Referee Mario Yamasaki is no stranger to controversy and it reared its ugly head at UFC Fight Night: Oklahoma City.
For those who didn’t see what went down, the referee stopped the fight between Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee when Lee had Chiesa in a rear naked choke. The problem was that immediately after the fight was stopped, the losing fighter in Chiesa said he wasn’t out nor tapped to end the encounter.
It has been almost a month since the controversial fight and the referee still stands by the call he made that night.
“It would have been easier to just have let it go on,” Yamasaki told MMA Junkie. “But the rule is clear, and when the fighters stop defending themselves intelligently, the referee must defend them. They don’t have to tap. As soon as he went out, I intervened. I’ve been in this business for over 20 years, and I know what I saw.”
Chiesa did file an appeal to have the fight result overturned to a no contest, a ruling has yet to be announced.
While Yamasaki stands by the call he made, the referee also stands by Chiesa’s right to file the appeal.
“The athletic commission has already gotten in touch with me so I can respond to what happened,” Yamasaki said. “I think he’s within his right to appeal. Chiesa is a great athlete, certainly one of the best in the world. The commission will assess what happened,, and I’m certain they’ll make the best possible decision. Our intention is not to harm anyone. I’ll keep doing my job ethically and certain of what is correct. That’s why I’ve stayed there for years.”
The referee didn’t just face criticism from Chiesa, because the UFC President in Dana White also took some shots at him as well.