August 12, 2020
by Tomy Santana Cedeño | Mixed Martial Arts August 6th, 2020
Tomy Santana Cedeño is the Executive Director of the Mixed Martial Arts Officials Corps. of Dominican Republic (COMMARD), Vice Chairman of the Referee Committee of the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (GAMMA), and International Referee of Mixed Martial Arts. In addition to being a referee with abundant international experience in numerous countries across four continents, he is an expert in regulatory affairs and a mixed martial arts analyst. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and his weekly segment called #PregúntaleATomy every Saturday at 3:00 PM EST live on MMA Info Magazinepodcast.
There are three fundamental principles when refereeing mixed martial arts competitions in the following prioritized order; ensure the physical integrity of the athletes, intervene as little as possible in the result of the competition, and encourage competitive action in response to the timidity of the athletes. The central focus of this article will be on the second fundamental principle regarding intervening as little as possible in the result of a competition and in particular, the criteria of when to disqualify an athlete.
UAE Warriors featherweight Ahmad Al-Darmaki was disqualified in his last appearance at UAE Warriors 12 in Abu Dhabi on July 31st. The fight ending sequence of this particular contest was due to the flagrant violation of fouls number 22, 23 and 26 of the unified rules of mixed martial arts, which cover the flagrant disregard of the instructions of the referee, unsportsmanlike behavior and attacking the opponent under the care of the referee.
Although the disqualification ruled was in accordance with the unified rules and perfectly within the sovereign authority of the referee, was the decision measured? Was there any miscommunication at the fighter rules meeting? Were there language barriers between the referee and athlete? If so, were they addressed and were the commands rehearsed? Was Al-Darmaki familiar with the rules outlined in the previous paragraph and its consequences?
Ideally, referees must refrain from actions that may intervene or alter the natural course of the result of a contest, leaving athletes to be the sole and exclusive authors of the outcome of their respective contests thus their careers, as long as they perform according to the unified rules of mixed martial arts. In this particular case and regardless of the answers to the questions in the previous paragraph that would have surely prevented what happened, I consider this particular disqualification an excess of authority, for fouls that did not contribute to the victory achieved. This does not mean that the fouls go unpunished, for this I believe that fines and/or suspensions would be more efficient and drastic alternatives.
Khabib Nurmagomedov did worse after his victory over Conor McGregor by rear naked choke, how would have a DQ loss sat with the MMA world? Disqualifications should be applied only and exclusively when fouls directly or indirectly contribute to the victory achieved, or incapacitate an opponent during the contest. Mixed martial arts athletes compete for their respective salaries, benefits and incentives first, then to win. Therefore, monetary sanction and/or suspension is the corresponding measure to procure ethical and sportsmanlike behavior.
In no other sport that I can think of is a victory awarded to those who clearly lose due to ethical or unsportsmanlike offenses committed by their opponent(s), this dynamic exists only in combat sports. I consider that this matter should be on the agenda of every sanctioning body that regulates mixed martial arts, in order to advance the evolution of the aforementioned regulation to continue the arduous process of updating and adapting professional mixed martial arts.
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