Justin Gaethje was victorious upon his return at UFC 268, however it could have gone smoother for the weekend warrior.
Pros And Cons
While ‘The Highlight’ always looks to create ‘car crashes’ and chaos inside the Octagon, he did not like the officiating in his war against Michael Chandler. He did end up winning a unanimous decision in a fight that will likely go down in the UFC Hall of Fame, but he did have some negatives on what went down at MSG.
And no, he’s not so much talking about the damage he took in the battle. For Gaethje, it’s what worse things may have potentially transpired, due to Mike Beltran’s role as the referee.
Much To Critique
In the second round, Gaethje was hit by an accidental eye-poke by Chandler. Beltran was reluctant to pause the action as Chandler swarmed him after the fact. The referee finally called a time-out but did not offer Gaethje much more time to recover.
“I hate to critique the guy – he’s human, and we make mistakes,” Gaethje said on the Anik and Florian podcast, (h/t MMAFighting.com) “I just think that, pretty much every ref that I step out there with has a look in their eyes, and it’s a look like they’re shook, like they’re intimidated by what just occurred.
“I understand that, but this is real life. I need them to be in game mode. We’re not dealing with seconds anymore. This is way less than seconds. if you’re going to break action, you’ve got to put your body in there. If you’re going to get hit, that needs to be OK.”
With Beltran not stepping immediately after the eyepoke, Chandler cracked a huge right hand in the moment. Gaethje was stung not only by the strike, but by the shock that Beltran hadn’t stopped it from happening.
“That was a big punch,” Gaethje added. “What if that would have knocked me out? Those can change the whole direction of a fight. It’s just crazy to me that it wasn’t a big issue, because for me it was a huge issue. That’s $1 million, if I lose, that’s so much money off of my table.”
“So in my mind, I think he’s referencing the punch that just occurred. So, I’m like, yeah, I’m good, because as a fighter, you never say you’re not good to continue. So then he was like, ‘OK, fight.’ I was like, ‘No, I need my time. He poked me in the eye.’ And he looks directly at me and he says, ‘You said you’re good, fight.’ And he never looked at my eye. He didn’t even take one second to see if I was affected.”
“I just can’t understand how it happened, why it happened, or what the f*ck happened.”
Despite what he thought was a bad call, Justin Gaethje overcame adversity and went the distance with Michael Chandler. He would get his hand raised by Mike Beltran in what was a unanimous decision, given by three cageside judges.
What did you make of Mike Beltran’s performance at UFC 268?