Back in February, referee Mario Yamasaki allowed top flyweight contender Valentina Shevchenko to bludgeon a grossly outmatched Priscila Cachoeira for far longer than he should have. This egregious officiating blunder sparked outrage from many members of the MMA community, including UFC President Dana White, who assured he’d do everything he could to assure Yamasaki never refereed again.
In the wake of this backlash, the referee — who has received blowback for similar incidents in the past — defended his work, assuring he was just allowing Cachoeira to “be a warrior.”
“In my opinion, I allowed ‘Pedrita’ to be a warrior and keep fighting,” Yamasaki said in his post-fight statement. “I could have stopped the fight in the second crucifix or in the mount, but she moved the whole time. I also recognize that I should have stopped when she tapped the first time to the rear-naked choke. I only stopped a few seconds later. About other people’s opinions, it’s their right to say.”
More recently, however, Yamasaki has changed his tune. The controversial referee has finally admitted he let the fight go on longer than it should have.
“I should have stopped it a little earlier, but I didn’t,” Yamasaki told MMAJunkie this week.
He’s also planning on attending a refereeing course designed by veteran referee “Big” John McCarthy.
“John, for me, is my mentor,” he said. “He’s been with me since I started. He always helped me, so I think that’s always going to help me. It can never hurt to learn more and see more and listen.”
Yamasaki also feels that he needs to spend more time involved in the American MMA scene, as he’s recently spent most of his time in Brazil.
“I was more in Brazil, so I was not up to speed, I guess, on everything that’s happening here,” he said. “I need to involve myself more in the scene.”
Whatever the case, Yamasaki is hoping that, with work, he can redeem himself in the eyes of the fans. Even if he feels the backlash he’s received is unwarranted.
“If you count for 19 years I’ve been reffing, how many [fights] were controversial? Four? Five? But people always see mistakes,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do. I just have to focus and try not to make any early calls or late calls. Reprogram. Do my job, you know?”
What do you think of referee Mario Yamasaki?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 5/2/2018.