Jessamyn Duke appeals controversial Invicta FC 5 KO loss to Miriam Nakamoto


Jessamyn Duke thought at the time she might be getting the short end of the stick, but she wasn’t quite sure.

Immediately after eating a second knee from Miriam Nakamoto (2-0) at Friday’s Invicta FC 5 event, Duke (2-1) thought there was a good chance she was grounded, making the knee illegal.

But with veteran referee John McCarthy running the action, she also second-guessed herself in the heat of the moment. It wasn’t until later, in the back after the knockout loss, that she and her team were sure they had a pretty good reason to be upset at how things went down.

On Monday, Duke and her team filed an official appeal of the loss with the Missouri State Office of Athletics, Duke today told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). Now she awaits the commission’s response and what she hopes is her loss to Nakamoto being flipped to a no contest.

A little over midway through the first round against Nakamoto, Duke took a knee to the head along the fence and quickly dropped to her knees. While her knees still were on the ground, Nakamoto landed a second knee to the head – an illegal one. McCarthy at that point pulled Nakamoto off and waved off the fight.

The official ruling was a knockout win for Nakamoto – with McCarthy saying the second illegal knee was inconsequential because Duke was out from the first one.

But as Duke and her team see things, if the first knee was the one that ended the fight, why didn’t McCarthy move in to stop it at that point?

“What you see pretty clearly is that after the first knee, ‘Big’ John McCarthy stepped forward to observe the action, like he would any fighter that’s injured – if they’re stunned, they’re going to step forward and look at the action,” Duke said. “But he did not move in to stop the fight – the fight was on, the fight was still going, as it should be. There are plenty of fights where a fighter gets stunned and the referee gets really close, but they don’t stop it – they give the fighter a chance to fight through. That’s what he was doing.

“But instead of following it up with a legal shot, she followed it up with an illegal knee to my head. That’s when I collapsed and went down – and then Big John jumped in and pulled her off of me and called the fight. That’s when it kind of contradicts what the official statement was – that it was the first knee that ended the fight, because quite clearly it wasn’t.”

Duke said the appeal is nothing personal against McCarthy, a referee she said she respects. But if she’s going to have a loss on her record – her first as a pro – it appears she would much rather it be from a loss that didn’t leave such a bad taste in her mouth.

“I honestly believe ‘Big’ John is one of the best referees out there today,” she said. “But he is human, and that’s why we have commissions and officials so if a bad call is made, we can appeal it. It’s nothing personal. He made a mistake. I think he made an error in judgment. Maybe he thought he stopped it after the first knee, or intended to. But the fact is, he didn’t and an illegal strike was thrown. That’s why we’re contesting it.”

Duke said she was stunned by the first knee, but that she wasn’t completely out. In fact, she said, she was getting ready to try to recover from the knee by going after a takedown when the second knee came.

That’s how she knew she was still with it enough to keep going, not knocked out from the first one, as the official ruling said.

“As soon as it happened, I was like, ‘S—. That was a knee, and I took it,’” Duke said. “Instantly, my thoughts shifted to, ‘I need to finish the takedown, I need to grab her legs.’ And then, bam – that’s when it hit me. I didn’t see it, but I knew right away it was a knee. I knew I was stunned, but I was like, ‘You took a hard shot – now finish the takedown.’ That’s what my arm was doing, and that’s about the time I got hit (with the second one).”

Duke said it’s not in her nature to make a fuss over what her instinct told her at the time may have been an illegal knee. Instead, she went to the back and that’s when she was immediately approached by other teams and fighters telling her camp that there might be grounds for an appeal.

“Even initially from the moment it happened, I thought, ‘I think my knees were down. Maybe they weren’t. Surely they would’ve called that,’” she said. “It wasn’t until we got back to the warmup area that we got bum rushed by people saying, ‘They showed that replay – you need to go get a commissioner. You need to appeal that – it was pretty blatant.’

“I don’t want to be a poor sport. I don’t want to be the fighter that, after taking a knee to the skull is like, ‘I was fine!’ only to find out later that wasn’t the case. I’d rather suck it up and be a good sport and shake my opponent’s hand, thank her and thank her coaches, and then later, when I can see some footage, then I can definitively say, ‘OK, that was a bad call.’”

And with that knowledge firmly in place, the written appeal was filed. Now Duke awaits the result.

Invicta FC 5 took place at Ameristar Casino in Kansas City, Mo., and aired via online pay-per-view. Check out the video below of Duke’s Monday interview with MMAjunkie.com Radio.

For more on Invicta FC 5, stay tuned to the MMA Events section of the site.

MMAjunkie.com Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, MMAjunkie.com lead staff reporter John Morgan and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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