Morning Report: Dana White slams Steve Mazzagatti, but believes TUF incident spurred change in NSAC

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC president Dana White promised wackiness and Wednesday night's The Ultimate Fighter more than delivered.

After judges decided a fairly one-sided bout favoring Team Edgar's Ian Stephens over Team Penn's Roger Zapata deserved a third round, referee Steve Mazzagatti deducted a point from Zapata for illegal 12-6 elbows in the final stanza. Zapata was then announced as the bout's winner, despite the point deduction.

White would later explain that a single judge had scored the third 10-9 for Stephens, making it a 10-8 with the deduction from Zapata. The other two judges both scored the final round 10-9 for Zapata, which then became scores of 9-9. Rather than have the majority draw simply go to a fourth round, the judges were told to circle the name of the fighter they believed won the fight. All three judges choose Zapata, making him the winner.

"It was super controversial," White told FOX Sports 1 Wednesday evening. "Both teams saw what happened, knew what happened. You heard B.J. Penn and his team saying [to Zapata], 'Hey, get out of here before they figure this thing out and make the right decision.'"

Rather than take much of an exception with the inexplicable judging, White seemed especially upset over the refereeing of Steve Mazzagatti and his call to deduct a point from Zapata.

"I've had my issues with Steve Mazzagatti for a very long time. Don't know the guy personally. He could be the nicest guy in the world. He's just not a good referee. A referee is a guy who is supposed to be in control of the fight the whole time. Not only are the fighters supposed to know what's going on but all the judges and fans are supposed to know what's going on. Nobody ever knows what's going on with Mazzagatti and his refereeing.

"The guy needs a lot more work before he ends up being in big fights on big stages and can affect peoples' careers and lives."

Asked whether or not Mazzagatti would be on duty for this weekend's UFC 173 in Las Vegas, White said that would be up to the commission. Mazzagatti hasn't worked a UFC bout since Dec. 28, 2013 at UFC 168 in Las Vegas.

"[The athletic commission] put Mazzagatti in a position now where he's going to have to stay in the lower fights, learn a lot more. Guy's got a lot to learn. He's not a bad guy. Nothing bad to say about Mazzagatti. He's just not a good referee yet. He's got a lot of work to do."

Always one to find the silver lining, White says the TUF fiasco was just the catalyst required to urge an end to the status quo in Nevada.

"After that moment on The Ultimate Fighter I think it created change,' said White. "Finally, everything that I've been crying about and yelling about and screaming about finally came to a head in this episode of The Ultimate Fighter. I think that the Nevada State Athletic Commission has done a great job fixing the problem and moving forward in fixing the future of reffing and judging in mixed martial arts. Here in Nevada, anyway.

"I think this was the explosion of what's going on and has been going on here in Nevada for a few years now. I think this was the moment where the right people recognized what was going on and that some changes needed to be made."

A motion to Improve the overall competency of referees and judges seems to have coincided with the resignation of former NSAC executive director Keith Kizer in January.

"The positive side to this is that after this went down [NSAC Chairman Francisco Aguilar], head of the athletic commission, has really stepped in and stepped up,' said White. "Making sure not only that the right guys are in there, guys that have a history of making the right decisions.

"It's never going to be perfect, but what he's doing is after the fights now he's sitting everybody down, they're reviewing films, they're seeing what things were done right, what things were done wrong and what can be done better. This situation, as crazy and as bad as it was, has actually been a positive thing for the state of Nevada."

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Mercy.

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TUF talk.

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FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Announced yesterday (May 21 2014)

cancelled Jon Fitch vs. Jake Shields at WSOF 11

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FANPOST OF THE DAY

Today's Fanpost of the Day comes via Graham Douglas.

Keys for Bellator's long term success.

I have watched most if not all the Bellator events of the past few years. Needless to say, the first PPV event from Bellator was a crowning achievement of sorts for the organization.

It has become quite clear that Bellator would like to be more like the UFC. Not only in success, but also in method. Makes sense. Excellence and success can show a path for others to the same promised land. Bellator has had various talent over the years, but when champions like Ben Askren aren't welcomed to the UFC, one has to wonder. Do these organizations despise each other to the extent that they won't use clear judgement when it comes to scooping up released fighters? There are exceptions of course, but certainly UFC fighters rarely end up in Bellator and vice versa. The UFC has often scoffed at Bellator being in the same league as them, but having Viacom in the mix is certainly worth taking note of. Nothing made Bjorn Rebney more jolly than announcing their TV deal with Fox Sports Latin America. These guys love getting digs in with each other whenever possible. Sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle.

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Check out the rest of the post here.

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Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me up on Twitter @SaintMMA and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.

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