Michael Chiesa can’t say he’s all that sorry to hear that Mario Yamasaki may never referee in the UFC again.
Last June in a fight that ultimately ended up being a title eliminator, Chiesa was defeated by Kevin Lee by first round rear naked choke, but not without the finish coming under some controversy courtesy of Yamasaki’s stoppage.
While it was definitely a bad spot, Yamasaki rushed into stop the fight with the choke locked on Chiesa but as soon as Lee relinquished the hold, the former “Ultimate Fighter” winner popped right up as he was never unconscious from the submission.
Chiesa later filed an appeal with the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission but his request was denied. Fast forward eight months later and Yamasaki was in charge of a women’s flyweight fight between Valentina Shevchenko and Priscila Cachoeira.
What resulted was Shevchenko bludgeoning Cachoeira by a tally of 230 to 3 in total strikes in a lopsided affair that finally ended with the former UFC title contender finishing her Brazilian opponent by submission. Afterwards, UFC president Dana White declared that Yamasaki would never step foot in the Octagon again after such an egregious display of incompetency while allowing a fighter to take so much punishment without stopping the fight.
“I mean even if — and I really mean this — even if the the circumstances I had with Mario hadn’t happened, just take my whole situation out of the equation, just watching that fight with Valentina Shevchenko and [Priscila Cachoeira], seeing the way he handled that fight, I was appalled,” Chiesa told MMAWeekly. “It had nothing to do with my own personal vendetta with the guy, it all just comes down to an official’s job, their No. 1 job is to protect the fighters. Protect the fighters from themselves, sometimes we can be too tough for our own good. It’s not about upholding the rules. It’s about protecting the fighters and he obviously is way too incompetent to do that.
“Ultimately it’s not the UFC’s call whether he officiates again or not, that’s up to the commissions. If it was up to the UFC, he would have been out a long time ago.”
Yamasaki released a statement several days after the fight saying that he allowed the action to continue to give Cachoeira the opportunity to “be a warrior and keep fighting”. Yamasaki also admitted fault by missing when Cachoeira tapped out the first time to Shevchenko’s submission before steopping the fight a few seconds later.
Putting his own issues with the referee aside, Chiesa says that fight was all the evidence needed that Yamasaki doesn’t need to be anywhere near a mixed martial arts bout where fighters are depending on him to make the right call.
“I’m hoping that he’s just never back in there,” Chiesa said. “He has no business [in there] and this has nothing to do with me. That wasn’t just bad judgment. That was complete negligence. He negligently officiated that fight and allowed that girl to get hit like 300 strikes to two. He sounded so uneducated with his alibi that he gave her to go out like a warrior.
“It’s like wow. That’s the most pathetic excuse I’ve ever heard as an explanation, not to mention he missed the tap. The girl tapped out and he missed it. That’s pretty bad. I’m not saying this because of my vendetta with him, but the guy is just unfit to officiate fights.”
What Chiesa hopes for the future is to see more fighters getting involved with officiating to ensure that athletes are being given every opportunity to succeed while still being protected during any contest.
In recent years, several retired fighters have started transitioning into officiating roles, serving as referees and judges across the globe. Chiesa believes that is the answer to clean up the officiating problems that exist within the sport.
“I love seeing guys like Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro and Frank Trigg in there,” Chiesa said. “I love seeing them in there officiating. Those are the guys who have been in the big fights, fought in the big promotions, been in the spotlight. It’s good to have guys who have been in there as a competitor be in control of the situation and same with judging.”