Ref Mario Yamasaki Responds to Criticism Following UFC Belem

Mario Yamasaki MMA Rules
Credit: Gleidson Venga/

Ref Mario Yamasaki has shared his side of the story following a disastrous performance at UFC Belem.

It’s safe to say that the actions (or lack thereof) of referee Mario Yamasaki have become one of the major talking points following this past weekend’s UFC Belem. In the co-main event, Yamasaki watched on as former bantamweight title challenger Valentina Shevchenko pummeled a clearly outmatched Priscila Cachoeira. Brazil’s Cachoeira was making her UFC debut in the fight; ‘Bullet’ had previously fought for the promotion’s highest honor.

That Yamasaki failed to wave off the fight in the first round, with the newcomer under fire but still early in the affair, was understandable. Cachoeira was pretty much an unknown; a comback might have been possible. With another shellacking in round two, however, fans watched on incredulously as Yamasaki did nothing. The sustained beating became hard to watch, with the final tally of strikes thrown 230-3. And even that didn’t warrant a reprieve from Yamasaki; instead, Shevchenko sunk in a rear-naked choke to mercifully get the tap. UFC President Dana White was livid after the fight, as were others.

There’s an argument to be made that the fight was a mismatch from the outset, and that’s valid. Yet once the cage door closes, the referee’s job is to protect the fighter. What was Mario Yamasaki, who has come under fire in the past, thinking? He released a statement to MMA Fighting on Monday, explaining just that.

During the second round, I signaled to ‘Pedrita’ that if she didn’t move I’d stop the fight, and every time I’d stop, I told her and she moved to try to escape from the punches. Unfortunately, I also can’t control the number of blows thrown — again, when a fighter is trying to come back she’s game.

Fighters go through times of hard effort and dedication to be there. MMA is a contact sport and no fighter likes his fight to be stopped with no chance to revert the result. In my opinion, I allowed Pedrita to be a warrior and keep fighting. I could have stopped the fight in the second crucifix or in the mount, but she moved the whole time.

I also recognize that I should have stopped when she tapped the first time to the rear-naked choke. I only stopped a few seconds later.

About other people’s opinions, it’s their right to say.

Following the bout, Priscila Cachoeira was given a medical suspension of six months and is facing surgery for a torn ACL and meniscus.


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