Marc Goddard explains decision to stop fight due to excess blood on the vinyl

Monday, July 01, 2019

Modern mixed martial arts began in 1993, and on Saturday at Cage Warriors 106: Night of Champions, in London, England, there was what's likely a first. Referee Marc Goddard stopped the Ross Houston vs. Nicolas Dalby welterweight title unification main event fight due to an excess of blood on the fight surface. 

First to bleed was Dalby, due to a Houston elbow to the side of the forehead.

"Obviously, I stopped the fight, let the doctor have a look at it and the fight was safe to continue," explained Goddard to Peter Carroll for MMA Fighting. "Then Ross gets a badly broken nose. Now, both guys are bleeding all over each other. So I’m looking at it, trying to make an assessment. ... Around the midway point of the third-round, I could see that it was becoming very difficult for the fighters to get any purchase on the surface due to the amount of blood. I called the doctor in and at that stage he said that the fight is still safe to continue.

“By the last time I bring the fight to a stop ... there’s a compound fracture in [Ross's] nose from what I can see. When he was on his back, blood was running into his eye, he’s swallowing blood, he’s aspirating blood—he’s not just swallowing blood down through his esophagus, the windpipe that goes to his stomach—he’s breathing blood in through his lungs. Nicolas is on top of him and he’s opened up like a faucet. I’m losing my footing, they’re losing their footing."

“The best tool any referee can have is common sense. We can see the guys are slipping all over the place. These guys can barely stand up, they can barely get any purchase with their feet, they are bleeding profusely and there’s still half a round left."

At this point, either fighter could have gained a random, unfair advantage due to extreme loss of footing.

“If one was bleeding excessively it could’ve been stopped in the other fighter’s favor," said Goddard. "As we can clearly see, both of them were bleeding excessively. It was almost comical; I was about to lose my footing, I could’ve broken my ankle. I wouldn’t care if that happened to me, but I would really care if it happened to a fighter.”

One factor was the surface - vinyl, rather than canvas, as the Dean of MMA referees John McCarthy pointed out.

“Cage Warriors are at the forefront of the sport and I know they’ll change it," said Goddard. "Why would they change it? Because the outcome of a main event world championship fight was decided last night due to outside factors. Because it’s a vinyl surface, the blood can’t soak anywhere. It just becomes like Bambi On Ice, it was like a Turkish oil wrestling match. I don’t want fighters being unduly assisted by something outside their control.”