Elizeu Zaleski and Benoit Saint-Denis went to war at UFC 267, but it was the passivity of the referee who watched their fight that got everyone talking.
Referee Vyacheslav Kiselev was paralyzed on social media after allowing Saint-Denis to take a disproportionate amount of punishment in his initial welterweight match against Zaleski on Saturday. Zaleski landed several unanswered shots in the second round, and although Saint-Denis displayed extraordinary toughness, commentators Jon Anik, Daniel Cormier and Paul Felder were all heard in the broadcast shouting that the match should be stopped.
On Twitter, fighters, officials and fans all questioned Kiselev’s competence, including veteran judge John McCarthy, who called it “the worst job to judge at a UFC event ever.” Kiselev also came under fire for an incident later in the match when Saint-Denis appeared to be complaining that he could not look after getting an eye contact and the referee did not call for the ring side doctor to examine him.
Before the next match, it was announced in the broadcast that Kiselev would be relieved of his duties for the rest of the night. He was to judge one more match.
See how the professionals reacted to the controversial match below:
Honestly, the worst performance I’ve seen from a judge in my life. Honestly a hard job, but man unreal. Makes you respect the good ones @JasonHerzogMMA @JohnMcCarthyMMA @HerbDeanMMA and many more. I hated to see that I hope Benoit is on his way to the hospital right now!
– Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) October 30, 2021
The best #mma judges give you nothing to talk about.
– Kenny Florian (@kennyflorian) October 30, 2021
The most important role of an MMA judge is to protect the fighters. This judge is doing a terrible job with it in more ways than one. # UFC267
– Michael Chiesa (@ MikeMav22) October 30, 2021
This judge chose violence today! What else does he need to see to stop this ?? # UFC267
– Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) October 30, 2021
Besides this, this judge is rubbish as hell. When should we have the conversation about the negative stigma MMA has about throwing the towel in the ring? I say live to fight another day. This man’s coaches do not care about his life. # ufc267
– Randy Brown (@TouchNgo_) October 30, 2021
Can the guy get a ref mid fight card? That guy is awful
– Eryk Anders (@erykanders) October 30, 2021
Glad Sahn Deni (Saint Denis) did not die in this match. The referee must be excluded from any octagon / ring / or mat. He is a danger to athletes. Serious danger.
– Siyar Bahadurzada (@Siyarized) October 30, 2021
– Juan Espino El Guapo (@juan_espino_ofi) October 30, 2021
See more footage of the match here: