Dan Hardy responds to Herb Dean's defense of stoppage

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

UFC commentator and (hopefully not former) fighter Dan Hardy was a little furious at referee Herb Dean's stoppage of Tanner Boser vs. Raphel Pessoa fight, and a lot furious of Dean stoppage of Francisco Trinaldo vs. Jai Herbert, at Saturday's UFC on ESPN 14. After the second bout, Hardy shouted out, "STOP THE FIGHT" which could not be missed in the empty arena. Then Hardy voiced his disapproval face to face immediately after the fight.

These are the stoppages

In an unusual step, Dean spoke publicly about Hardy's criticism, arguing it was “by no means was that a late stoppage.” He also dryly suggested that Hardy take off the Superman cape.

Now Hardy has rebutted at length on his Full Reptile YouTube channel.

“I don’t want to do his job,” said Hardy. “I want him to do his job. I want him to be prepared to do his job. And if unfortunately, a situation like this happens when he doesn’t do his job, to not make an excuse video about it and try and pass it off as somebody else’s fault. That’s not helping anybody.”

Dean argued that when Herbert fell backward from a shot to the forehead, he had his arms up and appeared to be defending himself. Dr. Hardy explained that it was in fact a "fencing response" - the peculiar position of the arms following a concussion in which the forearms are held flexed or extended, typically into the air, for a period lasting up to several seconds after impact.

Dean said Herbert was tracking Trinaldo, but Hardy argued that “if he was tracking his opponent, then those successive shots wouldn’t have landed as clean.”

Hardy said when during Trinaldo vs. Herbert he shouted “That’s two times" and stood up, Dean tried to quiet him down, indicating Dean knew who was shouting, and did not think it was a cageside physician or regulator.

“He knew exactly who had shouted that out, so to say that it could have been anybody, it could have been the corner team, it just doesn’t stand,” Hardy said. “It just doesn’t stand.”

Missing from Hardy's critique is that Dean had to figure out who was shouting. The referee has to decide in far less than a second, in the midst of the HOLY F***ING S*** chaos that makes MMA the world's greatest sport, when to stop a fight. In this case, simultaneously Dean is hearing shouted instructions to "STOP THE FIGHT" in the empty arena. That's not how your improve things.

Hardy also said it was Dean who initiated the face to face disagreement, which would have been a violation of rules in place that only other officials can correct an official. That rule is a sound one; imagine if UFC president Dana White could chew out judges between fights when he disagrees with a score.

“Herb needs to understand that there was a mistake made here, and there needs to be accountability that needs to be taken,” said Hardy. “It’s just a learning opportunity, and if it’s not taken as a learning opportunity, then we’re all losing, especially fighters and brain cells. ... We need to upgrade the awareness of some of these officials, and we also need to hold them accountable for situations like this, when they can’t take it upon themself to do it.

“If Herb wants a conversation with this, it’s an open forum. It’s not an attack on Herb. ... Had Herb not put a video out being very nonchalant about the fact that it wasn’t an early stoppage proves to me he’s not going to learn from this circumstance. It’s important that he learns from this circumstance, because we all need to learn from this circumstance.”

Hardy also advocated for a new noise to indicate a fight should be stopped. As an aside, The Purge Siren might do it.

“Can referees be trained to listen to two things?" asked Hardy. "Can they have a horn for the end of the round? We’ve got a clapper for 10 seconds, why can’t we not have a different sound from the commission to be like, dude, that’s enough. Maybe like a bell, or the swing of a bloody scythe, or something. I don’t know. We need something in there so other people have access to stop that fight, because it shouldn’t be on me. I don’t want to be in that position.

“And for me to be chastised about being the smartest person in the room and being ‘Superman,’ it’s not being ‘Superman,’ it’s about being human. It’s about being understanding of the job that needs to be done.”

Hardy isn't punchy. Officiating in MMA, like everything on Earth save 2X Miss Bumbum winner Suzy Cortez's bumbum, needs improvement and will improve with intelligent criticism. For example, UFC official's travel schedule is brutal, and likely doesn't result in optimal performance.

“We need to make sure we’re checking on everybody to make sure they’re getting enough sleep,” said Hardy. It’s a difficult job to do. We have 15 fights. To call one fight is exhausting. To be a referee for one fight is exhausting. We need to check on the referees.”

But standing up in the middle of an empty arena and screaming at the referee to "STOP THE FIGHT" is not the way to do it.

“We complain about judges all the time,” said Hardy. “Referees are more important, because they’re our first responders. They’re the ones that have got to jump in there, and if they’re not, then we’re the ones that have to make a say. It’s very pop culture right now, unfortunately, but it crosses into every aspect. People need to speak up if they see something that is not right. Herb needs to be able to interject and save these fighters.”

Dean was reached for comment, but declined.

“All the best to Dan,” he said. “Whatever he’s doing, I hope it’s doing well for him. I don’t have anything to say.”

The simple fact, one Hardy is likely unaware of as he has never reffed, is that reffing is harder than fighting (I've done both, and can say that categorically). It's easy after a fight to break down the bout in slow motion and show all the places where the fighter seemingly screwed up - "Look he fell for that bogus feint and dropped his hands roooookie reaction," but a ref has to balance a fighter's livelihood with his health in a hurting game. That's impossible to do perfectly. 


h/t Steven Marrocco for MMA Fighting