Herb Dean seems to be finding himself in a hotbed of UFC controversy quite often these days.
The longtime MMA official, who has refereed some of the more high-profile bouts in the octagon, recently drew heat when he deemed the Dustin Poirier vs. Eddie Alvarez scrap at last Saturday’s (Sat., May 13, 2017) UFC 211 from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas a no contest following what looked like some incredibly illegal knees from Alvarez.
The former champion had been in bad shape when “The Diamond” rocked him with some big shots, but somehow persevered to mount an unlikely flurry of his own, a true testament to his heart and determination. He ground Poirier and hit him with three knees along the fence, but with the State of Texas not yet utilizing the new Unified Rules of MMA, at just what threshold Alvarez’ strikes would be called illegal was unclear.
However, it was plain to see that Alvarez’ third knee was illegal by either set of rules as Poirier was clearly ground by both definitions, yet Dean still decided to call the bout a no contest when Poirier said he could not continue because he felt ‘something pushing on his eyeball’. Poirier has since declared his intentions to appeal the decision, but Dean recently defended the call when speaking to MMA Junkie:
“I would have disqualifed him if I believed they were intentional,” Dean said. “How I rule I knew that Eddie couldn’t see whether (Poirier’s) knee was down or not – that’s why I ruled it unintentional.
“There’s a lot going on in there, and that’s why (referees) give people a little bit of leeway with some of those rules. I reserve ‘intentional’ for someone acting out of the rules and being a bad guy, and they need to be disqualified. I don’t think (Alvarez) was trying to be a bad person. I think he was trying to fight within the rules – it’s just that it’s difficult.”
Fair enough, but the rules are still the rules, and many, including octagon announcer Brian Stann, feel the knees were illegal and Poirier should have won by disqualification. For his part, “The Diamond” didn’t agree with Dean’s decision that Alvarez did it unintentionally, because in his mind, the act of hitting someone in a fight is always intentional:
“I’m protected by these rules. I think he’s trying to cover his own ass. Any time somebody strikes somebody with a blow, it’s intentional. I don’t understand. He didn’t trip me and kick me on the ground – he intentionally kneed me on the ground.”
As for Dean’s reaction, the official said he understood why Poirier would want to appeal and wouldn’t make this a personal issue of him vs. Poirier:
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“I’m not personalizing this,” Dean said. “It’s not about me – it’s about him. He’s a fighter. I’m here just trying to do a good job and serve him and the other fighters. This is about him. I don’t take that personally. He should do everything he can. If he feels he needs to appeal, I think he should do that. I don’t take it personal on me. The fight is the most important fight of their career.”