The retired referee gave his take on the controversial stoppage that saw UFC Brooklyn’s headliner end in a 32-second TKO for Henry Cejudo.
A week has passed since the UFC’s maiden voyage on ESPN and the stunning first-round demolition job Henry Cejudo was able to pull off on 135lb king TJ Dillashaw remains as prevalent a story as ever.
The stoppage came after just 32 seconds of the first-round – an outcome that left the entire sport in a state of collective shock as the smaller man and the underdog emerged victorious.
Speaking in a recent interview with MMAFighting, retired referee and current Bellator commentator ‘Big’ John McCarthy explained how the particular circumstances and the narrative that drives a fight can make it subject to a different lens than a fight that you would find on the undercard.
Citing the fact that the stakes were incredibly high for both men, Big John gave his take on the stoppage and what he would have done had he been the one officiating.
“When you say ‘good stoppage/bad stoppage,’ I’m not into saying what’s good or bad. Kevin made a decision, okay. It’s his decision. He’s the one that’s gotta live with his decision — along with TJ and the UFC themselves.
“If you’re gonna ask me – there’s things I want a referee to think about – if you’re gonna ask me, ‘Would I have stopped it at that point?’ No. I wouldn’t have stopped it at that point. And this is the reason why: this is not a fight between two guys that are just brought together and ‘Oh, we’re gonna match this fight up,’ whatever fight it is. It’s not, as I would say, ‘Fighter A’ against ‘Fighter B.’
“This is a fight where both guys have earned, they’ve earned the right to actually be in this position. They’ve both created a background that’s put them in a position of being champions, and now these are champions going after each other. One to actually try and save his entire weight-class, basically. The other to prove, ‘Those guys are not as good as me.’”
As for the ins-and-outs of what transpired inside the octagon, McCarthy doesn’t exactly believe that TJ was finished by the time the ref called it.
Indeed, he had taken quite a few unanswered shots but in the eyes of the legendary ref – he wasn’t a beaten man.
“And you look at what happened, that fight is a young fight. It’s 25 seconds in when Henry hits TJ with a shot. It hurts him, no doubt about it. Puts him down. But there’s no time… When you’re a referee you’ve got to understand certain things.
“And what you’ve gotta understand is, ‘I’ve got two guys that are champions, not all fights are the same.’ And you’re gonna hear a lot of referees say, ‘You ref every fight the same.’ And I’m gonna tell you that that’s a referee that has no clue what they’re doing, okay? You got two guys that are champions, they both have a full tank of gas.
He hasn’t had anything happen in there other than the shot that puts him down. This is his greatest opportunity to recover. Henry goes and swarms him, and so you gotta watch it and make sure, ‘If he goes out, I’m gonna stop the fight.’
At the stoppage of that fight, he still had a moment. It could have been that three seconds later he was out, okay? And that’s decisive and that’s what is best for those fighters, it’s best for the promotion, it’s best for the fans. So, in that circumstance, I would have let it go a little bit longer. But, you know, I could have been wrong in that too.”
Either way, not much can be done at this point and the decision remains a divisive one – one that just as many people maintain was the correct one.
Cejudo remains the champion of the flyweight division, though, and it would appear as though he will be granted a shot at Dillashaw’s bantamweight title next time around.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena