The New Mexico Athletic Commission on Wednesday voted to uphold Albuquerque MMA fighter Diego Sanchez’s victory by controversial split decision over England’s Pearson on June 7 during a “UFC Fight Night” card at Tingley Coliseum.
The decision has been widely viewed as a miscarriage of justice, in that official judges Jeff Collins and Chris Tellez were virtually alone in their opinion that Sanchez won the fight. Pearson made an official appeal to the commission, based solely on what he saw as the unfairness of the decision.
Commissioners Tom King (chairman), Rob DeBuck, Diego Esquibel and Gavin Pantoja all voted to reject Pearson’s appeal.
The reasoning, King said after Wednesday’s special meeting, was simple. The commission’s rules and regulations do not allow it to reverse a decision simply because it’s unpopular.
“It pretty much was cut and dried,” he said. “There really was nothing we could do about that decision.”
The commission’s rules permit it to reverse or set aside a combat-sports decision only if collusion were found, if there were arithmetical or tabulation errors in scoring, or if there had been a rules violation during the contest.
None of those conditions applied, King said.
“The judge (Collins) didn’t have malice,” King said. “He wasn’t in cahoots with anybody. It was a controversial decision, but that’s what it boiled down to.”
DeBuck said during Wednesday’s meeting that, as a commissioner, he doesn’t want the authority to reverse a decision simply because it’s considered a bad one.
“This is a Pandora’s box that we don’t want to open,” he said. “… You’re going to have controversial decisions.”
Sanchez and Pearson fought a three-round bout that night. Judge Marcos Rosales scored the fight 30-27 – three rounds to none – in favor of Pearson. But Tellez scored it 29-28 for Sanchez, and Collins scored it 30-27 for the Albuquerque fighter.
Public and media reaction was swift, condemning the decision.
Tellez is from Albuquerque. Collins is a veteran judge who had worked many previous UFC cards, all of them in Nevada, until the June 7 card in Albuquerque.
Pantoja recommended that the commission take a proactive role in evaluating judges for future reference.
“I think we need to do as much as we can,” he said, “to give the judges a score.”
HIGH FINED, SUSPENDED: The commission Wednesday voted unanimously to suspend fighter Jason High for one year for the act of pushing referee Kevin Mulhall at “UFC Fight Night” on June 7. High, of Kansas City, Mo., also will be fined 10 percent of his earnings from his fight that evening.
“He pushed a referee in the state of New Mexico,” King said. “We’re sending a very clear message: Don’t do that here.”
After Mulhall stopped High’s fight against Brazil’s Rafael Dos Anjos, awarding Dos Anjos a victory by TKO via strikes on the ground, High got to his feet and shoved the referee.
King said High’s punishment might have been more severe had he not apologized promptly to Mulhall and to the public on his Twitter feed.
Other state commissions are not required to honor the NMAC’s actions but customarily do so.