Mario Yamasaki shared thoughts on his UFC exile and the criticisms that MMA referees continue to receive.
Yamasaki is one of MMA’s most recognized referees in the history of the sport, having worked for multiple promotions including the UFC, PFL, Strikeforce, and PRIDE. Despite playing an integral role in combat sports, the position of an MMA referee is largely a thankless job. Routinely under fire for perceived poor decision-making from both fans and promoters, Yamasaki shared his thoughts on the quick vilification of referees when a mistake is made on the job.
“Everybody’s gonna make a mistake, you know, Yamasaki said in an interview with Talkin’ MMA on YouTube. Herb (Dean) made a mistake. John (McCarthy) made a mistake. I made a mistake. It’s life, but what happens is in life, especially now with the media. You know, the internet going very fast, you get your haters. For example, let’s say I referee 800 fights and I f*ck up in four. The only thing that shows on my history is the four f*ck ups that I did because those are the ones that keep pushing, pushing, pushing. Sometimes it’s not relevant, but that’s there.”
“What Dana (White) said about me. ‘Oh, you’re not gonna step in the Octagon again, blah, blah, blah. Those things are the ones that show most. Not the 798 fights that I did right. They don’t care. They care about what you did wrong.”
Mario Yamasaki on Dana White’s Transformation From Nice Guy to Corporate Tyrant
Mario Yamasaki was banned from the UFC by Dana White following a bout featuring current flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and Priscila Cachoeira in February 2018. Shevchenko earned a second-round victory via rear-naked choke, but not before reigning down more than 200 mostly unanswered strikes on Cachoeira. Despite the brutally lopsided performance, Yamasaki opted to let the fight continue. That decision was heavily criticized by fans and the UFC president.
White called Yamasaki’s performance “disgusting” and demanded that he never step foot inside the Octagon again, bringing an end to Yamasaki’s two-decade career inside the Octagon.
“When they bought it, [Dana] was really nice,” Yamasaki said. “We went out all the time. We talked. We had a close relationship. An open relationship like I could call him anytime. When it became a corporation, he started to put people under him and you know people are jealous. They start blocking you so a lot of people started blocking us. ‘Oh, you can’t talk to Dana, you have to talk to me. You can’t do this, you have to do this.’ And then it became really cold, especially after they sold the last time. It’s even colder. It’s just a business now. It’s not anymore of what we had before.”
Despite the way his career inside the Octagon ended five years ago, Mario Yamasaki has no regrets about any of it.
“I love it. I have no regrets. Without them, I would never have visited the cities or states, or countries that I did. They always treat me first class, like the hotels. Everything was great. It’s a cycle. I’ve been there for 20 years and it’s something that I loved. It gave me joy. It gave me happiness. It gave me fame. Fame and money and I can’t complain. They lost, not me. I will continue but [Dana’s] just media talk and he’s on his right. We had a relationship at the beginning when it was small. When they just bought it. I was there before Dana White.”
Yamasaki expressed his disappointment and frustration over being treated unfairly.
“I think Dana was a little too harsh on me, because I’m not that bad,” he said. “20 years there, and he always came to me, we’d talk a lot, and for him to just be a media guy, and just destroy a guy, ‘Oh he’s not going to step [foot] in here any more.’ I wasn’t that bad.”