When Roy Nelson kicked referee John McCarthy, and made an obscene gesture following the former's stoppage win over Antonio Silva on Sept. 24, the eyes of the mixed martial arts world turned to Jason High.
High, after all, was summarily booted from the UFC after he shoved referee Kevin Mulhall following a TKO loss to Rafael dos Anjos in New Mexico in June, 2014, then had to sit out a a year-long, commission mandated suspension.
But if you're expecting High to call for Nelson to lose his job as well, guess again. The World Series of Fighting lightweight doesn't condone what Nelson did to the well-respected McCarthy. But he feels that if Nelson was fired, it would simply be a matter of two wrongs not making a right.
"I don't think what he did was right," High (20-5), who meets Joao Zeferino (20-8) on Friday night at WSOF 33 in Kansas City, told MMAFighting.com. "It wasn't even that bad of a stoppage, and the fighter's job is to keep fighting until the referee calls it off, not to wave off the fight himself. But that doesn't mean the man should be fired. I wouldn't root for someone to lose the ability to feed their family."
The fighter nicknamed the "The KC Bandit" turns 35 next week and has competed professionally since 2005, so he's done and seen it all by this point. And what he sees from the Nelson situation is another example of the need for fairness in matters of the sport's adjudication.
"The big thing is, things are so slanted, fighters need to be able to have a recourse and they don't," High said. "That's what needs to change here. The UFC's so big that they can do whatever they want, and the commissions have absolute authority to act as the judge, jury, and executioner. That has to change."
Add High, then, to the list of fighters who believe a union would be a good thing.
"That's the sort of situation where a fighter's group, or a fighter's union or what have you, that's a sort of situation where this would come into play," High said. "It's not about completely swinging things in the other direction, it's about making sure when something like this happens, you have a fair hearing and you have your voice heard. The last couple years, it seems like fighters are finally starting to wake up to this. I don't know if I'll still be around when a union comes around but at least it's starting to move in that direction now."
In the meantime, High forges ahead with his career. Because of the 2014 controversy, it's often forgotten that the lightweight standout is 7-2 over the past five years in a stretch which includes bouts in WSOF, the UFC, and Strikeforce.
He's also 2-0 with a pair of finishes in his WSOF stint, most recently a second-round TKO of Mike Ricci at WSOF 31.
At the time, there was much chatter that a win over Ricci would give High the next shot at the company's exciting 155-pound champion Justin Gaethje. It didn't work out that way, Gaethje will defend his belt against Ozzy Dugulubgov in the main event of Friday night's NBCSN telecast.
But High's not sweating it. The bout with Jeferino, who went up to welterweight and lost a fight against Jon Fitch for the vacant 170-pound title last time out, marks just the second time in his professional career that High will get to fight in his hometown.
"The way it all worked out, Gaethje already had the contract for this fight signed," High said. "So I could have waited, but there was no way I was missing this chance to fight in my hometown. I wasn't about to ride the pine for this one. World Series has been a quality organization, they've done everything they've said they'll do, so I'm just going to go out and take care of what I can and then hopefully the title shot comes together."