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Tanner Boser reacts to UFC Vegas 30 ‘Cagegate’ controversy, calls out Ben Rothwell

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Tanner Boser would really like everyone to focus more on his winning performance at UFC Vegas 30 than the few moments of controversy near the end of it.

The Canadian heavyweight stopped a two-fight skid on Saturday with a second-round knockout of Ovince Saint Preux. Unfortunately for Boser, the victory has come under scrutiny as moments before the finish, two incidents occurred that drew the attention of the cageside commentators and Saint Preux’s team.

First, as Boser placed a hand on the fence, it looked like he may have grabbed onto it with his fingers, which would be in violation of the rules. Replays showed that Boser’s hand was clearly closed into a fist, making a fence-grab impossible, but at the time commentator Daniel Cormier was vocal on the broadcast that Boser had used an illegal move to help get out from under Saint Preux.

The second point of controversy involved referee Jason Herzog coming into contact with the fighters as Boser flurried for a finish. According to a statement that Saint Preux gave to MMA Fighting, Herzog touched Saint Preux’s back, which distracted the fighter as it seemingly indicated a pause in or stop to the action, and that moment may have distracted him. Saint Preux’s team is planning to issue a formal complaint to the Nevada Athletic Commission.

Boser isn’t worrying about any post-fight protest, but he knows for sure that putting his hand on the cage had nothing to do with him winning on Saturday.

“Let’s call it ‘cagegate’ not ‘fencegate,’ it has a better ring to it,” Boser said on What the Heck when asked what he was thinking in the moment. “None of that went through my head because I’m in a fight. I’m in a fight right now and I just got to my feet. At no point did my brain register that Daniel Cormier is over there screaming, ‘That’s bad,’ like 400 times. I didn’t hear his corner screaming that I grabbed the cage until after I won. These things I realize after somehow it was controversial. I didn’t grab the cage and I hate that that’s the main storyline from this because I straight-up beat his ass for the whole fight. And this is the narrative. It drives me nuts.

“I don’t think I revolutionized the game. It’s really, really straightforward. You can’t grab the cage, you can’t. But you can put your hand like this and post off the cage. If I’m the only one doing that, then everybody else is really, really dumb.”

Boser made a quick turnaround for the “OSP” fight, competing just three weeks after losing a narrow split decision to Ilir Latifi. He replaced Maxim Grishin, who withdrew from the bout due to visa issues, turning the originally scheduled light heavyweight matchup into a heavyweight affair.

Just winning under these circumstances should have been enough of a narrative hook, but Boser now finds himself part of the latest in-cage controversy in a business that is never short of them.

“Like I said, it’s annoying, but I won and I won fair and square and I had a great performance,” Boser said. “One of the best ones of my life, probably, against a guy with a pretty big name. So no, it doesn’t matter. All of those dumb opinions don’t matter. Just like when you lose, the same people that are just talking sh*t, they don’t matter either. You win, you lose, people are going to find something to talk sh*t about.

“Is it annoying that the broadcast was so adamant that I grabbed the fence and they kind of created that narrative. People are impressionable and when they hear the people who talk on TV say something, they believe them. So is it annoying? Yeah, I guess. But my win bonus is going to be in my account in a few hours.”

Boser expects to compete again in the fall, ideally with a proper training camp after the whirlwind summer he’s had so far. The Alberta native said he hasn’t had an actual training camp for weeks as he had to do a two-week quarantine after the Latifi fight, then he had a few days of training at the UFC Performance Institute this past fight week, and now he has to quarantine again for two weeks.

He already has a name in mind for when he can compete again though: Heavyweight lifer Ben Rothwell.

“We’re in the same boat,” Boser said. “Because I asked for Jared Vanderaa and I got a laugh in response just like [Rothwell] did, so I figured me and ‘Big Ben’ are in the exact same situation here. I don’t know what’s up, but hey, we’re in the same boat, we’ll fight over who’s the captain.”