Dana White Blasts Steve Mazzagatti, but Pioneering Ref John McCarthy Says Fitch Wasn’t in Jeopardy

June 29, 2013
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Josh Burkman vs Jon Fitch WSOF3There has been quite a bit of talk about referee Steve Mazzagatti’s performance during the Josh Burkman and Jon Fitch main event bout at World Series of Fighting 3 on June 15 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The fight was brief, but it was the finish that led to a firestorm of discussion that includes the likes of UFC president Dana White, who often takes Mazzagatti’s refereeing skills to task, and John McCarthy, who is one of the pioneering referees in the sport of mixed martial arts.

Burkman rocked Fitch early with punches, but quickly found a guillotine choke opportunity there for the taking. He took it.

While referee Steve Mazzagatti stood over them watching, Fitch fell limp and Burkman, realizing he was out, let go of the hold and stood up. As Burkman turned his back, Mazzagatti knelt down over Fitch and waved off the fight.

That’s where the controversy erupted; the question being: what took Mazzagatti so long to drop down and wave off the fight?

“Literally when (Fitch) goes limp, he goes limp, he’s out and then (Burkman) rolls him (expletive) over, lets his head (expletive) flop to the thing and then stands up over him,” White responded recently when asked his thoughts on the fight, and Mazzagatti in particular. “He’s literally like this standing up over him before Mazzagatti even (expletive) gets in the picture.

“The Nevada State Athletic Commission is going to keep this (expletive) guy around until he seriously hurt somebody.  That guy is dangerous.  It’s disgusting.  At what point do you realize that this guy is an incompetent fool and he’s going to hurt somebody.”

Former UFC fighter and current UFC Tonight co-host Kenny Florian agreed with White, adding that his during his fighting career his camp was instructed to protest any time that Mazzagatti was assigned to one of his fights.

McCarthy, however, offered some defense for Mazzagatti’s actions, or lack thereof, on Friday night’s Inside MMA on AXS TV.

“If you watch the tape, (Fitch) is out for one second, at most, before Burkman is releasing that choke and Burkman is being a sportsman,” said McCarthy.

“People are complaining, I guess, because Steve didn’t jump down. You know what, it wasn’t a situation where the safety of the fighter was really in jeopardy.”

Mazzagatti has said little about the incident, although he issued a statement complimenting Burkman on his sportsmanship before adding, “The fighter is usually going to know a split second before the referee when their opponent goes out.”

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  • Usmc8408

    If this was his first incident, maybe you could brush it off. But this guy has a history of f@$k ups. What’s even more absurd is that Big John continues to be black listed in Nevada while this tool Steve continues to muck everything up.

  • The Best Eva

    Internet clowns need to shut the hell up, if pro ref’s like big John back him up then what the hell do you guys know.

    • shakejunt

      actually… the viewers’ opinions really do matter in situations like this.

      This was on national broadcast. In a time where the sport is still fighting for mainstream acceptance, we can’t afford the perceived brutality to be misinterpreted.

      Guy gets choked out, fine. Guy gets choked out and the ref was unable to stop it himself, that looks bad.

      • Lawdog1521

        Or… people don’t like the guy so they jump on every little thing.

        • The Best Eva

          Exactly. Haters gonna hate.

        • shakejunt

          hmmm… and tell me, why would people not like him?

          • mike54

            because people like you love to ride on dana’s d***

      • The Best Eva

        It’s not 2006 anymore this sport is mainstream, I’m tired of seeing the same complaints over this when it really wasn’t as bad as everyone makes it seem.

    • toom

      the way it looks to me is these guys are pro that means he should be an amazing ref but yet he wasnt even down there to check things out ppl are hating on this guy for a good reason

      • The Best Eva

        You guys all sound like a broken record. ya he’s made mistakes and I’ve seen worse like that guy in the Joe Warren fight, where were you keyboard warriors then.

  • DamianCross

    This is the first time I’m seeing the choke, and it kinda makes sense. Fitch’s left arm is moving up until the very last second, and when his head “plops to the f***** ground”, he’s already out so its too late for Mazz to start ringing the alarm. Plus, its well known Fitch has an unnatural resistance to the guillotine. So yeah, honest mistake.

    • Milosc

      Look at Mazzagatti’s feet as Fitch is being choked out

      The guy was in neverland, heel to heel

      • Lawdog1521

        You can tell his state of mind by his feet? GTFO.

        • Milosc


          A man standing hells-together straight up, right next to two guys on the ground after a knockdown getting their choke on = “neverland”, chief

          (Big John is being a nice guy, with a weak argument. Good thing Josh Burkman gave a damn about Fitch’s throat, because he didn’t have to)

  • brian robinson

    i agree he wasn’t in any major danger. i think where he was positioned was bad and couldn’t see him go limp. i know i didn’t and i had a better shot at it then mazzagatti. yes this is fighting people and they do no what they are getting into.

