VIDEO: Ref Fails to Stop Choke, Fighter Says Opponent Saved His Life

Melquizael Costa nearly became the subject of a sports tragedy due to poor refereeing at Demolidor Fight on Saturday in Bauru, Brazil.

Costa was fighting Rafael Barbosa. In the third round, according to a report by MMAFighting’s Guilherme Cruz, Barbosa went for a standing choke, but switched to an anaconda choke when the fight hit the canvas. A short time later, Costa appeared to go limp and Barbosa told the referee that his opponent was out.

Referee Emerson Pereira Saez failed to stop the fight, letting it go on for nearly another two minutes before finally telling Barbosa to relinquish the hold. Saez didn’t appear to check Costa’s limbs for any signs of consciousness, instead telling Cruz that he had visually saw that Costa’s eyes were open the whole time and didn’t think he showed any signs of being unconscious. He failed to notice that Costa’s legs were spasming and never checked for limp limbs or anything of that nature.

Costa believes his life was in danger because of the way Saez conducted his job, and believes that his opponent saved his life.

“I saw in the video that I went out and my eyes were open,” Costa said. “You might think I’m awake, but I was already out. I moved a couple of times, but I was having seizures. My corner and his corner yelled that I was out, but the referee said he would only stop the fight if I was out. And I was! Every referee touches the fighter to see if they are out, but he never touched me. My opponent stopped the fight. Otherwise, I would be dead.

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“I saw death so close. My opponent let me go, otherwise I would be dead if I had to wait for the referee. It was horrible. It was agonizing for me when I came back because I couldn’t breathe.”

Barbosa confirmed to Cruz that he let go when the referee instructed him to do so. For his part, Saez said that he is retiring from refereeing and will not officiate mixed martial arts again.