Last month, Absolute Championship Berkut hosted its debut event in Vienna, though not without its fair share of controversy. The ACB 52 fight card took a significant hit when seven of the Russian fighters scheduled for the event did not receive their visas and were forced off the show on 24 hours notice. However, it was the ACB’s decision to overturn a pair of results that night that ultimately saw British officials boycott future shows.
According to a statement released to Fighters Only magazine, referees Marc Goddard, Leon Roberts and Dan Movahedi, as well as judges David Lethaby, Ben Cartlidge, Mark Collett and Kev Capel have all confirmed that they will no longer participate in ACB shows due to the conflict of interest that saw the promotion’s owner, Mairbek Khasiev, overturn two decisions at a whim.
“Since ACB’s decision to overturn the results in their Vienna ACB 52 event between Patrick Kincl vs. Arbi Agujev and Joao Luis Nogueira vs Shamil Nikaev; the listed officials will be stepping down from working the planned ACB 54 event in Manchester on March 11th”.
During the ACB 52 show, which took place on January 21, Khasiev overturned the result of the main event between Patrick Kincl and Arbi Agujev. The referee awarded Kincl a TKO victory after landing a barrage of strikes from mount. The decision was later overturned to a no contest because Khasiev believed the fight was an early stoppage. Earlier that night, Khasiev had intervened in the Shamil Nikaev vs. Joao Luiz Nogueira fight and overturned a unanimous decision victory for Nogueira to another no contest.
“Without any sign of judge corruption or incompetence, as a group of officials we feel it is a hugely dangerous and unprecedented step to change a unanimously agreed decision after the event,” the statement continued. “Also, in the main event, referee Neil Hall called a stop to the contest declaring Patrick Kincl the winner via TKO. Mr Hall made his assessment that Agujev was no longer intelligently defending himself in mount, and stopped the bout in the interest of fighter safety. This result was also later overturned to a no contest by the promotion. In the interest of supporting the Unified Rules of MMA and respecting the performing athletes, all the British staff listed above feel that officiating positions within the ACB organisation have become untenable.”
Khasiev’s decision to overturn fights that had already been determined by professionally trained officials was a problematic one, mainly because of the conflict of interest present. Not only is Khasiev the owner and sole funder of the ACB promotion, he also owns the Fight Club Berkut team that a handful of ACB fighters train at. One of them is Arbi Aguiev, who had a loss overturned to a no-contest that night. Given that conflicts of interest are part-and-parcel with Russian MMA, Khasiev likely didn’t anticipate a boycott by British officials as a result.
Even Kincl spoke out against the overturned decision, which prompted Khasiev to state his case:
“Patrik Kincl has an opinion, but my decision is my decision,” Khasiev told MatchTV. “And it is due to the fact that the fight was stopped too early. I questioned many prominent judges and all agreed that I was taking the right decision. As for the Nogueira fight, all whom I consulted in one voice said that it should be a victory for Nikaev.”
The promotion later released a full statement explaining its decision:
“The result of the Shamil Nikaev – Joao Luiz Nogueira fight changed to NC (No contest). On Friday the ACB office received reports from the independent judicial experts from Russia and Europe. 12 of the 12 judges awarded their points in favor of Nikaev. They are the experts from Russia Viktor Korneev, Maria Makhmutova, Ahmed Baysultanov, Magomed Magomedov, Yuri Batman, the Polish judge Pawel Harasim and many others. As a result, the promotion has changed the decision of judges who served the ACB 52 tournament in Vienna. Beginning from the next ACB tournaments the judge panel will be radically revised.”
It should be noted that neither Yuri Batman or Magomed Magomedov have any judging experience visible on MMADecisions.com.
This is far for the first time that Khasiev has overturned a result at one of his own events. Back at ACB 45 last year, a match-up between Magomed Khamzaev and Taichi Nakajima ended in controversy after Nakajima appeared to have secured the win with a perfectly placed liver shot. However, Khamzaev seemingly feigned a groin shot and was able to convince the referee to give him a timeout to recover instead of a TKO loss. Khamzaev eventually won a decision. Khasiev eventually overturned the result following an “investigation.” It was the second time that month that Khasiev had overturned a decision after he stripped flyweight champion Velimurad Alkhasov for allegedly feigning an injury at ACB 43.
While a British boycott of a Russian promotion isn’t necessarily detrimental to ACB’s growth, though it does limit their ability to host events in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Given that British officials will no longer participate on the shows, ACB will likely have to get visas for a handful of Russian referees and judges to oversee the show, including their upcoming ACB 54: Supersonic show booked for Manchester Arena on March 11th. The event is expected to feature a headlining bout between Mamed Khalidov and Luke Barnatt.