Veteran referee Mario Yamasaki defends his stoppage of the Jacare Souza vs. Robert Whittaker fight, which many called out for being too early.
Number six-ranked middleweight contender Robert Whittaker pulled a major upset on Saturday night at UFC on FOX 24 in Kansas City. The TUF Smashes product emerged victorious via second round TKO, dealing Ronaldo Souza his first stoppage loss since 2008.
A few fans, however, have criticized referee Mario Yamasaki’s stoppage of the fight, which happened at the 3:28 mark of the round. According to a number of observers, the fight should not have been stopped since “Jacare” was on his way up from his knees when Yamasaki intervened.
From his end, Yamasaki says he was simply doing what he was tasked to do, and fans may be seeing things from a different light, especially those who watched the fight on television.
“I talk to a lot of people about Gary Goodridge, Eder Jofre and (Adilson) ‘Maguila’, who suffer from dementia pugilistica, that people don’t know how dangerous is to get unnecessary punches,” Yamasaki told MMA Fighting. “I’m following my ethic, and also the athletic commission. Everyone from the athletic commission praised me, but fans didn’t like it. They say I don’t like Brazilians, blah blah blah. I’m the referee, I have to follow the rules.
“Watching on the TV, it might give you the impression that I could have let it go a little longer, but you can’t see his eyes. The TV doesn’t show that,” Yamasaki explained. “He was hurt. He would only eat more punches, and it was my decision to make sure he was safe since he couldn’t defend himself anymore. Let him go back up to get punched three times and go out, why would that do him any good?”
From time to time, even Yamasaki’s fellow referees like John McCarthy and Herb Dean get flak for supposed officiating errors, which they believe are sometimes unwarranted. Which is why they have decided to put up an online refereeing course to help everyone involved understand the process better.
“Not only referees, but journalists, coaches, fighters, so people can understand more about our decisions, the athletic commissions and doctors, what they tell us to do in the fights,” Yamasaki said. “At the (Travis) Browne fight, I decided to give him more time and look what happened. One or two punches can make a big difference. But I followed my instinct to protect the athlete.”