UFC 149 may wind up being a pay-per-view Dana White would just as soon forget about.
The card was a steady stream of injury changes almost from the moment it was announced, causing some mild upheaval from fans. And when the event rolled around on Saturday, even the UFC boss had to admit the main card didn't live up to the billing that had been promised.
But it all may have been a little easier to swallow if White's old nemesis – officiating issues – hadn't cropped up again to add to his woes.
White had a couple problems with referee decisions on the main card Saturday in Calgary, and a third that wasn't so much a problem, but may have altered the record books. And with a buildup over time, the UFC president believes continued problems with officiating may do damage to the sport.
"I will always be vocal and say exactly what I think about it. I would say that I'm probably the most vocal promoter on the planet when it comes to officiating," White told a small group of media members after Saturday's UFC 149 post-fight news conference. "I'm not just talking about mixed martial arts. I'm talking about boxing, too. If this doesn't get fixed, it just absolutely crushes the sport. It's so bad. These athletic commissions are put in place to provide judges and referees to be fair, to know what they're doing, to be professional."
In the first bout on Saturday's pay-per-view main card at Scotiabank Saddledome, Matthew Riddle landed a kick to the body against Chris Clements. When Clements bent over in apparent pain from the kick, referee Josh Rosenthal mistook the shot for a low blow and gave Clements time to recover.
Riddle went on to win the fight with a third-round arm-triangle choke, picking up the "Submission of the Night" bonus along with it. And though he appeared to let Rosenthal's gaffe be water under the bridge after the fight, White was a little less forgiving.
"It's a kick to the body, and Rosenthal jumps in the middle because he thought it was a kick to the groin," White said. "Come on. You're standing right there. Open your eyes. Pay attention – this is what you're getting paid to do. You choose to do this. If you don't want to do it 100 percent, don't do it. Go do something else. The fight could've been ended right there. That's a situation where he doesn't see it, stops the action, gets half-assed in there instead of making a clear, decisive decision. And what if Riddle lost the fight after that at a point where he had him hurt to the body with a beautiful kick? And he jumps in the middle."
A main-card heavyweight fight between Cheick Kongo and Shawn Jordan didn't live up to its promise, and much of the fight was contested with the fighters clinched up along the cage. According to FightMetric, Jordan landed just 23 strikes in the fight; Kongo landed 64.
White was critical of official Yves Lavigne for allowing the fighters to remain tied up for as long as they were.
"I'm so pissed at Lavigne," White said. "He just stands there, like a dope, and watches these guys clinch on the fence, not advancing their position, not doing damage. Just standing there for two rounds – and then you let them do it for an entire five minutes in a three-round fight. And again, I blame all three involved in that. But the ref's job is to protect the fighters, make the right calls – and make sure they fight."
White also said a preliminary-card bout between Ryan Jimmo and
Anthony Peroshmay have had a record changed if not for the officiating. Jimmo, making his UFC debut, knocked out Perosh in just seven seconds – tying the official UFC record. But because Rosenthal had just taken a step backward and was several feet away when Perosh hit the canvas, clearly knocked out, Rosenthal took longer to get to Jimmo for the official end of the fight.
White believes had Rosenthal been in better position, Jimmo who have the new UFC record for fastest stoppage to go with his "Knockout of the Night" bonus.
In the end, though, White said he's left nearly powerless to affect any change in the quality of officiating. All he can do, he said, is voice his opinion and offer suggestions.
"I think any job you have, and you don't do your job, you get reprimanded," White said. "Or you get suspended for three fights and they have some class you have to sit in and watch the fights and see what you did wrong. Refs and judges will make mistakes. But things like that – you're too far away, so you screw the kid out of the KO (record), you miss a kick to the body you think is a kick to the groin, the other guy's standing around letting guys clinch the entire third round. At what point do you go, 'OK, there's no fight going on here'?"