When it comes to combat sports, fans only pay attention to the two competitors. However to the educated fan, the third man in the ring is just as important and could have a greater influence on a bout than the actual fighters. Apparently referee Ives Lavigne thought that he was working at the Apollo Theater instead of UFC 96, because his performance was strictly amateur hour.
“I wanted him to stop the fight because it was clear to me Pete Sell was pretty much done,” Matt Brown said. “I didn’t want to inflict any unreasonable damage he didn’t have to take for (the) purpose of winning or losing the fight.”
In the opening minutes of their matchup, Brown caught Sell with numerous shots to his dome. He unleashed a vicious barrage of punches, knees and kicks that sent Sell on a one-way trip to Queer Street.
Sell was clearly jacked up and ultimately fell to the mat. Lavigne pulled Brown away before he could pounce on him, which to most MMA enthusiasts means that he called an end to the fight, which should have been the case.
However, at the last moment he allowed the fight to continue, creating a massive state of confusion.
“I’m serious. I’m not even kidding. I hurt my arm tonight beating on the Octagon screaming to stop that fight,” UFC president White said about the fight continuing. “I’ve never done that in eight years.”
Sell, still wobbly, immediately went in for a shoot, which was easily stuffed by Brown, who continued to rain down punches to Sell’s melon, however still no stoppage.
When he finally got back to his feet, Sell resumed eating punches as if he were at a buffet. Brown continued to motion to Lavigne to stop the fight as Sell was literally out on his feet.
Sell finally fell to the floor, but Brown refused to inflict more punishment, demanding Lavigne to stop the fight. Which he finally did.
“I hate dogging refs because they have a hard job; I know they have a hard job,” White said. “To me, I think there are a couple guys in this business who know what they’re doing and go in there and take control and take charge. When you’re a referee, your job is to go in, and you’re in charge. When you step in there, step in there and stop that fight. Fight’s over. That’s it. End of story.”
To make matters worse, Lavigne was the referee that was pre-assigned to the night’s main event featuring Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Keith Jardine.
Fortunately for him, that fight went on without a hitch. In that fight, he did what a referee was supposed to do. Not be noticed by the fans – be there, but not be there.
“There’s nobody … I shouldn’t say there’s nobody,” White continued. “There are a few [referees] out there who are real good, and there are a whole bunch of guys who aren’t.”
One that is really good, in fact the best, is “Big John” McCarthy, who came out of retirement in November. Although he worked Strikeforce’s “Destruction” event and Affliction’s “Day of Reckoning” promotion in January, he still hasn’t received a call to come back to work with the world’s biggest MMA organization.
Lavigne got lucky on Saturday. Just to play devil’s advocate, let’s say that after he “called a stop” to the fight, Sell landed a lucky punch that would have knocked Brown out. How would he have explained himself then?
Or worse off, what if Brown wasn’t as courteous of a fighter after he recognized that Sell was really messed up? Sell could have been severely injured.
Big John, where you at?