The Crossing Of The Line

Oftentimes when we witness a one-sided beating or a late stoppage, upon a second viewing it’s not as bad as we remembered. For reasons beyond my control, while I did cover this past weekend’s event, I missed this particular fight when it happened live. So I’ll never know what my reaction would of been to the controversial stoppage in the Trinaldo and Herbert fight real-time, but when watching it the following day, it’s pretty clear that Herbert didn’t need those last few shots. It was a late stoppage, through and through.

I’ve always felt like reffing is one of those things that’s far more complicated and stressful than most people understand. No person is closer to the action than a ref, and there are sounds, and looks on fighters’ faces that the ref experiences that cannot be captured by the broadcast. Refs experience emotions and stress none of us realize is taking place, because when we watch fights, it doesn’t even occur to most of us that there is a third man in the cage. So there generally isn’t much attention placed on where the ref is at mentally, or how many fights has he worked so far on the night, or what things could have happened earlier in the night that affects where their head is at in the present moment.

People don’t understand how violent and traumatic it is to witness a lot of these happenings up close. A lot of the cold hard realities of MMA go unnoticed when watching a broadcast of an event from the comfort of your living room. The production of the events mutes the raw violence of an unconscious individual getting their head punched in as it bounces off the canvas while their limp arms extend and their eyes stare off into space. It’s a horrific thing to witness, and experiencing such a thing in a person is bound to stir up emotions. Especially when the fighter on the wrong end of the drubbing is a friend or acquaintance of yours.

Such was the case for Dan Hardy who was on commentating duties on Saturday when the controversial stoppage occurred, at the end of the fight Hardy was seen and heard on the broadcast verbally lambasting referee Herb Dean for not stopping the fight sooner. Paul Felder who was also on commentating duties said “I’m getting distracted, Dans getting upset with Herb Dean here.” as the audience heard Hardy aggressively rake Dean over the coals.

I personally really liked Hardy as a fighter and I like him as a commentator, his views, opinion, and insight into the sport have a lot of value. But that doesn’t excuse the behavior nor make it any less unprofessional of him to do what he did. You cannot blame him for his reaction , but the fact that you can’t blame him for his reaction doesn’t mean that he wasn’t in the wrong. Hardy has no place inserting himself into the situation as he did, and as understandable as his reaction is, it’s hard to get behind him on this one.

The pressure of having to oversee a professional mixed martial arts contest at the elite level is beyond most everyone’s comprehension to begin with. When you couple that pressure with the effects of bright lights and cameras, and early ungodly hours, you have to believe the likelihood of making an error becomes greater. Dean could of felt like he saw something in Herbert that we couldn’t see from home, there is also the possibility that Dean lost focus in that moment, or mentally drifted causing the late stoppage. It’s an unsettling thing to have to consider, but entirely possible, and if the case, wouldn’t necessarily be at the fault of the Dean. It’s impossible to understand how difficult the job is without having experienced refereeing a high level mixed martial arts contest on the biggest platform in the world.

The embarrassing behavior of Hardy doesn’t define him, but he owes Herb Dean an apology. Let it be water under the bridge and chalk it up to a negative byproduct of being directly connected and involved with the most exhilarating athletic competition in the world. While we are at it, might as well starting looking a little closer at the role and the standards for being a ref. Why not start having more dialog about solutions to these significant problems that put these athletes’ health at risk? Just a thought.

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