Heavy.com recently scored a rare interview with referee, Steve Mazzagatti. If you follow MMA even just a little, you know that Mazzagatti is Dana White’s favorite whipping boy. According to White, Mazzagatti represents everything that is wrong with MMA, and the world in general. It wouldn’t be illogical to assume White blames Mazzagatti for global warming, the injury curse that has ravaged recent UFC cards, and his own baldness.
Listening to White rail off on Mazzagatti, you’d think Steve banged his wife or something. White is hard on MMA officials in general, but has taken a particular interest in bashing Mazzagatti. Dana regularly refers to him as the “worst referee in the business,” and never misses a chance to vilify the man. Well, Mazzagatti is piping mad goddammit, and he isn’t going to take it anymore. I jest; actually, Steve seems eerily calm in his interview.
When asked about White’s latest gripe – allowing inaction on the ground, Mazzagatti is downright rational:
“I don’t make the rules. If you want to make a 15-second standup rule, then come up with a 15-second standup rule and I will stand them up in 15 seconds. I can only go with what’s given to me. I don’t judge fighters by who they are and what they’re known for.”
And when given a chance to attack White, Steve went the opposite way, saying Dana is “a good dude.”
Clearly this is a man who does not relish the spotlight. Mazzagatti is simply there to do his job. That’s refreshing, really. And it’s awesome that he finally spoke up for himself after all these years of getting shit on. Refereeing is not an easy job. They get blamed for everything that goes wrong, and barely receive any credit when things go right – which is the great majority of the time.
Sure, Mazzagatti has rightly earned some of the criticism. He allowed Jason MacDonald to hammer-fist Joe Doerksen almost into a coma, but then dove across the cage to save Fredson Paixao from Pablo Garza and the certainty of adult diapers.
Things happen fast in the cage, and the referee cannot always make the right call.
White is big on pontificating about the UFC’s safety record, that there’s never been a death or serious injury in the organization. That’s great and all, but certainly some of the credit must go to that third person in the cage solely responsible for fighter safety: the referee.