Referee Herb Dean does not believe he made a bad call in the Francisco Trinaldo vs. Jai Herbert fight at UFC on ESPN 14 and chastised color commentator Dan Hardy for Dean interprets as interference in the bout.
Dean has been the recipient of criticism for the timing of his stoppage in Trinaldo’s third-round TKO of Herbert on Saturday’s card, which took place at Flash Forum at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Hardy was among the first to get on Dean for what he believed was a late stop.
After ripping Dean for failing to protect Herbert on the broadcast, the commentator and referee exchanged heated words face-to-face cageside at the conclusion of the contest. Hardy has since doubled down on his actions, reiterating that he was merely trying to stand up for fighter safety.
UFC officials, meanwhile, have noted the company plans to investigate the situation.
Sunday, Dean went public with his rebuttal. The veteran official said “by no means was that a late stoppage,” and explained how Hardy’s explicit yelling during the fight-ending sequence was both out of line and potentially dangerous.
“What I really want to get into right now is during the match someone yelled out, ‘Stop the fight,’” Dean said on Instagram. “It’s really interesting because there’s only professionals there and there’s not one fan in the building. Everybody has a job there, everybody knows what their job is and they have specific duties. I have a job to referee the fight, one of my duties is to stop the fight when the fighter’s taking too much damage. There’s two people who are authorized to advise me during that, to maybe yell out those words, ‘Stop the fight.’
“There’s one, the physician. We have a ringside physician who knows more about the physical body than I do. He’s there to give me advice. If he can’t get my attention maybe he might yell, ‘Stop the fight.’ Then there’s the fighter’s corner. They train with them, they know about them, they know more things about him than I do. They may know something I don’t know, so that’s why they would give me some advice to stop the fight. Ultimately to stop the fight is my decision. I don’t know who it was who did it because I was looking at the fight and and I had heard it, so I assumed it was either of the two people authorized to do it, the doctor or the corner.”
Dean continued to walk through the timeline of events from his perspective. He said he wasn’t aware Hardy was the one who was being so vocal until he was looped in by someone else cageside. It was at that point the exchange between the two occurred, and Dean once again said the former fighter-turned-commentator overstepped his bounds.
“After the match I followed up, I asked the physician he said, ‘No, that fight was fine. You were doing perfectly fine with everything you did in that match,’” Dean said. “I didn’t get a chance to ask his corner, but I asked the inspectors, who are in charge of his corner. They said, ‘No. The corner did not yell out to stop the match.’ That means it was someone else, someone else there to do a job. This is a very dangerous thing to do. If you put on your Superman shirt and decide that you’re the smartest person in the room, smarter than the physician, smarter than the corner who works with the guy and smarter than the referee, there’s a chance you could bring in information that could do the fighter a disservice.
“I’m looking at the match, I believe I’m getting information from the people qualified to do it. Under no circumstance would I, even as a referee, get up and yell to another referee to stop the match. If I were to do that I would know there would be a situation where I couldn’t live with myself otherwise. I know there could be consequences you would never see me in that position again, but I would sleep well knowing that I’d done that.”
The fight itself saw Herbert put in a strong effort over two rounds. Trinaldo turned the tide in the finally frame, landing a massive punch that sent Herbert to the canvas. It couldn’t been stopped there, as Dean rushed in to get a better look. He didn’t stop it, though, despite Trinaldo standing over a clearly dazed Herbert with his fist cocked.
When it was obvious Dean wasn’t going to halt the action, Trinaldo reluctantly landed four additional punches before it was called off. Dean said he thinks his timing was just fine, and said Herbert did the right things to give himself a touch of extra leeway.
“The bottom line now if I have to look at that match, not looking at it to know if I should’ve stopped it early, because it’s easy,” Dean said. “Anyone who believes it’s not is just following because someone with a microphone says it should’ve been stopped. But if you know anything about fighting, the fighter got hurt, fighters get rocked all the time, but we’re looking at his actions. He’s tracking his opponent, he knows where his opponent is. He’s putting both arms between him and his opponent, he’s lifting his legs and head off the mat. He’s doing everything I could ask for to stay in that fight. So, it wasn’t a bad stoppage.
“But that person who is yelling out, that’s almost the same thing as if you would grab a horn and ring the horn as if you’re calling the time. It could easily be mistaken for the people who are officially qualified to yell, ‘Stop the fight.’ It should never be done. Food for thought.”