UFC commentator Dan Hardy called for greater accountability among referees and a new system for preventing late stoppages in a video response to veteran official Herb Dean.
Answering Dean’s video defending his stoppage of Francisco Trinaldo vs. Jai Herbert at UFC on ESPN 14, Hardy broke down footage on the fight to back his claim that Dean stepped in late and said his reaction to the fight was a “human response.”
“I don’t want to do his job,” Hardy said. “I want him to do his job. I want him to be prepared to do his job. And if unfortunately, a situation like this happens when he doesn’t do his job, to not make an excuse video about it and try and pass it off as somebody else’s fault. That’s not helping anybody.”
Reached for comment, Dean said he hadn’t seen the video and likely wouldn’t.
“All the best to Dan,” Dean said. “Whatever he’s doing, I hope it’s doing well for him. I don’t have anything to say.”
Hardy countered several statements Dean made in defense of the stoppage, among them Herbert’s physical reaction when he was dropped before the end of the fight. Dean said the British fighter’s body language indicated he could continue, but Hardy attributed it to an involuntary physiological reaction to brain trauma, “fencing response,” that frequently happens when fighters are knocked out.
Hardy refuted Dean’s claim that Herbert was “tracking” his opponent after falling down, noting “if he was tracking his opponent, then those successive shots wouldn’t have landed as clean.”
“This is a response that referees need to recognize,” Hardy said of the fencing response.
Providing a play-by-play of the stoppage and its aftermath, Hardy gave his side of what happened during his confrontation. He said he exclaimed, “That’s two times,” referring to an earlier stoppage he disputed in Tanner Boser vs. Raphael Pessoa, and stood out of his seat. He said Dean tried to quiet him down, which he said proved that the referee didn’t mistake him for a commission official or cornerman as claimed in the defense video. He said Dean approached him afterward, which initiated the confrontation caught on microphones.
“He knew exactly who had shouted that out, so to say that it could have been anybody, it could have been the corner team, it just doesn’t stand,” Hardy said. “It just doesn’t stand.”
Couched in his criticism of the veteran referee – and several fights he broke down that he said were called too late or called off indecisively – was praise for Dean’s overall skills. He cited Dean’s quick action to stop Ben Askren vs. Robbie Lawler at UFC 235 and said it was the right move.
In this case, however, Hardy indicated there was a lapse in judgement, and Dean’s denial of wrongdoing prompted a response.
“Herb needs to understand that there was a mistake made here, and there needs to be accountability that needs to be taken,” he said. “It’s just a learning opportunity, and if it’s not taken as a learning opportunity, then we’re all losing, especially fighters and brain cells. ... We need to upgrade the awareness of some of these officials, and we also need to hold them accountable for situations like this, when they can’t take it upon themself to do it.
“If Herb wants a conversation with this, it’s an open forum. It’s not an attack on Herb. ... Had Herb not put a video out being very nonchalant about the fact that it wasn’t an early stoppage proves to me he’s not going to learn from this circumstance. It’s important that he learns from this circumstance, because we all need to learn from this circumstance.”
Moving forward, Hardy suggested integrating actions from officiating in other sports, such as a buzzer that signals a goal in hockey. By putting a fighter’s safety in the hands of more than just the referee, he said, there would be an additional safeguard against taking too much damage.
“Can referees be trained with listen to two things? Can they have a horn for the end of the round? We’ve got a clapper for 10 seconds, why can’t we not have a different sound from the commission to be like, dude, that’s enough,” Hardy said. “Maybe like a bell, or the swing of a bloody scythe, or something. I don’t know. We need something in there so other people have access to stop that fight, because it shouldn’t be on me. I don’t want to be in that position.
“And for me to be chastised about being the smartest person in the room and being ‘Superman,’ it’s not being ‘Superman,’ it’s about being human. It’s about being understanding of the job that needs to be done.”
Hardy also questioned whether sleep deprivation may have played a role in Dean’s call, saying the travel to Abu Dhabi and early morning fight times affected everyone working the event.
“We need to make sure we’re checking on everybody to make sure they’re getting enough sleep,” he said. It’s a difficult job to do. We have 15 fights. To call one fight is exhausting. To be a referee for one fight is exhausting. We need to check on the referees.”
On the outburst that dominated headlines in the days after UFC on ESPN 14, Hardy acknowledged it wasn’t necessarily the right way to deal with the issue. But he didn’t apologize for speaking out on what he saw.
“We complain about judges all the time,” he said. “Referees are more important, because they’re our first responders. They’re the ones that have got to jump in there, and if they’re not, then we’re the ones that have to make a say. It’s very pop culture right now, unfortunately, but it crosses into every aspect. People need to speak up if they see something that is not right. Herb needs to be able to interject and save these fighters.”