Tragedy struck the MMA community this week when Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho died from injuries sustained in the ring.
In the days that have followed the incident, some have blamed referee Mariusz Domasat for not stopping the fight sooner, which may have caused Carvalho to take more damage than was necessary.
The promotion has since issued a statement that Domasat was not at fault, and followed all of the correct procedures during the bout. Whether or not he is ultimately responsible though, Domasat no doubt has Carvalho's passing on his conscience.
However, he did feel the need to explain his side of the story, issuing a statement via the Irish Daily Star (h/t the Irish Independent):
"If you watch the fight you see clearly there was no reason to stop the fight earlier.
I stopped the fight when there was a reason to stop the fight, when the fighter wasn't willing to fight anymore, that's it.
Everyone who has any idea about MMA knows the fight was stopped at the exact proper time.
I am an experienced referee and part of the Irish Amateur Pankration Association of Safe MMA and I know what I am doing."
Carvalho fought Charlie Ward in a welterweight bout in Dublin, Ireland on Saturday, with Ward winning by TKO in the third round. While he was able to exit the arena on his own, Carvalho reportedly felt ill after the event, and was taken to the Beaumont Hospital. He passed away 48 hours later.
While most in the MMA community, including the promotion, have come out in defense of the refereeing, there have been critics.
One of those critics is one of the most high-profile figures in the sport at the moment, Conor McGregor, who was ringside in support of his teammate.
"[I thought] it could have been stopped a little earlier," he said, per MMAConnectTV (h/t Simon Rice of the Independent). "I feel these referees need to be on the ball a little bit."
Ward himself was also apparently aware the bout should have been called off earlier. According to his father, Charles Ward Sr., in the final round he had eased off substantially.
"Charles told me there was no way he was hitting him hard in the last round, he knew he had him beaten," said Ward to local media (h/t Daniel Lane of the Sydney Morning Herald). "The referee should have stopped that. … He didn't go out to kill anyone. It's just one of those things. He went out to win his fight, but the referee could have been in a bit quicker as far as I'm concerned."
I don't think, personally, that blaming this situation on any individual person is the right way to go.
Rather, we should mourn the loss of a great martial artist, and continue to try and improve our refereeing and safety precautions. It's a violent sport, but this shouldn't happen.