Kenny Florian: “Dana White is 100-Percent Correct on (Referee Steve) Mazzagatti”

June 18, 2013
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Kenny FlorianFollowing the UFC 161: Evans vs. Henderson post-fight press conference on June 15, UFC president Dana White criticized referee Steve Mazzagatti for what took place the night before at the conclusion of the World Series of Fighting 3 main event between Josh Burkman and Jon Fitch.

Burkman stunned Fitch with punches and then applied a guillotine choke on the former UFC welterweight contender. Fitch went limp and unconscious.  Burkman rolled him over, released the choke, and stood over Fitch in celebration.  Mazzagatti was the referee.

White characterized Mazzagatti as “dangerous.”  He went so far as to call Mazzagatti an “incompetent fool.”  He also criticized the Nevada State Athletic Commission for continuing to assign Mazzagatti to referee fights.

“The Nevada State Athletic Commission will keep this guy around until he seriously hurts somebody,” said White.

Executive Director of the NSAC Keith Kizer defended Mazzagatti’s performance at WSOF 3 to, saying it wasn’t a good or a bad job.  He compared Fitch going out to a one-punch knockout where a fighter walks away after landing the finishing blow.

“I would praise the referee if he did a good job. But here, there’s nothing to talk about the ref. It wasn’t a good job or a bad job. He had no job,” said Kizer.

On Monday, former UFC lightweight and featherweight contender Kenny Florian took White’s side in the assessment of Mazzagatti as a referee.

The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 finalist disclosed that during his eight-year career, if Mazzagatti was assigned to referee one of his fights that his camp would protest and request another referee.

Florian’s words carry much more weight than the promoter White or the commissioner Kizer. Florian provides a fighter’s perspective.  And when fighters begin requesting certain referees not be assigned to their fights, it makes a profound statement.

“As a fighter you can train for almost anything that can happen in a cage EXCEPT FOR bad refereeing & bad judging,” continued Florian via Twitter.

Florian also criticized Kizer’s defense of Mazzagatti, saying instead the referee should have been reprimanded.

Florian did give an endorsement to two referees that he considers the best in the sport, “Big” John McCarthy and Herb Dean.

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  • DamianCross

    File a petition, put it on the list next to all of Nick Diaz’s appeals.

    • Mark McDowall

      Thats the crappy thing…UFC can bitch and complain about him all they wont. It falls upon deaf ears, fighters can appeal a ref’s assignment to their fights. Whether that does any good or not I don’t know.

  • Cage Potato (Joke of a site) defends Mazzagatti. I know people make mistakes and even a ref deserves a break if he makes a human error but it’s hard to defend the guy at this point. Dana says it best, how he doesn’t hate the guy, he has nothing personal at all against him but he’s just not a good ref.

    • Mark McDowall

      You cant argue the fact that Mazzagatti screwed up when you see the picture of Burkman walking away from Fitch’s limp, unconscious body and Mazzagatti is no where in the frame. Guys like McCarthy or Herb Dean would have been in there and stopped it before Burkman had a chance to get up.

      • Werdoomb

        So you’ve never see a late call from John or Herb? Give me a break.

        • Jason

          Not when the guy was unconscious, no.

          • Berry

            So Chuck Liddell wasn’t choked clean unconscious by Jeremy Horn whilst Big John just watched? I also recall a fight that Herb was refereeing when he split two guys who were inactive against the cage to resume in the middle, as soon as the pressing guy let go the other jumped on his back and choked him out, Herb allowed this…..all refs have bad decisions

        • Mark McDowall

          John and Herb are always in there. Berkman choked fitch out, saw he was unconscious, let go of the hold, got up and was half way across the ring before Mazzagatti got in there. You would never see something like that from those guys. Now have they ever made poor decisions, of course, but Mazzagatti’s name seems to be brought up more often then not when poor reffing is discussed.

          • Werdoomb

            I am not really disagreeing with you, I just feel bad for the guy.

            I can recall three fights where I was WTF with Mazagatti’s decision. First was the Brock Mir fight where he stood the fighters up. Second was the Cain Rothwell fight where the fight was stopped when Rothwell was getting up, although I doubt Rothwell could have came back. Third is this fight.

            But I do believe Ken Flo is throwing his showmanship here. He wants to be on Dana’s good side.

          • Mark McDowall

            Yeah it sucks being called out like he is…but it needs to be done to protect fighters from getting hurt. What if Burkman didn’t let go…Fitch could be a vegetable right now. At the end of the day a refs main job is the safety of the fighter.

          • kbroesq

            What are you talking about? He’s was half way across the ring? As soon as Burkman got up, Mazzagatti got in there. I’ll admit Mazzagatti was like, “ohh, s&*%, what just happened.”

            My argument isn’t that Mazzagatti wasn’t confused about what happened; my argument is that all refs would have been surprised by what happened, and would have done the same thing Mazzagatti did. Who get’s choked out from a front choke in like 10 seconds? Especially Fitch?

            It was a shock to see that happen.

          • Cptmats

            “Who get’s choked out from a front choke in like 10 seconds? Especially Fitch?”

            10 seconds is a long time when the choke is tight and deep !

          • kbroesq

            Not for Fitch – I’ve seen him sit in chokes for half the round. The ref’s know these things going into the fight, and they DO take them into account.

          • Cptmats

            Yes even for Fitch !
            How long did he hold on this time ?
            Point proven !

          • kbroesq

            Uhh, we’re talking about past experiences to predict what happened this time and to explain the ref’s behavior. Therefore, using THIS time as an example does not support your argument.

            My point was how much of a shock it was to see Fitch get choked out that quickly because of the past.

          • Cptmats

            My point is anyone can be choked out cold in five seconds so the ref should be right down there watching the fighter closely no matter who it is.

        • Milosc

          He had his heels together during a knockdown-choke sequence, chief

          The guy was obviously daydreaming, or maybe just too much of a fan/checking out the fights like he was part of the audience

        • Alex Anderson

          The problem in this case, is that Mazagatti should have been closer, not that he let it go too long. Even a really good ref might not have stopped Burkman before he let go. The question is, how long would Mazagatti have taken to notice IF Burkman hadn’t let go?

      • kbroesq

        That’s nonsense – I will just say it because I’ve been watching MMA for a long time now. There is NO ref. in MMA today who would have stopped that fight before Fitch got choked out…period.

        I agree with a poster in this forum who said that people are bashing Mazzagatti because he’s made bad calls in the past. People define what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ by what the refs do first. If Herb Dean does it, it’s the ‘correct’ or ‘right’ call. If Mazzagattti does it, it’s the ‘wrong’ call. It’s called confirmation bias.

        • Cptmats

          Fighters are to continue fighting until told to stop by the ref. In this case Fitch had already passed out , Burkman had realized the fight was over released him and stood up and began celebrating and the ref. had yet to intervene !

          It wasn’t bad reffing because Mazagatti did it, It was bad reffing because he completely failed to do his job !
          Nothing Bias about it !

          • kbroesq

            I love this argument that people keep spewing that Burkman got up and the ref had yet to intervene. What left is there for the ref to do, exactly!? It’s the doctor’s turn at that point; the fight is over.

            I will say it again – NO ref in MMA today would have stopped that fight before Fitch got choked out. Call it bad reffing if you want, but then all the refs would have done it.

            Can you imagine a ref stopping the fight BEFORE Fitch got choked out? What if Fitch wasn’t out. People would be calling for the ref’s head, saying: “THAT’S JON FITCH! HE DOES NOT GET CHOKED OUT – YOU GOTTA GIVE HIM TIME, REF!”

            Can’t win.

          • Cptmats

            “What left is there for the ref to do, exactly!”

            Be there in case he wakes up !” tell him the fight is over and keep him calm and still till the doctor or his trainer are at his side. That’s part of the job too. Like when Mark Hominick KO’ed George Roop. The ref stopped the fight and then turned and walked away. Roop tried to get up on his own and would have done a face plant if Hominick didn’t turn and catch him.

            IMO fighter safety should always come first. A thousand early stoppages is better than one late stoppage !

          • kbroesq

            I know this comment thread is old, but I had to comment because I watched the video again. Mazz did exactly what you think a ref should do. i realize White said Mazz was standing there doing nothing, but it’s not true. Mazz dropped to his knees immediately after Burkman got up and attended to Fitch.

    • Lucas Freire

      The problem is it’s NOT his first nor his second or third error.

      • Werdoomb

        oh trust me. There is a self-perpetuating effect here. If Herb makes a sh*t decision, people just say it was a right decision because Herb made it. Or John for that matter.

        Mazagatti has been singled out as a bad ref. So any thing that he does in the cage will be scrutinized more carefully than anything Herb/John does.

        • Lucas Freire

          And why was he singled out as a bad ref?
          John and Herb are on the ref game for a long long time, mistakes happen and they take the blame for it.
          The difference is that they also have fighting experience, so even if you look through you espectator point of view they can be making mistakes, but as a fighter who knows what the situation representes, they should know better than someone with superficial knowledge how to keep the fighters safe.
          You can look back and see that their errors usually were early stoppages in order to prevent further damage.

