A group of officials from the United Kingdom will no longer work events promoted by Russia’s Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB).
Prominent British referee Marc Goddard confirmed with MMA Fighting that he and other referees and judges from the UK are boycotting future ACB events due to the questionable overturning of two fights from an event last month in Austria.
An additional statement was sent to Fighters Only about the situation this week.
In the main event of ACB 52 in Vienna on Jan. 21, Patrik Kincl beat Arbi Agujev via TKO when he landed multiple punches and elbows from mount. Referee Neil Hall stepped in and stopped the fight. But ACB promoter Mairbek Khasiev did not agree with Hall’s choice and overturned the bout to a no contest, because he felt it was “stopped too early,” per Karim Zidan of Bloody Elbow, who covers the Russian MMA scene extensively.
Earlier on that same card, Joao Luis Nogueira defeated Shamil Nikaev by unanimous decision. Khasiev did not like the judges scores in that bout and also overturned the fight result to a no contest. Khasiev said he consulted a group of judging experts from Russia to help him come to his conclusion.
The British officials believe Khasiev is setting a bad precedent by overturning the results of bouts in which he disagreed with the outcome.
“The only way a judges’ decision is overturned or changed to a no contest is if there are allegations and proven corruption,” Goddard said. “Of course, this was not the issue. The judges in question I know and they are experienced international officials. You simply cannot just go and restore a fight because you didn’t agree with a score. Imagine the precedent that sets. Fighter A doesn’t agree with the judges — lodge an appeal and we’ll re-score it. A can of worms for every other fight to come and of course we just don’t do that.”
On the Kincl-Agujev finish, Goddard said it doesn’t matter if you agree with Hall’s call or not. A promoter cannot step in and change things just because he doesn’t like a referee’s decision.
“It really doesn’t matter if the fight was called early or late,” Goddard said. “That may always be up for debate, but we cannot re-adjust and alter the official outcomes of fights to our own personal tastes.”
In the United States and Canada, MMA is typically regulated by athletic commissions run by the respective state or provincial governments. A promoter has no power or influence to overturn fight results. There is no such consistent regulation and sanctioning in most European and Asian countries.
Goddard said he, referee Leon Roberts and four UK-based judges were scheduled to work ACB’s show in Manchester, England on March 11, but have decided not to officiate. Goddard said that he has worked ACB shows in the past without incident, but could not overlook this.
“Once it had become apparent the decision to overturn two fights and make it public, then it placed the officials in a very difficult and compromising position,” Goddard said.
He added: “I myself simply cannot and will not jeopardize my integrity or reputation that I have built over almost the past 17 years in mixed martial arts. I cannot work for a promotion that my run the risk of a fighter who has trained hard for three months, sacrificed what they have to do turn up to fight on the other side of the world, give it their all, win the fight unanimously on all three experienced and competent judges’ scorecards only then to run the risk of having his win taken away based on potentially who he may be fighting and if the owners agreed with the decision.
“That’s just not fair. I just won’t be a part of that. What I also couldn’t run the risk of was having any of my calls that were made on the basis of fighters’ safety and not being in a position to defend themselves when stopping for a TKO only then again to have it be be rescinded and taken away because the promoter didn’t agree. That’s crazy. It’s ludicrous.”
Kincl spoke out against his victory being overturned to Czech media. Khasiev responded with an explanation to Russia’s MatchTV (h/t Bloody Elbow).
“Patrik Kincl has an opinion, but my decision is my decision,” he said. “And it is due to the fact that the fight was stopped too early. I questioned many prominent judges and all agreed that I was taking the right decision. As for the Nogueira fight, all whom I consulted in one voice said that it should be a victory for Nikaev.”
On the Nogueira-Nikaev decision, ACB released the following statement:
“The result of the Shamil Nikaev – Joao Luiz Nogueira fight changed to NC (No contest). On Friday the ACB office received reports from the independent judicial experts from Russia and Europe. 12 of the 12 judges awarded their points in favor of Nikaev. They are the experts from Russia Viktor Korneev, Maria Makhmutova, Ahmed Baysultanov, Magomed Magomedov, Yuri Batman, the Polish judge Pawel Harasim and many others. As a result, the promotion has changed the decision of judges who served the ACB 52 tournament in Vienna. Beginning from the next ACB tournaments the judge panel will be radically revised.”
An MMA Fighting request for comment from ACB was not returned this week.