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Despite criticism from Conor McGregor, Nevada commission stands by MayMac stoppage

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Esther Lin, Showtime

Conor McGregor blasted the referee who officiated his August boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in a sit-down interview Friday night in Glasgow. Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) officials were surprised to see his pointed criticisms.

McGregor, the UFC lightweight champion, slammed referee Robert Byrd for multiple reasons, including what he felt was an ending to the bout that came too hasty. Mayweather won by TKO in the 10th round when Byrd stepped in. It was the first professional boxing match of McGregor’s career.

“I thought it was an early stoppage,” McGregor told interviewer Caroline Pearce in front of a live Scottish audience. “How the f*ck can you stop a fight if there were no knockdowns or nothing previous? The round before that I almost had him dropped. I hurt him to the body in the round before. How the f*ck can you stop it like that at the first sign of a wobble? You’ve got to let these fights go on.”

NAC executive director Bob Bennett told MMA Fighting on Sunday that the commission was “disappointed” by McGregor’s comments. He said the NAC made a significant effort to get McGregor up to speed on the boxing ruleset prior to the fight, including the recommendation of retired referee Joe Cortez to officiate McGregor’s sparring sessions. The commission, Bennett said, stands by Byrd’s stoppage as an excellent one.

“All I can say is we did our job,” Bennett said. “That’s what we get paid to do and that’s what we did. I find it very disappointing that Conor would make derogatory remarks that the fight was stopped too early when really the timing of referee Robert Byrd’s stoppage was impeccable. We looked out for his health and safety.”

McGregor, 29, also took Byrd to task for looking only at him during his rules speech in the center of the ring just prior to the Aug. 26 fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “The Notorious” said Byrd “wrestled” him off Mayweather during every clinch and referenced Byrd’s wife, Adalaide, in the interview as well.

Adalaide Byrd came under fire last month for a controversial scorecard in a boxing match between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez. The veteran boxing judge gave Alvarez 10 rounds when many people thought Golovkin won, or that it was at least much closer. With one judge giving Alvarez the fight and the other scoring it 114-114, the bout was ruled a draw.

“The referee was a weird one now the more I look back on it,” McGregor said. “Especially after Adalaide Bird had that thing with the Canelo and GGG fight, that was her. Adalaide and Robert Byrd are husband and wife, that’s a bit weird, that’s when I started looking back on the fight.

“Why did he not give (Mayweather) instruction? Why was he staring at me? He had a vendetta against me straight off the bat. Early exchanges in the tie up, instead of just separating he would reach around and pull me away.”

Bennett, who has admitted Adelaide Byrd’s score was “wide,” said she had an off night, but “has a proven track record” as a boxing judge in Nevada since he became executive director. Bennett said he plans on watching the fight with Byrd and asking her to “articulate” why she scored the rounds the way she did. Then they and NAC chairman Anthony Marnell III will come to a decision about her immediate future.

The criticism of Byrd, Bennett believes, is way over the top.

“The way the fans the media have tried to crucify this judge is unacceptable and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Bennett said.

When it comes to Mayweather vs. McGregor, Bennett said the commission did its research and due diligence in order to approve the fight since McGregor was an 0-0 boxer and Mayweather is regarded as one of the best of all time. The NAC then did further culling of information in order to approve a waiver for the boxers to wear 8-ounce gloves, rather than 10-ounce gloves, in the bout, Bennett said.

So, McGregor’s statement that he wasn’t going to get a “fair shake” from Byrd, the commission-appointed referee, caught the NAC off guard.

“We did everything we could to ensure it was a level playing field,” Bennett said. “I think the fight was very exciting. The fans loved it. The health and safety of the fighter was always at the forefront, from the beginning of the fight.

“There’s no doubt Conor did a phenomenal job, fighting a future Hall of Famer. Obviously, Floyd had his game plan that worked as well. The actual stoppage, we looked out for the health and safety of the fighter, which is our responsibility.”