As PRO MMA (promma.info) was covering UFC 96 this past Saturday night, we were witness to one of the strangest moments inside the Octagon in recent memory. The curious thing is, it had nothing to do with the actions of a fighter, rather it had to do with a peculiar call made by referee, Yves Lavigne, during the match between Matt Brown and Pete Sell.
Brown started the fight with a head kick that was partially blocked, but then hit Sell with a big left right combination that dropped him. Brown continued to land punches until Lavigne stepped in between the fighters and grabbed hold of Matt Brown to stop the assault, but then Lavigne seemed to have a change of heart and backed off after he saw Sell moving and starting to recover. Then much to the shock of Brown and everyone else, he ordered the fight to continue.
Clearly Sell was hurt, but Brown had no choice but to continue and after more kicks and punches Sell went down again only to somehow get back to his feet where he met more punishment. By this time Brown was pleading with the ref to stop it which he finally did. Dana White’s video blog later showed White and other people ring side out of their seats yelling at the referee to stop the fight.
Yves Lavigne is an experienced referee and has called innumerable UFC fights. This was not some kid in there at his first rodeo. So what happened? Around The Octagon caught up with Lavigne after the bout and he took full responsibility for the error:
“I screwed up. There’s not much to say. I screwed up the fight. I made a rookie mistake at the beginning and stopped it way too soon. I kind of restarted the fight. It wasn’t over at that point and I made the decision to look like a fool and say OK, keep going. I may have deprived Mr. Brown of an early victory but we’ll never know because of me.”
“I feel really bad. Fighters deserve the best. Instead of talking about Mr. Brown’s great win people are talking about a ref. Mr. Brown won with athleticism and tools he has and I’m taking the spotlight away because of my mistake. I feel really bad about it. He deserves better. He worked hard for that win.”
MMA fans never like to see a fight stopped too early. But it is even worse to see a fight stopped too late. If the fight is stopped early, at least the fighter on the losing end can come back and fight another day. However, when a fighter can no longer intelligently defend himself and that fight is allowed to continue, there can be grave consequences for all involved, not to mention the damage it could potentially have on the sport as a whole.