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Mario Yamasaki planning return to MMA refereeing, even if it’s not in the UFC

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Yamasaki hasn’t reffed a fight since the Valentina Shevchenko vs. Priscila Cachoeira blowout in 2018.

UFC Fight Night: Brunson v Alvey Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

It’s been three years since Mario Yamasaki’s widely criticized decision to let Valentina Shevchenko vs. Priscila Cachoeira continue much longer than necessary. After a hiatus from officiating the sport, we may see the veteran referee back as soon as this year.

“I’m waiting for the pandemic to be over so I start applying to the athletic commissions again,” Yamasaki told MMA Fighting.

“I’ll go back to refereeing as soon as possible,” he added. “Maybe not in the UFC, but Bellator, PFL, Shooto, other promotions, so I can be in the sport. It will be up to the athletic commissions to accept me back and license me and start giving me fights to referee.”

Yamasaki has reffed countless UFC fights over the years but came under heavy fire for the Shevchenko-Cachoeira fight, which ended in a merciful second-round rear-naked choke after Shevchenko landed 95 significant strikes to just two for the Brazilian. In a post-fight statement, Yamasaki memorably said he “allowed [Cachoeira] to be a warrior and keep fighting.”

Dana White had a slightly different opinion and we’ve not seen Yamasaki ref a UFC fight since then. He did ref bouts in PFL and regional MMA shows in Brazil but has not officiated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yamasaki also revealed that he intends to enroll in an online judging course promoted by the California State Athletic Commission so he can get up to speed on changes to the rules and regulations of MMA.