Last month Serena DeJesus made headlines becoming the first female MMA fighter with autism to compete in the sport as a professional. She won a unanimous decision victory against Kelly Clayton.
17 days after the event Clayton appealed her loss arguing the referee erroneously failed to stop the clock after an accidental eye poke. This resulted in a disprepeny of up to 23 seconds of reduced bout time. Clayton argued she was short-changed by this reduced time and asked the result to be overturned to a no contest.
The bout was promoted by Fusion Fight League and took place in Montana, a State with no athletic commission presently in good standing with the ABC. The regulations in Montana note that an appeal can succeed in only these limited circumstances:
In any event the appeal of the self governed event was heard by the promoter who dismissed it and upheld DeJesus’ win. In doing so Terrill Bracken, the President and CEO of Fusion Fight League provided the following sensible reasons:
To whom it may concern,
This letter is in response to the appeal on behalf of Kelly Clayton.
Since we are an unsanctioned state, my method of resolving this issue was to contact three non-bias MMA professionals from 3 different states to review this situation. I did not utilize anyone from Washington or Las Vegas in order to stay neutral. All three people I contacted stated that they would decline to over- turn this decision for the following reason:
The very brief interruption affected both fighters equally and no unfair advantage was given to either fighter, as both equally lost the opportunity to finish the other in the remaining time. It is also noted that there was no significant momentum change at the end of the round, one fighter did not have the other in any kind of jeopardy, and submission was not being threatened.
After my review of the bout, I time the discrepancy at 23 seconds. It naturally takes the average referee about 5 seconds to assess the situation and call for stoppage of the clock with a flagrant foul, longer for a slight one, which leaves a remaining balance of approximately 18 seconds and in this case I feel it was less. It appeared to me that the referee’s intent was to resume the action as soon as possible since the degree of the incident was minor. This is supported by the fact that the fighter seemed relatively unaffected and chose not to exercise her right to take more recovery time. We feel that the referee does have some discretion to stop the time as he sees fit, and I have never personally seen time re-added to a fight clock.
This was such a momentary interruption, that it was not discoverable until several days after the event. A significant issue would have been noticed right away and could have been dealt with at the time.
Incidentally, this situation was not reported until 8 days after the event and a formal protest was not issued until a full 17 days after the event. It will be our policy moving forward that we must receive notification within 72 hours of the event and a written formal protest must be received within 1 week of the event. It should be noted that official results were already submitted before we were notified of the protest and results were posted before the formal protest was received.
I do feel that the referee should have stopped time once he determined that the fighter needed more time for recovery, and action will be taken to ensure that this problem does not arise again, however, I personally do not feel that the small amount of time lost (apx 10 sec) constitutes a no-contest, especially when it was clearly stated by Clayton’s coaching staff that DeJesus earned the win. I also feel that the referee does have some discretion to stop the time as he sees fit, and I do not think that the lost time was a determining factor in the outcome of the fight.
I am sorry that this situation arose, and I hope our decision is acceptable. I have tremendous respect for both fighters, coaches, and teams, and we look forward to working with and providing opportunities for both fighters and teams in the future. We will continue to strive to improve as an organization so that situations like this do not occur. Please feel free to contact me with any other concerns.