During the MMA Hour on Monday, Hardy said, “My main focus is the fighters getting protection, and he’s still present at regular events and he’s still making mistakes consistently. He still waves off the fights at the end of the round. He still doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing. It concerns me.
“It really does, because at some point, our sport is going to be negatively affected by someone not doing their job, and we’re all going to be impacted by that, and we’re all going to be saddened by it. This weekend was a good example of that. We were close to it. Brian Ortega (at UFC 266), same situation. None of these people are going to be there in 15 or 20 years when these guys can’t remember their kids’ names. That’s the thing we have to not forget.”
Herb Dean was not the one in charge of the bout Hardy referenced at UFC 267. But like most people who watched, he has a strong reaction to the performance of referee Vyacheslav Kiselev. The referee was in charge of the welterweight fight between Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos and Benoit Saint-Denis. The referee’s abysmal performance in the fight made the promotion remove him from his other assignment on the card. In his post-fight interview, the UFC president, Dana White said the referee’s performance was disgusting.
Dean is one of the most experienced MMA referees and has been in charge of many high-profile bouts. It is no surprise that he has also been at the center of some controversies in recent years. The most prominent was in July 2020 when Hardy yelled at him from the commentators’ booth in the fight between Jai Herbert and Trinaldo.
Hardy still believes White and the UFC brass misunderstand the actual circumstances. He doesn’t disagree with his vocal call for the stoppage of the fight. What he disagrees with are the reports that he approached Herb afterward.
According to him, it was Hern who confronted him at the broadcast table. “As soon as the fight was over, I am now in my spot in the broadcast, I’ve finished commentating the fight, I’ve taken off my headset so I can turn around and face the camera to interview Trinaldo, because this was the social distancing interviews,” Hardy explained.
“So I’m still behind my desk. As I’m standing up, I notice that Herb Dean’s walking out of the cage and coming over to me. And Herb doesn’t move particularly quick, and he was moving quick. He was walking to my desk at a pace. So I’m not going to turn my back on him, of course, so I take my headset off, and I mute it, so you can’t hear what’s going on in the broadcast. And we had a back and forth conversation.”
The hot mics caught some of that, and Hardy subsequently interviewed Trinaldo. But that wasn’t the end of the fallout from the confrontation. Hardy said when he got backstage, a UFC producer confronted him and “was yelling … because I’d gone over to confront him. I never did — I stayed at my desk”.
Hardy said. “And when I spoke to the UFC about it afterward, their advice to me was, ‘You should have turned your back.’ And as a martial artist, I could never do that. I can see this guy coming at me with a pace, I’m going to stand and be ready. He was leaning over my desk. So maybe in hindsight, if I’d complained about that, I might have found myself in a more protected position.”
He agrees that he wasn’t 100 percent right with the way he handled the situation but believes in his right to speak up for himself and the fighters. “I was in the wrong to shout at the referee on the broadcast — I’m well aware of that. That was my error, and I’ll own that error. But I’ll stand by it because sometimes, they need someone who will do that.”
“If that was a silent arena on Saturday [at UFC 267], you would have heard [Daniel Cormier] and [Paul] Felder doing the same thing, halfway through the second round of a fight that went the distance, and we had nobody there to protect that fighter. My concern is that the reaction to that was I was the one in the wrong, and I was the one that was shunned, even though the referee was not at all self-reflective with two late stoppages on the same card. I think the more familiar faces, they get a level of respect that is due to them, of course, but we have to make sure these people are protecting the fighters.”
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