When Michael Chiesa lost to Kevin Lee on Sunday in Oklahoma, it wasn’t without its controversy. While Lee had Chiesa in a deep rear-naked choke, Chiesa looked to be conscious and yet to tap when referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in and stopped the fight.
It appeared to be Yamasaki’s mistake, and once again raised questions as to the way in which referees are questioned following poor decision makings. And, according to UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping, the time has come for referees and judges to be held accountable in the immediate aftermath of bad calls.
“A guy with the experience of Yamasaki, when it’s a main event, I think he messed up,” Bisping said on his podcast Believe You Me. “I think he messed up and he should have let the fight go a few seconds longer. And I’m only talking a few seconds. As fighters, we train for God knows how long for these fights and generally, the way payment is structured within the UFC is 50-50, 50 percent to show and 50 percent to win. That’s generally how it starts. So not only has he lost the fight, not only does he have another loss on his record, but he lost half his salary.
“I’ll tell you what I think needs to happen. Listen, I like Mario Yamasaki. He’s been a good referee over the years but when you make a mistake like that I feel that people need to be held accountable. If we make mistakes in the cage as fighters, we are held accountable. If we break the rules, if we flaunt the rules and the authority, then we are often given a fine. … My point is, officials need to be held accountable as well. So Mario Yamasaki should have to sit down with the commission — I’m not trying to get him into any shit, I’m not trying to cost him his job, he’s a very good referee — but he has to explain his position on why he did that.”
However, Bisping wouldn’t stop there.
There’s an old adage in mixed martial arts to ‘never leave it in the hands of the judges’, with the implication being they’re likely to get their ruling wrong. It’s an issue likely caused by the early transition of the boxing 10-9 judging system to MMA, but it does add an unfortunate by-product where fighters feel nervous anytime they failed to finish an opponent.
According to Bisping, much like referees, judges should have to be questioned following an odd decision.
“Judges are the scourge of this sport and often you will find a fight happens and one guy clearly dominates and the judges score that fight 30-27, 30-27 but then the third judge will score it 30-27 for the other person,” Bisping said. “So I think in those circumstances, judges that clearly, clearly made a very controversial call, which went against the grain of the other judges, they should have to sit down in a room with some other judges or the commission or whoever it is — maybe the UFC — watch the fight with some other people, and at the end of that round, explain why he scored that round a 10-9 for the guy that he said won it. And if he can’t give a very good reason why it was a 10-9, then it’s very simple. Either he wasn’t paying attention and he made a guess, either he’s not capable of doing the job at hand, or he’s a dodgy judge.
“But they should have to do that and if they can’t make a good explanation for why they scored that fight that way then they should either be fired or face some sort of disciplinary action. This is serious business with fighting. We sacrifice all this time and this is people’s careers and 50 percent of their pay on the line and then for some fucking asshole judge to come in and give an absolutely ridiculous scoring, they need to be held accountable.”