Chris Weidman spent years lobbying to legalize mixed martial arts in New York and serving as the face of MMA in the state. Now he finds himself at odds with the state athletic commission and unsure if he’ll compete here again.
Long Island’s Weidman plans to appeal Saturday’s loss to Gegard Mousasi at UFC 210 in Buffalo after a referee’s incorrect call led to his fight being cut short in the second round. Audie A. Attar, Weidman’s manager at Paradigm Sports Management, told Newsday on Sunday that the appeal will be filed on Monday.
“I don’t know what’s going on with the New York commission,” Weidman said in his post-fight news conference. “My dream was always to fight in New York, but all my coaches, everybody around me is like, ‘you’re not fighting in New York anymore, this is crap.’ ”
Weidman’s gripe is the use of replay to change the ruling of the Mousasi strike that ended the bout from illegal to legal. Weidman was under the impression replay isn’t allowed in New York, although its use is not mentioned in the state’s MMA guidelines.
“With the New York State Athletic Commission, it’s like we’re in 2001 again,” UFC president Dana White said Saturday night. “These guys haven’t done big mixed martial arts fights. These guys have to get experience.”
White believes fighters should always be wary of leaving things up to referees, judges and commissions — regardless of the state — but Saturday night at KeyBank Arena was an awkward situation for all involved.
In the second round, Weidman shot for a takedown that Mousasi stuffed, leaving the former champion’s head susceptible to knees. A fighter is not allowed to kick or knee the head of a grounded opponent. According to the new rules of MMA adopted this year and used in New York, a fighter on their feet is considered grounded if they also have two hands on the canvas, as opposed to just one hand under the old rules.
To prevent Mousasi’s knee strikes, Weidman placed both hands on the canvas. But Mousasi threw the knee anyway, in the process pulling one of Weidman’s hands off the ground, therefore making them legal.
“I have a lot of respect for Weidman, I don’t want to badmouth him, but if you want to play smart and take advantage of the rules, that’s not my fault,” Mousasi said. “You’re fighting, don’t try to take advantage of the rules, I’m fighting and at the end of the day it was legal.”
At this point, referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in and paused the fight, incorrectly deeming the knees to be illegal and giving Weidman five minutes to be checked by doctors and recover before resuming action.
“The whole time he was telling me it was an illegal knee, you have five minutes, take your time,” Weidman said. “I thought I was going to win because of an illegal knee.”
During this time, Miragliotta consulted with fellow official John McCarthy seated outside the cage, who indicated that replay showed the knees were indeed legal.
Soon after, doctors ruled Weidman unfit to continue and called an end to the fight, which Weidman protested.
“I’ve been through way worse than that,” Weidman said. “If it was a legal knee, I would’ve loved to just keep fighting. It shouldn’t have been stopped.”
Because Miragliotta eventually determined the strikes to be legal, Mousasi was awarded a TKO victory.
“If it went down like that and it was stopped right away and you go off the ref’s decision, I win the fight by an illegal knee, if there was no such thing as a five-minute period to collect yourself,” Weidman said.
Miragliotta declined to comment about the controversial ending when reached by Newsday on Sunday afternoon, citing the pending appeal. A request for comment to the NYSAC was not returned.
The commission has been subject to a series of controversies since it began regulating MMA last year. At November’s UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden, Tyron Woodley was initially announced as the winner of his bout against Stephen Thompson despite scores ruling it a draw. At February’s UFC 208 at Barclays Center, Holly Holm filed an appeal after referee Todd Anderson did not penalize Germaine de Randamie for strikes Holm deemed to be thrown after the round ended. Ahead of UFC 210, Pearl Gonzalez’s status came into question after confusion about athletic commission rules regarding breast implants.
In addition to the appeal, Weidman also hopes to get a rematch, something Mousasi said he’d be interested in — although a path to the title is most important to the Dutchman. That decision will lie in the hands of UFC matchmakers and White, who didn’t seem too thrilled by the idea.
“If you ask yourself, could Weidman have come back from that?” White said. “It looked like he was in a real bad position right there and that was the way the fight was going to go. So who knows? I don’t know.”
With Mark La Monica