Referee Reacts To Controversial UFC 234 Stoppage

Jasmin Frank for USA TODAY Sports
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Last weekend’s (Sat., February 9, 2019) UFC 234 main card from Melbourne, Australia, got off to a bit of a controversial start. The debate centered on referee Marc Goddard’s early stoppage in the opening main card bout between Jim Crute and Sam Alvey.

Rising Australian Crute rocked Alvey with a short, crisp right hand in the first round. The tough-as-nails Alvey was absolutely hurt but still in the fight attempting to recover. Making the situation more complicated, Goddard jumped in like he would stop the fight. Crute stepped back in hopes of a walk-off knockout in his homeland but was forced to fight on when Goddard chose not to stop the bout.

Crute then ground ‘Smile ‘N’ again, this time following him to the mat to pour on ground and pound. In the end, Goddard chose to stop the bout at 2:49 of the first round. Alvey immediately jumped up in protest, appearing not out of the fight by any stretch of the term. Upon replay, it appeared that several of Crute’s punches landed on Alvey’s arms or the ground.

Comes Clean

It appears Goddard now knows that. The decorated MMA official appeared on this week’s The MMA Hour to detail his views on the stoppage now that he’s had time to go back and review the tape. He totally admitted he would have let the fight continue if he did it again:

“Yes, I know that Sam obviously jumped straight back up, obviously demonstrating to me and telling me he’s OK,” Goddard said. “But at that point, the fight is called. And you know what? Going back and looking at it again, if I could run it back again, yeah I would have taken a half step back. I would have let another two shots or three shots play out. And I’m gonna put it down to a mistake. I’m big and ugly enough to do that.”

He also noted that he didn’t stop the fight immediately when Alvey was absorbing ground shots. It was 16 strikes to be exact. He believed Alvey was still rocked from the first knockdown as well. But the veteran had his thumb up indicating he was still in the fight, a dynamic Goddard said he didn’t see during the card:

“It wasn’t one, two or three shots I’m jumping in and stopping,” Goddard said. “It was 16. Sixteen shots. And at that point, I’m taking into assessment, I think he’s hurt and not recovered from the original knockdown. I think he’s hurt, I see his head on the mat, I see the shots coming in and I make my call.

“At the same time, as I’m doing that, people are saying, ‘Didn’t you see Sam’s thumb up?’ No, I didn’t. Wholly and honestly, I didn’t see his thumb up, because his arm is outstretched and my focus, my vision is on where these shots are trying to land.”

Focused On One Thing

It’s understandable that his focus would be on where the punches were potentially landing, after all, that is his job. Yet Goddard still drew some harsh criticism from the MMA world and perhaps more importantly, UFC President Dana White. Goddard said White was, of course, entitled to his opinion. He wanted to reiterate that he immediately focuses on a fighter when he or she becomes injured. his focus is completely on them, and understandably so. He was looking for a reason to let Alvey fight:

“When Sam gets dropped, I run in and my focus, my peripheral vision then becomes tunneled,” Goddard said. “My eyesight is honed in on one person and that one person is Sam Alvey. What I’m looking for as I run is if Sam can give me a glimmer, show me something that tells me he’s still there. Something that’s gonna allow me to let the fight to continue. He does, he gets back up, he’s clearly wobbled.

“Of course I’m running in to stop it, because that’s my job. I don’t want Sam to take an unnecessary follow-up if he doesn’t have to. My mind is going 100 miles an hour as I’m running in. I’ll assess it in real time and then I’ll back off, because I know I’m gonna give Sam that chance. He gets that chance to stay in the fight.”

Alvey Out?

Although he admitted he could have let it continue for a short while, however, Goddard also said Alvey showed signs of being out of it after the first knockdown. Goddard cited how easy it was to get him back on the canvas. In the opposite situation, he wanted fans to know he’d be taking criticism for letting it go too long:

“He rolls over like it was nothing, like he was a baby,” Goddard said. “And I know that in normal times, Sam wouldn’t do that. Obviously, he’s still disorientated, etc. And he’s still trying to get a grip of what’s going on. I recognize that, I’m letting the fight go.

“Let’s say I let it play out and then the last two shots that came through put him completely facedown, unconscious,” Goddard said. “What do you think they’ll be saying about me?”

Couldn’t Win

Goddard ended the interview by apologizing to Alvey. He said he was only trying to do his job the best he can annd approaches each fight with the same focus. Sometimes, he said, an MMA referee just can’t win:

“I approach my job and all the fights the same,” Goddard said. “And I’m sorry to Sam, I really am. I feel bad. But all I want people to try and do is understand where my mental aspect came from. Had I stopped the fight from the ground and pound alone, people would be rightly jumping all over me. But I’m not. It was the fact of what happened before that.

“I’m just doing what I do,” Goddard said. “This sport is ingrained in me. Not just the mind, I’m operating from the heart as well. It means a lot to me. I want these guys to have their trust and faith in me. I don’t know. Sometimes it’s like the old adage — you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”