John Albert had a very memorable fight at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Live Finale this past Friday night (June 1, 2012) against Erik Perez.
But it was for all the wrong reasons.
After nearly catching Perez in both a triangle choke and an armbar, Perez would counter with an armbar attempt of his own, going belly down. Albert didn't tap, scream and seemed to be maneuvering to escape the hold when referee Kim Winslow jumped in and put a halt to the proceedings, claiming Albert had verbally tapped.
Ironically, Albert was a guest on my radio show "The Verbal Submission" last night to talk about the entire situation where we clarified some rules, got his opinion on refereeing and discussed the fallout of one of the biggest controversies of this past weekend.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Who better to hear about your fight than the guy who was actually in there. You haven't talked about it a lot yet other than a couple snippets on twitter. I want to get it from the horse's mouth. This was a really controversial finish. Let's get your take on everything that happened. You had him in a triangle choke, you go for an armbar, then Lopez goes for an armbar and Kim Winslow rushes in and stops the fight. You hadn't tapped, I didn't see you say "Tap" and I didn't hear or see a scream on TV either. Everybody was up in arms going crazy. Can you fill us in on the ending of that fight?
John Albert: Okay well I'll break it down pretty simple. I went for a triangle and transitioned to an armbar and my armbar slipped. He did a fancy topside kind of triangle which pinned me down and as soon as I tried to turn out, he went for the armbar which is perfect for him. He transitioned perfectly into it, but the thing about me is, I train all the time in armbar reverses and there's multiple armbar reverses. I was already working my way around. When they say he's got his belly to the mat, well that's the worst for him because he can't extend it any more. My arm is as straight as it can go and he can't straighten it out any more. I had already rotated my shoulder, put my thumb on the mat so like he couldn't break it even if he tried. He would literally have to keep rolling over.
So knowing that, I was trying to step over his body and yeah, I grunted. I said "Ungh!" but there's no verbal submission from that. I didn't physically tap. I didn't verbally say, "I quit," "stop" or "I tap." Those are the only things you can say to end a match. Just because you grunt, are you gonna stop a guy in the middle of a fight because he grunts for a takedown? I don't know how else to explain it. I grunted because I was trying to get out of the position. I had a free hand to tap. I am a professional fighter. I've had over 20 fights. I understand that it's better to save my limb than to get it broken and not be able to fight again. Live to fight another day. That's what we always say but I've been training too long and I understand the position, where and how my body works. [Kim] Winslow doesn't know how my body works. There were two more inches to bend before my stuff started hurting. There was absolutely nothing wrong during that position. My arm didn't hurt after that position. It's just a sad story, unlucky call.
I understand as a fan or as a ref, you're concerned for the fighter. You don't want to ever see a fighter get hurt. but the ref and fan didn't spend 12 or more weeks putting their heart and soul, blood, sweat and tears in the mats, in the training room and then putting their life on the line in that cage, you know? This is my livelihood. This is what I want to do full-time, putting forth full effort and I just want to go out there, do my best and win. To have someone stop that, make the decision for you, I think it's uncalled for. They didn't put the 12 weeks of training in. It's not like we're doing it for fun like, "Oh good call ref. I don't want to break my arm." I'm fighting for my life in there and if I decide to break my arm, it's my choice, not hers or his.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I think, as far as I know in the rulebooks, if you scream or make a loud noise, the ref can step in and put a stop to it because they'll assume that it's your body naturally reacting to the pain or something like that.
John Albert: I'll really have to look that up because I don't think that's a rule. I know you have to physically tap three times, you have to yell "tap" or "I quit." You can yell at any time. You can't stop a fight just because someone yells. What if I yell at your just standing there. I understand that your body might be taking over, but I don't know. In my opinion, you should never stop a fight unless someone says, "I stop" where the fighter is cognitively choosing to stop. Just because I go "Ungh!" that's not me thinking I want to stop.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Okay, here. This is from the UFC's website so it's as legit as it gets. It says, "A fight can be stopped by a referee due to a fighter screaming in agony if they're in a submission. Now I don't think you did. In my opinion, you weren't screaming in agony. That was just a grunt to get out of position. I think [Winslow] took liberty with the rule and made a judgement call because nobody heard it. It must have been a really light grunt and she just jdove in. That's the way I saw it.
