Mario Yamasaki won’t be the third man in the Octagon at UFC 224 — and it looks like he won’t step back inside the UFC cage ever again.
Speaking with MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani during Thursday’s UFC 223 media day in Brooklyn, NY, Michael Chiesa revealed that he was informed by UFC official Marc Ratner that the Brazilian referee wouldn’t “be anywhere near the Octagon ever again.”
Yamasaki was criticized by fighters and UFC president Dana White many times over the years. In Chiesa’s case, he stopped his lightweight bout with Kevin Lee in what Chiesa considered a premature stoppage, before Chiesa tapped out or went out in a rear-naked choke.
Most recently, in UFC’s last trip to Brazil in February, Yamasaki was heavily criticized for letting a flyweight bout between Valentina Shevchenko and Octagon newcomer Priscila Cachoeira go too long. Shevchenko mauled the Brazilian before eventually winning via submission, and Cachoeira left with a badly injured knee.
The promotion is slated to return to Brazil on May 12, with UFC 224 taking place in Rio de Janeiro, and Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission (CABMMA) has not assigned Yamasaki as one of the referees to work that night.
“The assignments were defined by CABMMA more than two months ago,” CABMMA COO Cristiano Sampaio told MMA Fighting, “and referee Mario Yamasaki is not among the referees that will work at UFC Rio.”
Yamasaki declined to comment on the situation when asked by MMA Fighting.
According to Sampaio, it was CABMMA’s decision not to use Yamasaki at UFC 224, not something that the promotion has required. “The official’s CABMMA license doesn’t guarantee him/her to work at every event regulated by the entity throughout the year,” Sampaio said.
It’s not set in stone whether or not Yamasaki will be assigned by CABMMA for future MMA events in Brazil other than the UFC, but Sampaio explained that a referee’s assignment “depends exclusively on technical and strategical questions, based on results, especially when it comes to enforcing the rules of the sport and concern about the health and physical integrity of the athletes.”
Back in February, days after UFC Belem, Yamasaki responded to criticism saying that he "allowed (Cachoeira) to be a warrior and keep fighting." CABMMA said at the time that “Mario Yamasaki has been one of the best referees in MMA for the past decade and played a key role in helping our commission build the team of officials," and the commission would “discuss the next steps together and decide what is certainly best for all parts involved in the process.”