LAS VEGAS -- UFC 178's featured middleweight bout took a turn for the bizarre on Saturday night when Yoel Romero received extra time to recover between the second and third round after nearly being finished under a flurry of punches by Tim Kennedy.
In an act of apparent gamesmanship, Romero remained on his stool nearly 30 additional seconds longer than the maximum one-minute break period between rounds, despite repeated protests from Kennedy, who ultimately lost the fight via third-round TKO due to strikes.
"It's the dirtiest trick in the book," said UFC President Dana White at the night's post-fight press conference. "Literally the dirtiest trick in the book.
"You have a language barrier, there's nobody in the corner that speaks [English], but I saw the guy from the commission -- he was screaming, ‘get the hell outta here!' I don't care what language you speak, you know what ‘get the hell outta here means.' You know what time you're supposed to be out of the Octagon, you know how much time you had."
White characterized the sequence of events as "really weird" and "extremely controversial." In addition to a stool being left inside the Octagon by Romero's cornerman with Romero still seated atop it, a portion of the extra time was spent wiping away excessive Vaseline applied by the UFC's own cutman, which further allowed Romero to recover from the near-knockout.
According to Nevada administrative code, if a fighter refuses or is otherwise unable to answer the bell following the one-minute break period between rounds, the opposing fighter is to be awarded a TKO victory.
Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) Executive Director Bob Bennett acknowledged the rule in the aftermath of Romero's controversy, however Bennett stated that Kennedy's loss was unlikely to be overturned into a no contest.
"They're very seldom overruled," Bennett said
"The likelihood of an appeal being overturned is very slim. I'm not going to say it's not going to happen, but like I initially said, it would be deferred to our legal department."
Bennett added that he believed the end result of the fight would have likely remained the same had Romero answered the bell immediately. He also praised referee John McCarthy for "expediting a situation that unfortunately developed" and getting the fight "to continue as quickly as possible."
"If you can't get off the stool in a minute, the fight is over," Kennedy told UFC interviewers. "Not a minute and a half, not two minutes, not two and a half minutes while your coaches are still putting Vaseline on you and toweling you off. That fight should've been over, period."
Bennett said that he expects the NAC to review tape of the incident.
Romero denied any wrongdoing in a post-fight interview with FOX Sports' Ariel Helwani.
"I don't know what happened," Romero said. "When the referee said ‘go fight,' I go. The problem is that the UFC, or somebody, give me the Vaseline. It was too much in my face, and the referee said, ‘hey, hey, hey, clean, clean.' That's what happened. When they said ‘come on, let's go,' I go to fight."