UFC President Dana White overstepped his boundaries on Saturday when he demanded the removal of a referee during a fight because he did not agree with the way he called the first two matches. The dismissal of Howard Hughes came after the second fight, which pitted Royston Wee against Yao Zhikui. Wee won, but not without costing Hughes his job for the night.
“I told the guys to go let him grab some beer and some popcorn and go sit down and start watching some fights, not judging them,” White said at the post-fight press conference (via MMAJunkie.com).
The public was split over White’s actions, which were greeted with more cheers than boos while the event was happening live in Macau. Once people had a chance to stop and think about the implications of this protocol breach, however, the critiques came fast and hard.
“Imagine the outcry if Pete Carroll had the right to pick the referees who worked Seahawks’ games,” Kevin Ioli wrote for Yahoo! Sports. “White has to be cognizant of the situation and can’t appear to be trying in any way to intimidate or influence the judges’ work.”
Deadspin reporter Tim Marchman didn’t mince words at all. Here are a few that are safe for work:
“A promoter kicking a judge from ringside because he doesn’t like his scoring is very high on the list of things that just can’t happen in a combat sport, not too far below fixing a fight.”
UFC protocol is not as defined as other sports, especially abroad, but one thing is for certain — the promoter is not to be involved in the refereeing decisions in any way.
In the end, White erred on the side of not-wanting-to-seem-corrupt and apologized for his untoward interference with Hughes’s career. Via a UFC press release:
After an internal review, the UFC organization announced today that a breach of its independent regulatory protocol occurred on Saturday night during UFC FIGHT NIGHT MACAO. …The UFC remains committed to maintaining the strictest regulatory environment for competition and vows that no similar breach of protocol will happen again. Both White and the UFC apologize to Mr. Hughes for calling his professional judgment into question.