Serra rips ref royally for Maia vs. Usman separation

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

At UFC Fight Night 129 on Saturday, referee Leon Roberts separated main event fighters Demian Maia and Kamaru Usman when the BJJ 4th degree was close to getting Usman’s back from standing. It was the closest Maia got to winning, and appeared to show that Roberts is far more familiar with the striking aspect of MMA than he was with the intricacies of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

I thought so the moment it happened.

As did many others, including former title challenger and BJJ black belt Kenny Florian.

During a recent UFC Unfiltered podcast, former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra was even more adamant.

“This is the thing, he had his back,” said Serra, as transcribed by Jed Meshew for MMA Fighting. “I was not surprised the way things went after that. You have one shot sometimes in a fight like this, especially because he didn’t have a camp. People do not understand. That’s why I predicted a first-round choke by Demian Maia. He was on his way there.

“They weren’t just holding each other up against the cage. It might have looked like it but Kamaru had an overhook and that overhook was the only thing stopping Demian from taking that back. It was a very awkward position where [Usman] was not getting out of that. The only way he could look to free himself was to let go and expose his back. Otherwise, you’re just stalling. Now, could he keep that up for another minute and 15 seconds or whatever it was? Maybe. If so, alright, let’s see what happens in round two. Or, with thirty seconds left, he could try to scramble and still get strangled.

“Just in the montage before he walks out look at how many times he’s strangled guy – powerful wrestlers like Rick Story, gutty, gritty guys who do not tap easily like Carlos Condit or Matt Brown. This is not a coincidence. So for [Roberts] to take away his one shot, Leon Roberts, you should be ashamed of yourself and I think you possibly could have cost him the fight. Leon, you f**ked up, Leon. You really did.”

“Are you getting influenced because you’re maybe hearing some boos in the crowd or something? Your job is not to make this s*** entertaining. It’s one thing if a guy is stalling. I get worked up because Demian Maia took that fight like a f***ing warrior and he saved that card and he had his position, he had what he wanted. He was this close! We don’t know what would have happened!”

“I am so livid! I’m livid over this ref! This was his shot and he had him in a position! People can say what they want, that ref screwed him. Maybe he would have rode out the round but you never know. It was such a horrible thing to do to him because he never got that position back.”

Being a ref is the most thankless role in mixed martial arts. Roberts has been refereeing at the highest levels of the sport, in the UFC, for a decade. He is, in fact, a pioneer, the first British referee ever in the UFC. This isn’t an indictment of his refereeing overall, which is world class. I don’t know what belt he has in BJJ, but if he has no belt, that might be an area of study where he could become an even better official.