CABMMA, the Brazilian Mixed Martial Arts Athletic Commission, have released a statement regarding last weekend’s controversial UFC Belem bout between Valentina Shevchenko and Priscila Cachoeira, a bout which was overseen by referee Mario Yamasaki.
Several analysts, fans and media members alike were appalled at Yamasaki’s performance throughout the near two-round c0-main event in which an outmatched Cachoeira struggled to keep pace with the former bantamweight title challenger Shevchenko. The fight could — and probably should have — been stopped on several occasions prior to the rear naked choke near the end of the second round which ultimately drew an end to the bout. It appeared that Cachoeira was forced to tap twice, as the first was apparently missed by the referee.
While Cachoeira has spoken in public about the fight, maintaining that she appreciates both her corner and the referee for giving her every opportunity to mount a comeback, the referee’s primary responsibility during a bout is to maintain fighter safety. Often, this comes down to saving them from themselves or, more appropriately, their own courage and desire to win.
Yamasaki released a statement following the incident, saying: “During the second round, I signaled to ‘Pedrita’ 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,” the statement, released to MMAFighting and MMAJunkie read. “Unfortunately, I also can’t control the number of blows thrown — again, when a fighter is trying to come back she’s game.
“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 recognize 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.”
However, it appears that this opinion isn’t shared by the Brazilian MMA commission. In a statement to BloodyElbow, CABMMA said that Cachoeira’s “toughness and heart” should not impede a referee’s ability to correctly apply the rules of mixed martial arts during a bout.
“Priscila Cachoeira demonstrated toughness and heart during the two rounds but those are two attitudes that should not interfere or confuse the referee when it comes to stoppages,” CABMMA said.
“In the first round, in the last couple of minutes, it was clear that Priscila could not defend herself efficiently nor technically. Round 2 was the same, but obviously with Priscila not physically recovered enough from the previous round to demonstrate her chance against Valentina, the fight should have been called off right in the initial moments.
“The fight was approved by CABMMA,” the statement read. “If it was not well matched and that being evidently demonstrated during the fight, it should have been identified by the referee in charge, as he is the highest authority in that moment, whose role is to protect the fighter at all times including stopping the fight at the proper moment.
“We will discuss the next steps together and decide what is certainly best for all parts involved in the process.”
It is unclear what impact, if any, this will have on Mario Yamasaki’s future as a referee in Brazil but it’s clear from the wording of the statement that they are very disappointed in his performance on Saturday night.