Fight fans tuning into Friday’s PFL Championships noticed a familiar face inside the Smart Cage.
The final event of the 2023 PFL season saw the return of two-time tournament champion Kayla Harrison, in addition to the debut of former UFC title contender Derek Brunson. But fans online noticed another big return. Notorious mixed martial arts referee Mario Yamasaki was back in action.
Just before the pay-per-view portion’s first championship bout between Impa Kasanganay and Josh Silveira got underway, fans saw Yamasaki front and center.
Yamasaki was exiled from the UFC after overseeing a 2018 bout between former flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and Priscila Cachoeira. Yamasaki infamously allowed Shevchenko to beat the living snot out of Cachoeira during the contest as ‘Bullet’ delivered over 200 unanswered strikes. Yamasaki explained his position, stating that he was trying “to allow Cachoeira to be a warrior and keep fighting.”
Yamasaki’s comments further infuriated Dana White, resulting in the referee’s permanent ban from the UFC CEO.
“For that idiot to say he gave her the opportunity to be a warrior – no,” White said during an appearance on UFC Tonight. “No, you moron. You’re in there to protect her from herself. He makes me sick. That guy has no business reffing fights. And I promise you, you’re never going to see him again” (h/t MMA Junkie).
Fans React to Mario Yamasaki’s Return at the PFL Championships
Needless to say, fans online were shocked to see Yamasaki working at the PFL Championships and immediately voiced their displeasure over the controversial ref’s return on social media.