Veteran MMA referee Josh Rosenthal is set for release this March after spending 19 months in federal prison, according to MMAJunkie.com.
As you may recall, Rosenthal was sentenced to 37 months back in July 2013 after federal agents seized, get this, over 1,000 marijuana plants valued at around $6 million, a year earlier at an Oakland, California warehouse owned by Rosenthal.
(“Alex, listen to me, you’re going to be alright. That weed you smoked was a new hybrid strain I’m working on. I call it…’The Nelmark‘.” / Photo via Getty)
Six months after pleading guilty to drug charges including conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute, MMA referee Josh Rosenthal has been sentenced to 37 months in federal prison with no possibility of parole. MMAFighting.com confirmed the news with the office of Senior District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong, who sentenced Rosenthal today in Oakland, California’s U.S. District Court. Rosenthal will also face three years of probation after being released from the clink.
In case you missed this story when it first broke, we’re not talking about a guy getting hassled for carrying a little weed. Rosenthal was secretly a big fish in the Bay Area marijuana-ecosystem, and owned a warehouse in Oakland containing over 1,300 marijuana plants. Federal agents raided the facility last year, putting the kibosh on an operation that was estimated to be worth $6 million.
Now, one of MMA’s most capable refs is heading to lockup. And yet Steve Mazzagatti is still at large. Just doesn’t seem fair, does it.
(“If you shortchange me again, Nick, I swear to God that retirement will no longer be an option for you.” Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
Despite his longtime standing as one of the best referees in MMA, veteran official Josh Rosenthal has been noticeably absent from the octagon as of late. While he informed BloodyElbow earlier this month that his absence was the result of a staph infection, it turns out that his troubles were less physical — unless he has the worst case of glaucoma this world has ever seen — and more legal. According to the U.S. District Attorney’s office in Oakland, California, Rosenthal recently plead guilty to conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana after a warehouse he owned containing 1,356 plants — valued at a street value of six million dollars — was raided last year. Rosenthal now faces a pretty lengthy jail sentence (via MMAJunkie):
Rosenthal is due in U.S. District Court on May 17. The government is recommending 37 months in jail, fines and five years of probation, during which he would be subject to random searches, according to the agreement. Without a deal, he faced 10 years to life in prison, a $10 million fine and a minimum of five years’ probation.
Rosenthal, who agreed to a plea deal in January, did not respond to request for comment. His lawyer of record, Ted W. Cassman, was unavailable for comment.
(A replay of the Munoz/Weidman ending in all its gory glory for those of you who missed it.)
Right before he kinda sorta announced his pending retirement from the sport during the UFC on FOUEL TV post-fight show, Stephan Bonnar made the audacious claim that referee Josh Rosenthal should be fined and/or suspended for his late stoppage during the Mark Munoz/Chris Weidman fight. After Weidman landed some 12 or 13 unanswered shots on a helpless Munoz, I briefly thought that we were witnessing the first death in the promotion’s history, and my immediate reaction was almost that of agreement. Almost.
Because, although it is hard to deny that Rosenthal dropped the ball Wednesday night, the stoppage was likely considered even worse because it was a revered official like Rosenthal who made it. This wasn’t Steve Mazzagati calling an eye poke a TKO or Kim Winslow letting Jan Finney return from the dead only to be killed once more. This was Josh freakin’ Rosenthal, a man who had not only made our top five referees list a couple years ago, but had easily climbed up it a few spots in the time since. This was a man who had, as GritandMettle’s Darren Jensen put it, “reffed Shogun vs Hendo perfectly” — the same goes for his excellent job in the first round of Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin’s UFC 116 heavyweight title fight. What we’re saying is, this isn’t an everyday occurrence for the guy. Hell, can anyone even remember an instance in recent memory that Rosenthal has even come close to screwing up (Faber/Mizugaki maybe)?
In retrospect, Bonnar’s assessment was a little harsh, but Rosenthal was still willing to admit that he shit the bed, so to speak, when he appeared on SiriusXM’s “Tapout Radio Show”.
Check out a few snippets from the interview after the jump.
(Rosenthal, WTF? You made me dump my adrenaline with your sweet talk.)
When Shane Carwin went from the being on the brink of dominantly beating UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar in the first round of their title tilt last Saturday night to feebly succumbing to an arm triangle choke in the second frame, many people were left wondering,"What the hell happened?"
Carwin, who originally claimed that his body locked up as a result of lactic acidosis, now says that his lack of energy to finish Lesnar was a result of a massive adrenaline dump, caused by the instruction of referee Josh Rosenthal.
(Nick Diaz vs. Thomas Denny @ EliteXC: Unfinished Business, 7/26/08)
With his trademark half-smirk during faceoffs and soft-spoken vibe, Josh Rosenthal brings some much-needed positive energy to the mean-muggin’ atmosphere of MMA. And though his stoppage in the first Chael Sonnen/Paulo Filho fight at WEC 31 drew controversy — in the eyes of Sonnen, at least — he’s one of those guys you rarely hear about because he just does his job in a quiet, dependable sort of way. Could 2009 be Rosenthal’s breakout year?
#4: Mario Yamasaki
(Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell 2 @ UFC 66, 12/30/06)
Mario Yamasaki fell into the referee gig when a UFC trip to Brazil (where Yamasaki was born) highlighted their need for another ref in addition to Big John McCarthy. Since he was a lifelong martial arts enthusiast and jiu-jitsu expert, Yamasaki was a good fit. His biggest problem as a ref might be that he looks a little too much like Steve Mazzagatti, and that can be a career-killer. The difference is that Yamasaki gives fighters a chance to recover, but also knows when to stop a bout (despite maybe one or two notable exceptions, depending on who you ask), as he did when he mercifully ended the second Tito Ortiz-Chuck Liddell fight – a decision he was criticized for by Ortiz, and no one else.