Veteran referee Marc Goddard is adamant that the condition of the vinyl surface at Cage Warriors 106: Night of Champions led to him stopping the main event clash, a welterweight title unification bout between Ross Houston and Nicolas Dalby.
One of the most talked about Cage Warriors main events in memory due to the amount of blood lost by both combatants, Goddard insisted that in 15 years of refereeing it was a completely unique situation to him.
“I’ve said this many times at seminars around the world to would-be officials, but in MMA you’ve never quite seen it all,” Goddard told MMA Fighting the day after the ‘Night of Champions’ event. “Last night was the first time in 15 years, almost 16 years, that I’ve ever had to make that call.”
Goddard explained how he saw the fight as the third man in the cage.
“Nicolas was the first to get cut, an elbow caused his cut. Where he suffered the cut, on the side of his forehead, there are lots of little capillaries that make it spurt blood, that wasn’t going to stop [bleeding]. Obviously, I stopped the fight, let the doctor have a look at it and the fight was safe to continue. Then Ross gets a badly broken nose. Now, both guys are bleeding all over each other. So I’m looking at it, trying to make an assessment because both guys would not stop bleeding,” he said.
Goddard went on to describe the condition of the cage floor in the third-round as well as the condition of Houston, who began to aspirate blood as he took shots on the bottom from the surging Dane.
“Around the midway point of the third-round, I could see that it was becoming very difficult for the fighters to get any purchase on the surface due to the amount of blood. I called the doctor in and at that stage he said that the fight is still safe to continue,” he recalled.
“By the last time I bring the fight to a stop, I can see that there’s a hole in the top of Ross’ nose; it was on the left side of the bridge of his nose. He’s got a badly broken nose, there’s a compound fracture in the nose from what I can see. When he was on his back, blood was running into his eye, he’s swallowing blood, he’s aspirating blood—he’s not just swallowing blood down through his oesophagus, the wind pipe that goes to his stomach—he’s breathing blood in through his lungs. Nicolas is on top of him and he’s opened up like a faucet. I’m losing my footing, they’re losing their footing. It was like a Turkish oil wrestling contest.”
As far as the English referee is concerned, common sense dictated that the contest needed to be brought to a close. He explained how he felt both fighters could gain an unfair advantage from the treacherous condition of the cage floor.
“The best tool any referee can have is common sense. We can see the guys are slipping all over the place. These guys can barely stand up, they can barely get any purchase with their feet, they are bleeding profusely and there’s still half a round left. What’s going through my mind is: [Ross] is aspirating blood, he can’t see. If he had’ve got up and he slipped and Nicolas jumped on a guillotine because he slipped, that would be on me. And that’s vice versa too; if Nicolas got up and then slipped, and Ross gained mount from it and finished him, that would be on me too,” he said.
“The reason why I stopped it was due to an unfair advantage, and the unfair advantage in this case was to both fighters. Why? Because if one was bleeding excessively it could’ve been stopped in the other fighter’s favor. As we can clearly see, both of them were bleeding excessively. It was almost comical; I was about to lose my footing, I could’ve broken my ankle. I wouldn’t care if that happened to me, but I would really care if it happened to a fighter.”
Due to the result of a title unification bout being obscured by the vinyl surface, Goddard believes that Cage Warriors will look to switch to a canvas mat in the future.
“Cage Warriors are at the forefront of the sport and I know they’ll change it. Why would they change it? Because the outcome of a main event world championship fight was decided last night due to outside factors. Because it’s a vinyl surface, the blood can’t soak anywhere. It just becomes like Bambi On Ice, as I said, it was like a Turkish oil wrestling match. I don’t want fighters being unduly assisted by something outside their control.”
He also commended Cage Warriors commentators Brad Wharton and Josh Palmer for their awareness during the last throes of the contest.
“I want to give kudos to Brad Wharton and Josh Palmer. They were really in sync; they realized that I wanted the fight to go until the end of the third because then I could’ve went to the scorecards. In that case, it was a five round fight so the majority of the fight would’ve been completed, therefore I could’ve went for a technical decision. Unfortunately, there was still half a round left and the guys were still slipping and sliding everywhere; it was unsafe to continue.”