The three-round fight between the Hermes Franca and Ferrid Kheder, in the Dec. 19 XVT5 main event lacked any explosive moments. By most accounts, Franca won the first and third rounds, while the second was in some dispute.
The announcer read off Franca's name as the winner, but as Franca threw his arms in the air in celebration, event organiser Jean-Francois Billon approached the announcer. Seconds later, the announcer corrected himself, and named Kheder as the winner and XVT lightweight champion.
Dave Jansen was Franca's cornerman for the fight, and was inside the cage, just a few feet from the exchange between Billon and the announcer.
"Billon went up to him, and said, 'No, no, no, Ferrid won," he told MMA Fighting. "And then he walks up to Ferrid with the championship belt."
Billon, however, disputes that he changed the actual decision. He said that just prior to entering the cage, the table judge who tabulated the scores told him Kheder had earned a split-decision.
"The fight was very close," he said. "I heard Ferrid's name from the judges. The decision comes from the judges. There was confusion and I wanted to report what they told me. That's it."
According to Jansen, though, just moments earlier, he had seen the decision card in the announcer's hand, which indicated Franca as the winner.
"The judge told me Kheder," he said. "There was no bad intention. This is like to make a story, a novella. Nothing happened. There's a problem? OK. No contest, no problem. We don't want a problem."
All three judges involved in the decision told MMA Fighting that they scored the fight for Franca.
One judge, Allan Benavides, provided MMA Fighting with a statement that translated from Spanish, read in part, "In this fight, the Brazilian Hermes Franca was far superior than Ferrid Kheder. And for such set reasons, it wasn't that difficult to give the win to Hermes Franca. Therefore my card was 30-27 in favor of Hermes Franca."
Another judge, Jeffry Lopez, viewed the fight a bit closer, but confirmed to MMA Fighting that he scored it for Franca 29-28.
The third judge, Ariel Simons, who was also working the fights as its attending physician, also said he scored Franca as a 29-28 victor.
Dwyer and Billon disputed the judges' claims, saying they have been pressured by the public outcry over the decision as well as a fear of damaging their reputations in the Costa Rican MMA community.
"I'll be blunt about it, I think there was some hanky-panky going on, but it wasn't from me," Dwyer told MMA Fighting. "Maybe it was the refs. I think something was going on. Everybody knows everybody down there. There's a lot of back-stabbing and jabbing that shouldn't be going on, and it is."
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