Yesterday I wrote that MMA referee Jorge Ortiz should explain his decision to stand up Roy Nelson in his fight with Andrei Arlovski on Saturday night, and that I had been unsuccessful in my attempts to contact Ortiz to get an explanation.
Today the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which licenses Ortiz and all referees in the state, provided me with his phone number, and Ortiz answered my questions about the decision-making process that went into the stand-up, which came with 2:22 remaining in the first round, while Nelson had side control.
"When I'm working a fight, they're told in the locker room before the fight to keep working, continue the action moving," Ortiz said. "Nelson did attempt the kimura. When he lost the kimura, at that point they had spent a good part of the round on the ground and I felt there wasn't a reasonable attempt at a submission, at a finish. At that point I decided: Let's get them up. Let's see if he can improve the position, because in my opinion there wasn't a reasonable attempt at finishing the fight."
I pointed out to Ortiz that Nelson had landed three solid knees to Arlovski's side. Ortiz said Nelson needed to do more.
"In my opinion he wasn't active enough," Ortiz said. "I thought he needed to be more aggressive on the ground to attempt to finish the fight, and when I feel the action is at a point where it's stale and it's not going anywhere, at that point is where I decide to change it up and get something going here."
There have been accusations that EliteXC acted improperly by instructing Seth Petruzelli to stand up in his fight with Kimbo Slice, and I asked Ortiz whether anyone from either EliteXC or Affliction (which was co-promoting the Arlovski-Nelson fight) had told him to keep the fighters on their feet.
"No, they didn't say anything to me about that," Ortiz said. "I work strictly for the commission. I don't even know the promoter. I know there's a Mr. Shaw but I have no idea who they are."
Ortiz's background is in karate, but he said that background does not make him biased in favor of stand-up fights.
"No, I appreciate the ground game," Ortiz said. "I do like the sport of mixed martial arts so I do enjoy both ground and stand-up, but when I see guys on the ground and they're not moving fast enough -- this is not strictly jiu jitsu, it's a combination of stand up and ground. It was the same when they were against the fence, they were standing but they weren't striking, they weren't trying to do anything to finish the fight. At that point I spaced them out to keep the action moving. I try to keep the action going as best I can."
Ortiz said he knows there will be criticism, but he's confident in the way he handled the fight.
"I call it the way I see it," he said. "I don't consider myself leaning in one direction or another. I try to be as neutral as possible and I try to give everyone a fair shake. We're very specific when we do our instructions in the locker room. Keep the action going, keep moving, keep improving position. When we decide it's time to stand them up, we stand them up."