        • Cptmats

          I think it’s just that he is a bad ref ! I have seen the odd bad call by Herb as well i just very very few.

          I think Big John and Yves Lavigne are the two best refs out with Herb right behind them.
          But Mazagatti has been doing this way to long to still be making so many mistakes like this !

  • Justanotherfan

    I think Mr. Kizer needs to learn the mechanics of a wind choke!

  • mannshands

    Sorry but McCarthy and Herb both have stopped so many fights too early in the last 5 years that I wince every time they enter the ring. Maz did nothing wrong. At least he is not part of the puss-if-ic-ation of UFC!!!

    • Baller31

      Maz did nothing…at all. Except put an athlete’s life in danger by sucking at his chosen profession. The puss-if-ic-ation of the UFC? If you’re talking about boring fighters going for decisions instead of finishes, then maybe blame Greg Jackson or someone other than the UFC. But if you think a ref shouldn’t step in and stop a fight when a guy is unconscious, you need help.

    • Lucas Freire

      What? What you mean too early? When a guy can only defend his face and do nothing else but is still lucid? THIS is the reason there are rules AND referees.

    • Stedroc

      These guys would rather watch Herb Dean CHEAT for his fav fighter…

      Standing up Gonzaga, literally stopping an elbow mid strike so his self described hero CroCop could be stood up, where he stood a chance..

      Too bad cheaters like Herb Dean don’t always win.

    • kbroesq

      Totally agree with you. With all the Mazzagatti hate, i seriously have to wonder if people have seen the fight. I think a lot of people just heard White cuss and yell, and assumed what Mazzagatti did was horrible.

      Seriously go watch the fight. What is so bad about it? There is just no freakin’ way any other ref would have stopped that fight. Again, you see Fitch’s arms moving trying to defend, then like 3-4 seconds later, you see Burkman get up, and Fitch is choked out.

      You’re going to hate on Mazz for letting Fitch remain in a choke for 3 seconds (Probably less)? where he’s not defending? And again, we’re talking about Fitch, a guy who can sit in chokes for long periods of time.

      Also, the people bringing up the past conduct of Mazz need to stop doing that. The issue is what he did here, and you shouldn’t let past bad calls prejudice your view of what happened here. If the ref were Big John or Deen, NO WAY would people be so outraged.

      In fact, this wouldn’t even be a story – the story would be: “Fitch Choked Out for Only the Second Time in his Career (imagine having your first fight be against Mike Pyle) after only a 10-15 Second Choke!”

  • Baller31

    Ken Flo is one of the most intelligent fighters/announcers the UFC has ever had, and I’m glad he spoke up…Mazzagatti has to go. That lack of stoppage was sick to watch…kind of like when Rosenthal was way late in stopping the Munoz/Weidman fight.

    • TrentSki

      Have you ever heard Florian commentating?

      Its really bad

      Sometimes he intentionally makes a fool of himself by saying x fighter should use his reach advantage even though y fighter was just announced to have a 2 or 3 inch advantage. He does it everytime, its annoying to have to try to ignore Kenblo, but he is nowhere near the level of Goldberg or Joe Rogan, even though Goldberg can talk rubbish sometimes and Rogan occasionally is bias

      • Werdoomb

        Baller31 is an uneducated TUF noob. He thinks talkative, opinionated mofos are intelligent.

        Dude, Ken Flo is not a professional commentator. He just started doing this not so long ago.

        Goldberg had a career as a commentator before the UFC. And Rogan has been on camera long enough to know what he is doing.

        Ken Flo = mediocre fighter trying to make a living by sucking up to Dana.

        • Baller31

          Wow…everytime you comment you sound even stupider than before. KenFlo is an intelligent fighter who knows mma strategy and can break down a fight on a level Rogan and Goldberg, and you, can’t even comprehend. I guess you’re looking for entertainment value from Rogan rather than actual knowledge from
          Florian. And you think he was a mediocre fighter? Then you obviously are the “newb”. You need an MMA history course douchebag. You spout ignorant b.s. from your mouth, and it’s never based on facts, nor does it every make sense to anyone but you.

          • Alex Anderson

            To me, Rogan is by far the best, and Florian’s voice just doesn’t sound very good for broadcasting, though he may be good at interpreting what’s going on.

          • kbroesq

            Yeah, I don’t know how this forum got off topic, but I agree with that. Florian doesn’t have a non-yelling voice. At least Rogan can talk like a normal person when the fight is slow.

            I just want to stop hearing Goldberg say: “He’s puttin’ on a clinic, Joe!”, after Goldberg sees someone land a leg kick or something. Apparently, that’s a Muay Thai clinic.

