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Juliana Velasquez appeal of Bellator 278 title loss to Liz Carmouche denied by Hawaii commission

Juliana Velasquez lost via TKO to Liz Carmouche in Hawaii.
Lucas Noonan, Bellator

Juliana Velasquez’s championship loss to Liz Carmouche at Bellator 278 will stand after the Hawaii State Boxing Commission officially denied her appeal of the decision, MMA Fighting has learned.

Velasquez was ahead in the scorecards for the April 22 title fight when Carmouche got her trapped in a crucifix position in the fourth round. Carmouche landed several elbows, and referee Mike Beltran stopped the contest with 13 seconds left in the frame. Speaking with MMA Fighting moments after the bout, Velasquez said ”we all can [make mistakes], but these mistakes cost a lot in our lives in terms of media attention and salary. You can’t have mistakes like that.”

MMA Fighting obtained a letter from the Hawaii commission sent to Velasquez’s team on June 21 in response to their attempt to have the outcome “changed from a ‘knockout’ win for Ms. Carmouche to a ‘win’ for Ms. Velasquez due to an alleged error by referee Mike Beltran.”

The commission decided the result “shall not be reviewed, nor shall the decision made by referee,” because “[t]he referees shall stop the contest when, in the referee’s judgment, either of the contestants shows a marked superiority or is apparently outclassed.”

Velasquez has 60 days to appeal the decision.

According to the commission, Mr. Beltran on April 29 submitted a letter explaining his decision, stating “I was looking closely at the situation unfold and observed what appeared to me Juliana Velasquez’s eyes roll back momentarily. I made a split second decision based on the information provided to me and due to my background, training and experience as a referee, I erred on the side of caution and stopped the fight. Believing that she was possibly unconscious and trying to prevent further damage, I intervened. ... My duty was to protect a fighter who I believed to be in danger.”

The commission has ruled Beltran’s “decision to err on the side of caution was appropriate to protect the fighter, Ms. Velasquez, from imminent danger.”

“Big” John McCarthy, who now works as a commentator for Bellator, also wrote a letter to the Hawaii commission that sided with Velasquez.

“Mike Beltran did what he thought at the time was the right thing in stopping the fight when he believed he saw Juliana hit by an elbow that caused her to lose consciousness, thereby putting her into a position where she was unable to intelligently defend herself,” wrote McCarthy in his letter obtained by MMA Fighting. “Unfortunately for Mike, Juliana, the fans in the arena and the audience viewing the contest at home on Showtime Sports. Mike was wrong in his determination that Juliana went unconscious and that she was unable to ‘intelligently’ attempt to defend herself.

“There are many elements that go into understanding this situation and how a mistake can be made, but make ‘No’ mistake, a mistake did occur and that mistake has led to Juliana unfairly losing the first fight of her professional career along with the loss of her Bellator flyweight world championship title that she worked so very hard to capture.”

“If you view the last moments of the fight between Juliana and Liz you will notice that as the fight was stopped based upon Mike Beltran believing that he saw Juliana go unconscious,” he continued. “Juliana was actually holding her hips up off of the ground, engaging her legs and hips in an effort to move her body and change the position she was caught in. The engagement of her hips and legs absolutely and without a doubt establish that at no time did Juliana go unconscious during this moment of the fight.

“Fighting is a tough way to make living and it is even tougher to keep your focus, put up with the abuse of hostile fans and social media keyboard warriors. Every fighter is aware that they may lose a fight and can deal with that fact when it comes. The truth is this fact has still never arrived for Juliana Velasquez. She did not lose her fight with Liz Carmouche, it was mistakenly taken from her by an error in judgement that the referee has already admitted to. We are all human and we will all make mistakes. Accepting that wisdom and standing tall and admitting our mistakes allows us to move forward and learn from them. Juliana made the mistake of putting herself it a disadvantageous position during her fight. It happens all the time and fighters most of the time make it through those difficult moments. Unfortunately Juliana was not given the opportunity to work through hers and that makes the outcome of her fight not only unfair, but unjust.

“This fight should be overturned to a no-contest based upon an error by the referee. A fighter should not be held accountable for other people’s mistake’s and they should not lose fights that they did not lose. In this instance Juliana Velasquez did not lose her fight with Liz Carmouche. It was taken from her.”

Velasquez was 12-0 as a professional MMA fighter going into the event, while Carmouche improved to 4-0 in the company and 17-7 overall in the sport. Bellator has yet to announce what’s next for both flyweights.

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