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Ion Cutelaba: Game plan was to play possum, counterattack when referee stopped fight

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UFC Fight Night: Cutelaba v Ankalaev Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

If Ion Cutelaba actually was the Incredible Hulk, he would have turned green backstage at UFC Norfolk.

The Moldovan with a soft spot for the Marvel character could barely stay quiet long enough for his translator to relay his words after his TKO loss to Magomed Ankalaev.

Cutelaba told ESPN it was part of his game plan to play possum and counterattack when referee Kevin MacDonald stepped in to stop the fight 38 seconds into the action.

”When it’s two fighters on this level and they came here to fight and show the world a good fight, it doesn’t matter, one round, three rounds, 40 seconds – let them fight,” Cutelaba said backstage at Chartway Arena, which hosted Saturday’s event in Norfolk, Va. “That referee, he doesn’t know how to do that. They have to (have) another referee to control this kind of fight.”

Cutelaba visibly wobbled his head during the exchange that led MacDonald to step in and stop the action. But he indicated none of Ankalaev’s strikes did any significant damage, and his reactions were a ruse to get his opponent to engage.

”I came all the way from Moldova, 14 or 15, to show the world I am the best, and the referee didn’t leave me to fight,” he said. “Every (strike) that my opponent did, I controlled it. When the referee stopped the fight, I was countering. This was a part of the game plan, and the referee thought I fell. But that was part of the game plan.

”When they stopped it, I was fighting him.”

The stoppage drew immediate boos from the crowd and widespread condemnation from fighters and fans online. Backstage, Ankalaev said he hurt Cutelaba when the referee stepped in. He said he didn’t need the rematch, but would take one if the promotion required one.

Cutelaba’s UFC record sagged to 4-4 with his TKO loss. Technical difficulties intervened before he could answer questions about a rematch.