            Also, pummeling under on the cage is putting on a “wrestling clinic.”

            And if you pull guard, you are putting on a “jui jitsu clinic.”

      • Baller31

        LMAO!! Yeah, so you think a stand up comedian who has never competed in MMA (yeah, i know he received his “black belt” from his buddy Bravo) is a better commentator than a high level MMA fighter known for his intelligent strategies in fights?? Do you get tired of Rogan yelling “right on the button”?

      • Alex Anderson

        Goldberg? I’ve never known him to say anything interesting, to me he’s just the guy who reads out the s*** from the script. His voice is alright, but he’s like a less annoying version of the crazy strikeforce announcer, trying, but just not knowledgeable enough about the sport.

      • Cptmats

        ” Rogan occasionally is bias”
        Rogan is the most bias commentator in all of professional sports and just a complete douche bag…..just sayin

        Bas Rutten is the best commentator in mma

  • TrentSki

    Some idiot says Herb Dean is a good ref, then all the other sheep agree wtih him. How embarrassing

    Lost a bit of credibility there. Herb is known for ruining fights by stopping them early

  • james j

    Florian and Chael will say anything that agrees with and backs Dana. They both are making a ton of money announcing, and they know not to disagree with the guy cutting the check. In the real world, we call these sheep softball pitchers.

    • Werdoomb

      This is true. Add to that list, Frank Mir, Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, and other mediocre/washed up white american fighters.

      • Baller31

        Oh, now it’s a race thing? You are such a moron.

      • Roaddawg

        You just listed two former title holders as mediocre. They won the belt with a little more than mediocre skills. The most exciting fight in MMA history was between the two “white fighters” you just listed. But I guess someone like Kimbo is your hero because he’s black. Unbelievable!

  • mike54

    everyone is making a big deal about this fight just because dana said something, burkman let fitch go as soon as he went out. its not like he was being choked while he was unconcious,

    • Sir_Roy

      Yeah. You completely and irrevocably missed the point. Had Burkman not let go, it is 100% assured given Mazz’ position, posture and complete lack of situational awareness (inexcusable for a ref, especially a contact sport referee) that Fitch would have continued being choked while out for far, far longer than is healthy for any fighter. Brain damage and death are real dangers bud. So get out of here with that nonsense.

      • mike54e54

        if u were the ref what would u have done? i agree that he was out of place and in a bad position, but there was no chance to check if he was ok.

        • Sir_Roy

          I would have realized Fitch was rocked and that his takedown attempt was really an attempt at survival – to buy time to regain his sense – and I would have been where the action was. I would have jumped in as soon as Fitch went limp cuz my face would have been where my eyes could bloody well see.

          There was no chance where Mazz was standing though. That’s for damn sure.

      • kbroesq

        Now you’re judging the guy for something that didn’t even happen; you’re saying what WOULD have happened. That is horribly unfair.

        Other than his very first fight (against a guy who, at the time, was more talented and experienced than him), Fitch has never been choked out and would even put himself in chokes to get in better positions. He bragged about how he couldn’t be choked out. He went three rounds with probably the best BJJ practitioner in the UFC taking his back for 15 minutes and STILL didn’t get choked out.

        This result was huge shock to everyone, including the refs. It was way out of character for Fitch to be in trouble so quickly. It’s no different than some refs giving certain guys (like Nog) more time to take punches before they stop a fight because they know they can take it.

        • Sir_Roy

          Refs are not paid to make assumptions based on probabilities going into a fight. They are paid to be there, in the action, as it transpires live at all times. Anything can happen in a fight. That’s basic stuff really. Fitch was obviously rocked by punches before the sub attempt. Even my girlfriend, who’s not a fight fan or aficionado, had a WTF look on her face when Fitch went limp while Mazz was standing there with his thumb up his arse. Fitch’s ability to defend himself was obviously compromised before the sub was locked in. Mazzagati was NO WHERE near where the real action was transpiring, was not even in a position to monitor or otherwise DO HIS BLOODY JOB. He should have been facing the action, with his own face practically in Fitch’s ready to jump in …

          There’s no way to justify Mazz in that call. None whatsoever.

          • kbroesq

            I just don’t get this reaction. Fitch was not defending for like a few seconds. Give me a break.

            And ref’s should not make assumptions? Yes they should. It’s funny, let’s say your girlfriend was hypothetically a ref in a fight where Roy Nelson was fighting. She’d probably stop the fight if she saw Nelson taking punch after punch because she wouldn’t/couldn’t make any assumptions about Nelson.

