UFC President Dana White is laying down the law on confronting UFC officials one week after a highly publicized dustup between UFC commentator Dan Hardy and Herb Dean, promising swift action for any UFC employee who interferes with an official’s job.
“If you work for me and you approach a judge or a referee or any type of official, I will fire you,” White said. “You will lose your job. You will never work for me again if you do that.”
Hardy was picked up on a hot mic during the UFC on ESPN 14 broadcast shouting to stop the Francisco Trinaldo vs. Jai Herbert fight after Herbert was felled by a punch. The former fighter and commentator could later be heard telling Dean “do your job” and was photographed confronting the official.
Dean later defended the stoppage and accused Hardy of endangering Herbert’s safety, prompting Hardy to issue a lengthy video rebuttal of Dean’s reasoning; Hardy said Dean approached him near the broadcast area after telling him “settle down” after the fight was waved off. Dean declined to respond to Hardy’s video.
Speaking with reporters on Friday after the UFC Vegas 5 weigh-ins, White made it clear he would tolerate no further episodes of such behavior. He cited another recent clash during a UAE Warriors event in which veteran referee Marc Goddard was shoved by Ahmad Al Darmaki after Darmaki held on to a rear-naked choke.
‘Nobody has the right – listen, you want to criticize judges, you want to criticize referees, you didn’t agree with a decision or things like that...we love Dan,” White said. “Dan got emotional. And the problem is now, with this setup, it’s a lot easier to do. It’s a lot easier to interact with everybody, from the fighters to the refs to the media and everybody. If you work for me in any capacity and you approach a referee or judge or an official, I will fire you that night on the spot. That can never happen here again.”
White has immediately terminated fighters who’ve put hands on officials, most notably veteran Jason High, who shoved referee Kevin Mulhall after a Fight night event in 2014. High was later suspended for 12 months.
The UFC on ESPN 14 event took place in Abu Dhabi and was regulated by the promotion, which oversees events in jurisdictions without state athletic commissions and generally follows the standards of the Nevada Athletic Commission. UFC executive David Shaw promised an investigation of the incident between Hardy and Dean.
Asked whether he’d spoken to Hardy in the wake of the controversy, White said, “I’m speaking to him right now. I’m speaking to everybody. Don’t ever do it, ever again. And if you’re a fighter, and you put your hands on or threaten any official, you will never, ever fight here again, period.”
Hardy was not immediately reachable for comment. In his video, the one-time UFC welterweight title challenger called for more accountability of officials and suggested giving other officials more power to stop a fight that went on too long. He acknowledged that his reaction wasn’t professional, though he called it a human reaction to something that was wrong and advised others to say something when they saw a bad call.
“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.”