There 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.”