(Tell him, Dana…)
After he was slapped with a disqualification loss following the 12-6 elbow incident at the The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale, Jon Jones told reporters that he was at peace with the fight’s result: "I try to look at everything in life for the best, and now I’m not worried about being undefeated anymore. I can go out there and be more relaxed…I’m going to bounce back stronger."
But after a couple days to reflect and re-watch the fight, Jones and his management team are somewhat less at peace with the DQ ruling, and they now plan to appeal the decision. Their argument rests on a subtle but important point: It was Matt Hamill‘s shoulder that prevented him from continuing in the fight, not his illegally-busted nose, but he wasn’t able to communicate that information to referee Steve Mazzagatti because he couldn’t hear or see what was going on, and his sign-language-interpreter wasn’t brought in to help clarify.
First, Jones’s rep Jason Genet:
Let’s be clear, Jon is not "unhappy" he feels as all things happen for a reason. We are protesting the L because we felt that Jon’s opponent could not effectively communicate why he could not continue…Jon should have been deducted a point for the accidental illegal blow. Matt should have been treated like we treat the Brazilians and given 5 minutes to regroup and offered a translator so the ref could make the right call and understand Matt could not continue due to his shoulder injury not the blow. This should be a NC for both fighters but not a loss. Hammil continued with an injured shoulder and only complained once the action was stopped (warrior) but the fight was stopped based on the shoulder injury in our opinion.
Now, an excerpt from an interview that TheGarv did with Jones’s co-managers Ryan Ciotoli and Gary Marino:
TheGARV.com: What should the ref have done differently?
Gary Marino: The ref said to Matt Hamill, "Are you done?" but Matt didn’t answer and he called the fight. If he would have stood Matt up, cleaned the blood out of his eyes, and brought in his interpretor, he would have found out right there that Matt could not continue due to the shoulder injury. The commissioner said at the press conference that if an illegal blow is the cause of the end of the fight, then it has to be ruled a DQ. But in reality, the illegal elbows did not end the fight, it was the shoulder injury. If the ref had communicated better, he would have seen it was the shoulder not the nose.
Ryan Ciotoli: I also think that Matt felt he’d lost the fight and didn’t see Mazzagatti standing over him. Mazzagatti should have cleaned off Matt’s face and brought in the doctor to evaluate him. Brazilians have translators; Matt does as well. But his interpretor was not used by the ref. Jones did throw some questionable elbows. Jon was looking for a different angle and it wasn’t intentional. And if you look at the slow motion replay, it doesn’t look like 12 to 6, there was a curve to it. Maybe 12 to 7 or 12 to 8. Plus there was no warnings from the ref prior to the stoppage.
TheGARV.com: So you feel the ref could have communicated better with Hamill?
Gary Marino: Absolutely. He seemed to forget that he was dealing with a guy who was deaf. If a guy gets a low blow would you stop it if he didn’t respond to a question because he was gagging from the pain? No. You would communicate with him. The ref should have checked his condition. There was a definite lack of communication. The illegal elbow did not contribute to the stoppage, it was the shoulder separation. If he would have communicated properly with Hammill, he would have realized it was the shoulder.
Overturning the UFC’s first-ever use of the instant-replay might be an impossible task. And if it were any other set of fighters, you could say that Steve Mazzagatti acted brilliantly; he stopped a fight when he saw an illegal blow, and called it a disqualification when the illegal-blow receipient couldn’t continue. Unfortunately, Matt Hamill is deaf and his eyes were drenched in blood at the time, which changes the situation significantly.
As soon as I saw Mazzagatti hover over Hamill and start asking him if he was okay — before waiting for Hamill’s face to be wiped, before bringing in Hamill’s interpreter — I knew that somebody was going to get screwed. It didn’t appear that Hamill knew he was being asked if he could continue. Did he think Jones had won the fight by TKO, and was he taking a moment to collect himself before getting to his feet? Would he have continued fighting if he knew he could have a five-minute recuperative interval before restarting? And if not, would it have been because of the illegal elbows or his injured shoulder? Hopefully Hamill himself will be able to share some insight soon on what he thought was taking place in the last moments of the fight — because miscommunication could be just as responsible for the way things turned out as Jones’s downward elbows.