USA TODAY Sports
UFC president Dana White has never been shy about criticizing officiating in MMA, whether it's judging or refereeing. One of his main targets has been referee Steve Mazzagatti, who has made many questionable calls in the past. Last week it was announced by the Nevada State Athletic Commission that Mazzagatti would be reffing the UFC 156 main event between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar. When White was asked about it, he predictably went on a rant (via 5th Round):
"I could go off for 45 minutes on officiating over [in Nevada]," White stated over the weekend. "Steve Mazzagatti is the ref reffing the [Aldo vs. Edgar] superfight. What more can I do (while turning his hand into a gun and pulling the trigger against his head)? Mazzagatti is reffing the superfight. What more needs to be said than that?
"I can’t do anything. As a promoter, I can’t do anything. The fighters can. The fighters can say, ‘Oh my God.’ They can say, ‘I don’t want him,’ and they gotta go in and give good cause on why they don’t want him."
Acting out the gun to the head thing is a little much, but that's Dana for you. He does have a point about the fighters though. As pointed out last week, the fighters do have a right to voice their concerns about referees before the actual assignment of one to a bout by a commission. For instance, Brock Lesnar's agent (along with a UFC attorney) raised concerns about Mazzagatti working Lesnar's bout with Shane Carwin at UFC 116. The commission elected to name Josh Rosethal as referee instead.
Does every fighter have that kind of pull with the commission? Probably not. Are Aldo or Edgar (or their camps) seriously concerned about this? Who knows. But there is precedent for a fighter voicing their opinions on this sort of thing, so Dana's right. Whether anyone else is bothered about the assignment isn't clear, but White sure thinks they should be:
"I can tell you this, if I was a fighter, the last thing I would want to see when I got in the cage is Mazzagatti," White said in closing. "That’s the last thing I would want to see."
Hopefully this bout doesn't come down to a questionable reffing (or judging) decision. That's about the best we can hope for at this point.