            You can guarantee people would be outraged saying: it’s Country!. You need to let that fight go and give him a chance! Ref’s absolutely need to make assumptions about the fighters.

            I can also guarantee you that if Mazz asked Fitch before the fight: “hey, do you want me to stop the fight if you’re in any kind of choke for too long?” Fitch would say: “Hell no! Let me pass out before you stop the fight.”

            Bunch of armchair quarterbacks! I would LOVE to see what you would have done as a ref in that fight.

          • Sir_Roy

            Because you’re missing an important distinction. The difference between what is actually happening, and what we know based on past experience. A ref needs to concern himself first and foremost with what is transpiring before his eyes.

            Mazz was dreaming of the beer and pizza waiting for him after the fight. His eyes were more glazed over than Big Country’s have ever been in the Octagon.

            I don’t care how tough we know Big Country to be. If he’s eating shots and proving not able to defend himself, and if he doesn’t respond to multiple warnings cautioning him to intelligently defend himself, then I’m calling the fight! As would every single ref worth their salt. That’s the reality of the situation as it’s unfolding in the Octagon.

            Big Country’s been responsive and continued to do his best to defend himself, fight back and stay in the game. He has yet to give adequate cause for a stoppage based on strikes landed. Your example doesn’t hold.

          • kbroesq

            I was responding to an argument about assumptions, and you completely changed everything about the hypothetical and the argument. “If Country is eating shots and not defending, I’m calling the fight.”? What are you taking about?

            That has nothing to do with anything I said. Stick to the argument, and the example ‘holds’ just fine.

          • Sir_Roy

            I didn’t change a damn thing.

            “If Nelson was taking punch after punch” isn’t an argument. There is no context so I created one. Which is easy to do, as there’s only two choices really. If he’s soaking punch after punch, I assume he’s either A) still in the fight able to intelligently defend himself or B) not intelligently defending himself.

            If it’s A) we’re looking at here, if he’s still in the fight then no, you’re example is complete rubbish as there’s no assumption there. It’s based on facts. On what’s actually happening in the Octagon. Which is to say, Big Country is eating shots, but is neither KO’d nor TKO’d and is still intelligently defending himself. Just means he’s eating punches without dropping, and as such, probably losing the fight on points. No need to stop the fight, or keep it going, based on assumptions. Facts are there.

            If he’s unable to intelligently defend himself, then your example is likewise complete rubbish for aforementioned reasons. So which is it? A or B? Context please. Not that it matters. It doesn’t hold either way.

  • Alex Anderson

    This wasn’t particularly bad. The fighter let go of the choke only a couple of seconds after Fitch went out, which is somewhat unusual. It is also very unusual for fighters not to tap out. What we saw was an unusual situation, with a below average referee, but not a good example of a really bad reffing decision. Mazagatti has much worse decisions in his reffing past. The ref is not expected to stop a submission before a fighter goes unconscious from a choke, and it always takes a few seconds for the referee to notice. Ideally, Mazagatti would have been closer and would have checked fitch’s arm immediately after he saw it appear to go limp, but the difference in this case would have been very minor.

  • kbroesq

    I have to say, I just watched the Fitch fight for the first time yesterday, and I have no idea what fight people were watching. I heard White go on his diatribe before I watched the fight. I was expecting to see some kind of egregious error on the part of Mazzagatti.

    It seems like everyone has the heard mentality on this, so I will probably get bashed, but I don’t see what he did that was so bad.

    FIRST, we’re talking about a guy in Fitch who, above any other MMA fighter, does NOT get choked out. He takes pride in not getting choked out. He’s been in bad chokes for minutes at a time, and gets out. So Mazzagatti probably is going to give a guy like Fitch more time in choke to begin with and not even believe he’s in any trouble.

    SECOND, if you watch the fight, from the time you see Fitch still moving his arms and defending, to the time you see Burkman get up after choking Fitch out is MAYBE 3-4 seconds, and Fitch was face down. Anyone who says this wasn’t completely shocking to see and a total anomaly for Fitch is lying.

    If I was in Mazzagatti’s shoes, there’s no way I would think that Fitch was in danger after being in a choke for like 10 seconds, 6-7 of which Fitch was moving.

    I just don’t get it.

    • mike54

      i feel the same way. just because dana opens up his mouth and bashes a guy everyone just agrees with him. there was nothing mazz could do

  • Mr. O’Boyle

    Another perfect example of his being a danger to the sport tonight at Fight Night in Brazil…

  • Wim Kinslow

    Can we just have a PPV event where Steve Mazzagatti & Kim Winslow fight? The winner could continue to ref the sport and the loser is gone forever.