I teach English to newcomers to Canada, and I speak both English and French (and know little bits of all sorts of other languages), I've lived and travelled extensively overseas. I've put in a lot of hours of gesturing wildly, drawing pictures, pointing at things vaguely, and getting very similar responses. The only universal seemed that everyone, everywhere knows how to say, "OK."
We got to see this awkward moment at this past weekend's card in Macau and it didn't involve Mike Goldberg. in the TUF China final fight, Referee Steve Perceval asked if Ning Guangyou could continue after a groin strike. I'm not picking on Steve here. I sympathize. He was doing this in front of a huge audience.
Here find ye the transcript (about the one minute left in round 2):
(to Yang Jianping, who stands exactly where he is). I want you to stand over there.
(to Ning Guangyou) You got kicked in the groin.Groin? Are you OK, you have five minutes. You have five minutes, are you OK? Your groin.
(to Yang Jianping, and pointing) Go over there.
(to Ning Guangyou) OK. You have a- Are you OK? Are you OK? Groin, OK? Fight?
Ning Guangyou responds: OK.
Guangyou didn't hesitate to get back to the fight, so that's not so much the issue. I worry that in such situations in future, the fighter might be saying OK, without necessarily understanding what they are agreeing to. Misunderstandings can lead to unexpected point deductions, disqualifications, or even injuries.
As the UFC, and other promotions (and sports for that matter) bring in athletes and teams from all over the world, it will be increasingly important to find ways of dealing with this. Having Mario Yamasaki referee in Brazil is always a good idea. He instructs fighters according to their language. Recently, Yves Lavigne called over someone from the corner and told him to translate. These are both ways of dealing with crossing language barriers in the cage. I would love to suggest that Refs take courses to learn phrases like "Don't hit the back of the head," or "If you do that again I'm taking a point," in Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, and Diaz (truth be told, many people speak English better as a second language than I do as a first, so for those fighters, you don't need to trouble yourself).
There aren't many Mario Yamasakis, nor Refs who have a plan like Lavigne, and I fret that too many Refs are having enough trouble managing the cage during a fight that adding extracurricular studies might finally put them over the edge. "Power to the Peoples!" they might chant,
What's to be done?
The yellow card system they used in PRIDE was limited, but it certainly got the message across. Doesn't matter what language you speak, 10% of your purse is a fire under your fouling, stalling ass. The point deduction was incidental.
Sports like hockey and US football use hand signals to indicate penalties, fouls, etc. That might be useful in some cases. It wouldn't do anyone any good if the fighter couldn't see the Ref gesturing away. Whatever you do, don't give Rogan ammunition for improvements to things. He'll suggest Refs wear diamond cups.
At this point, applying the rules consistently is a much bigger priority, that much is quite obvious. However, if we start pondering on it now, by the time it becomes a priority, just think of the great ideas (and lunatic ones) we'll all have.