Veteran MMA ref Josh Rosenthal cops plea, awaits sentencing in marijuana case


josh-rosenthal.jpgVeteran MMA referee Josh Rosenthal awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute.

One year ago, federal agents raided an Oakland, Calif., warehouse owned by Rosenthal and an associate that contained 1,356 marijuana plants, according to a copy of the agreement, which MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) obtained from the U.S. District Attorney’s office in Oakland.

The drug’s street value was estimated at more than $6 million.

Rosenthal is due in U.S. District Court on May 17. The government is recommending 37 months in jail, fines and five years of probation, during which he would be subject to random searches, according to the agreement. Without a deal, he faced 10 years to life in prison, a $10 million fine and a minimum of five years’ probation.

However, the court ultimately will decide Rosenthal’s sentence.

Rosenthal, who agreed to a plea deal in January, did not respond to request for comment. His lawyer of record, Ted W. Cassman, was unavailable for comment.

A jiu-jitsu practitioner and martial artist, Rosenthal has officiated dozens of high-profile bouts in the UFC, including a heavyweight title fight at UFC 116 between then-champ Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin. The Nevada State Athletic Commission chose Rosenthal after Lesnar and UFC officials objected to veteran ref Steve Mazzagatti getting the assignment.

After the fight, UFC President Dana White praised Rosenthal’s restraint in the bout’s first round, when Carwin unleashed a flurry of punches upon the downed Lesnar. The now-retired Lesnar went on to win the bout via second-round submission.

As of late, Rosenthal has been conspicuously absent from major MMA events. Earlier this month, he gave an interview to website BloodyElbow.com in which he said his absence was the result of a staph infection. He said he would be officiating an event in May and made no mention of legal trouble.

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