Longtime referee Mario Yamasaki supports the use of instant
replay in MMA. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Mario Yamasaki at UFC
on Jan. 14 found himself in an awkward position, a referee
at the center of controversy.
Yamasaki disqualified Erick Silva
for illegal blows to the back of the head of Carlo Prater
in a featured welterweight match at the HSBC Arena in Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil. The highly-touted Brazilian prospect was closing
for a finish, but Yamasaki’s decision brought an abrupt and
controversial end to his 10-fight unbeaten streak. It remains the
subject of heated debate.
“Erick hit a knee and Prater fell back sitting and grabbed Erick’s
leg,” Yamasaki told Sherdog.com. “Erick began to strike Prater’s
head, and, depending on what angle you see it from, you see the
punches in a different way. From where I was at, I saw at least
five punches hit the back of the head, and I yelled at Erick two or
three times to not hit back of the head and he kept punching. There
were about 11 punches there, and I stopped the fight.”
Boos cascaded in from the crowd once the decision was made public.
Yamasaki wound up in the critical crosshairs of
UFC color commentator Joe Rogan, who utilized instant replay to
dissect what happened.
“The mistake there was not his; the mistake was mine,” Yamasaki
said. “I stood next to Erick. I should have gotten out of there,
and I didn’t. It was my mistake. [Rogan] was doing his job in
there. Nobody liked what he did, but we can’t do anything about it
In hopes of avoiding similar issues in the future, Yamasaki has
declared his support for the use of instant replay.
“I think it would be a great change because it gives referees the
opportunity to go back,” he said. “Making mistakes is human, and
there’s nothing wrong with admitting it. There’s no shame in
stumbling and going back.”
Yamasaki also wants to create an athletic commission in Brazil and
plans to do so with the aid of former UFC fighter and referee
“The UFC needs an athletic commission in Brazil,” he said. “The UFC
wants Brazilian people to work at Brazilian events, from the
referees and cutmen to the fighters and the Octagon support team.
It’s very expensive to bring in all these people from the United
States and Europe. Our intention is train all these people.”
In addition, Yamasaki is setting up educational courses for
referees in Brazil, which, for him, will help meet another need in
“We need more professional refereeing courses,” he said. “Just
because a guy is a black belt doesn’t mean he’ll know how to
officiate a fight. The important thing is to do it in a school and
always hit on the same key, always stay up-to-date. It’s the same
as flying an airplane. If you fly a plane today and don’t fly again
for six months, your chance for failure is much higher than the
pilot who flies every day.
“We have to put referees to work more often and keep talking to
them,” Yamasaki added. “After every event, the athletic commission
sits down with all the referees and judges to analyze it. Most
states in the U.S. do it.”
The Silva-Prater bout was not Yamasaki’s first brush with
controversy inside the Octagon. At UFC 52 in April 2005, he
officiated the rematch between hall of famer Matt Hughes
Trigg. “I was afraid I’d made a mistake in the fight between
Hughes and Trigg,” he said. “Trigg landed a knee to the groin on
Hughes, who was walking backwards. I was trying to stop the fight
to see what had happened, but Trigg scored a knockdown, and if I’d
stopped the fight there, Hughes was going to lose.
“So, I let it happen,” Yamasaki added. “Hughes let Trigg get a
choke, and I was praying, ‘For God’s sake, do not tap, do not tap.’
If he tapped, it would have been because of my mistake. He broke
out, took Trigg’s back and submitted him.”
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