  • Baller31

    Obviously when you ask one referee about the actions of another referee, there will be bias. It is more important if the fighters feel like they are being protected, which is the whole point of having a referee, and the fighters have made their opinions clear.

    • Lawdog1521

      I haven’t seen any articles with Burkman or Fich, they’re the only two that matter.

      • Baller31

        Burkman did in fact comment on the matter, saying that Mazzagatti could have been in better position. But no, they’re not the only two that matter–the opinion of every mma fighter matters, as they are the ones that are putting their lives in Mazzagatti’s hands.

  • Dragon Kid

    Mazzagatti is the worst ref in MMA followed by Kim Winslow.

    • el che

      oh man, i forgot about her – that’s a tough call, imo, i think Winslow is actually worse… actually, scratch that, Len Koisvito (the guy that let Kim Couture be choked out for a full 10 seconds) is even worse than all of them.

      • Dragon Kid

        i havent seen that guy make as many mistakes/errors as mazzagatti and winslow have. many critics have made it known how bad kim and steve are.

  • Advance*

    The problem wasn’t that Mazzagatti didn’t realize that Fitch was out, because Burkman rolled him over pretty much as soon as he went limp. It’s that even after he rolled him over and stood up, Mazzagatti seemed like he didn’t realize any of this was happening right in front of him. That’s what makes people think that if Burkman didn’t let go then Fitch would have been stuck in there either until Burkman said something or Mazzagatti remembered he was actually reffing a fight. He showed zero concern or initiative. Lets not forget when he made Brock tap out two separate times when Mir had him in the knee bar

  • Ron Wheeler

    Trouble with guillotines is that they finish very suddenly. None of you armchair critics have actually been choked out it would seem or you would understand. Half a second tops from fighting it to out.

    Given a good ref knows the fighter too, Fitch has a long rep of fighting through submissions. Over and over.

    While Maz has made mistakes, in this one the worst that can be said is he seemed fractionally slower than he should have to jump across once it ended.

    • Baller31

      .5 seconds to lose consciousness from a choke? That would be quite the trick. There is an interesting article on bloodyelbow.com involving a study about how long it takes to lose consciousness from a choke. Mean time was 9.5 seconds. The quickest to go out was 1.6 seconds. And given the interest in mma of those who post on this board, what would lead you to assume that none of us practice mma?? Regardless, this is about a professional ref who is just not very good at his job.

    • Milosc

      When a fighter is dropped from a punch, then choked onto the ground in a throat crushing guillotine, the referee needs to be in the picture anticipating a knockout from either source

      ..not standing straight up with his heels together

      He obviously wasn’t paying attention

      (*been getting punched/choked on since summer of 2000)

  • james j

    I watched this fight twice. Dana is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Granted, he has a mic, is president of the UFC, and curses a lot. So he provides a fun often laughable interview.

  • james j

    When is the ref who guy busted for drugs getting out of prison. He was a good ref.

  • kbroesq

    This is just so ridiculous. I said it in the first story, and I’ll say it again: the time between when Fitch was moving his arms and clearly defending, and when Burkman got up because Fitch was out was about 3-4 seconds. People need to stop saying that Mazz just stood there while Fitch was out. Are we watching the same video!? It’s embedded in the story, people. Watch it again.

    And then all the people talking about what Mazz did after Burkman got up. Who gives a crap about that!? The ref’s job is to stop the fight so one fighter doesn’t get hurt BY ANOTHER FIGHTER. He’s not a doctor. Would all you people shut up if Mazz dropped to the ground in dramatic fashion and had a look of concern on his face? Guess what that would have accomplished? Nothing! He’s a referee. And what White is saying isn’t even true. As soon as Burkman got up, Mazz got down to his knees and attended to Fitch. What the hell are you all talking about that Mazz did nothing?!

    If Dana White says something and cusses a lot, it seem like people just fall into line with what he’s saying. I honestly have no idea how Fitch got choked out that quickly, and as I’m watching it again, I don’t even think there was 3-4 seconds between when Fitch was defending and when Burkman got up; it’s more like instantaneous. There’s a reason Big John is standing up for Mazz – it’s because he knows he would have been just as confused and the same thing would have happened.

    I feel like I’m in the freakin’ Twilight Zone.

  • Kalei Kealoha

    Basketball refs miss fouls, Baseball refs don’t know where the strike zone is, NFL refs are blind. Name me a sport where refs aren’t bitched about. Seriously when has bitching about referees ever gotten them to change?