he’s fiery. The important thing for us to do is to try and get a handle and try to get an understanding of what actually happened. Obviously, this is not something that you address with either one of the parties during the show. These guys have a job to do, and so we certainly don’t want to disrupt their efforts to do an excellent job, as we expect they always will. So we’ll go back, we’ll check it out, try to get a better understanding of what happened and really take it from there. I guess the bottom line is there’s one group of people that are able to talk to officials during the fight night, and that’s (Marc) Ratner’s regulatory group, and no one else,” Shaw said after the event (via Simon Head & John Morgan of MMA Junkie). “So we’ll see what happens next week when we get back to the office.”
While Felder has yet to comment on the incident, a statement was issued by Hardy on the matter through Instagram:
I love Mixed Martial Arts. 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... —————— --Outlaw-- —————— -- - @jeffbottari ----
Dean would also issue a statement of his own via a video on Instagram (transcript provided by MMA Fighting):
“I don’t know who it was that did it cause I was looking at the fight but I heard it. 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. 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. It should never be done.”
There is no word at this time as to what kind of potential punishment(s) Hardy could be facing for the altercation with Dean.