John Albert: Another good point that me and my coach have talked about and other people that understand why people want ex-fighters to be judges and referees. She obviously doesn't train grappling or jiu-jitsu because she was out of position. She wasn't at the right angle to see how my arm was. She was on the complete opposite side where his body's blocking it so she can't see that my arm is completely fine. Second, again, if you're training and understand the sport, she could have seen that I was working to get out of the position. I wasn't going the wrong way so that's where the controversy comes in where we need people that understand the sport, not just taking a 30 minute class and becoming a ref.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about what happened afterwards, which is a really cool thing that Dana White did. He comes out and says he's "tired of cleaning up after ref's mistakes" and he gives you your win bonus. When he does that, you know that first of all, that's more money for you and second of all, there's no way that they're going to release you for something like that. That's got to ease the sting a little bit even if your record isn't gonna change.
John Albert: Oh absolutely. It helps a great deal, at least mentally. This is my livelihood. The win bonus really helps you out when you start in the UFC. We're not millionaires. We don't make a ton of money. We make enough pretty much to our next fight and it can make a huge difference man. It doubles your purse. It meant a lot to me. Sean Shelby actually ran back after the fight and he was so apologetic like, "Man I'm so sorry this all happened," but shit happens. It's part of the sport. It's not something that we can be in control of. He said, "We're gonna get you back as soon as possible." That's always amazing to hear. I fight to put on a great show and I fight my hardest because that's how I want to be perceived as a fighter. It means a lot that they had my back.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You said they want you back as soon as possible. How soon do you think you can come back? You said earlier than your arm is fine.
John Albert: Usually they want to get me in every three months. That's how I want to do it. Three fights in six months, that's every two months and let's keep it rolling. My face is a little bruised up from all those little pitter-patters he was giving me while I was trying to choke him out. I just seem to keep learning so much between fights. Usually when you have someone in a dangerous position, the way to get out is not by strikes, but he was punching out of it. My coach told me I did everything right, pinching my knees together and everything, the guy just had gills. That's why I switched to the armbar in the first place otherwise I would have just kept the triangle on until the end of the round.
Gerry Rodriguez: Did Kim Winslow say anything after the fight? Did she come over and say, "Sorry, I blew it," any type of interaction?
John Albert: No, none at all. There was nothing at all. All I know was the story of I grunted trying to get out of the armbar, she stopped it, I kept yelling "I didn't tap, I didn't tap!" and she said, "You verbally tapped," and I yelled, "No I didn't, no I didn't!" and Dennis Hallman, being the good coach that he is, went in and started yelling at her and after the fight brought her down to the commission and said, "Explain to me what happened? He didn't tap" and she goes, "Well he didn't verbally tap. I was afraid for his arm." Those were her exact words in front of the commission. It's however they want to take it.
Gerry Rodriguez: So essentially she admitted to your corner that you didn't verbally tap and she was just worried about you?
John Albert: Yes. It sucks for both parties. I'm gonna contest it because I don't want that loss on my record because it shouldn't be there. It just shouldn't. I feel bad for Perez because he earned that chance to get his W now they're gonna take away his W. He didn't technically win. It robs both of us of what the outcome would eventually be. I don't know, he could have beat me in the second or third round. We were only 45 seconds away from the end of the first round. You never know what could happen or I could have beaten him. It sucks for both parties. I think the best thing to do is try to get a rematch. The thing with a rematch is it won't be the exact same fight. Maybe he's the better fighter or I'm the better fighter. It's a really shitty situation.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So do you think the commission could overturn the result?
John Albert: We're gonna try to get the commission to overturn the whole thing to make it a 'no contest." The ref shouldn't have stopped the fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Moving forward, do you think they're gonna set up a rematch or are you open to whatever they give you?
John Albert: I'm open to whatever they give me. I think he deserves to be in the UFC. He's a tough kid and he could beat some guys in the UFC definitely. I'll take a rematch, I'll take a new guy. I'll take whoever they give me because I really feel like I can beat these guys. I just seem to have the worst luck with these past two fights.
John would like to thank his team Victory Athletics, the fans and everyone who's supported him. You can follow him on twitter @UFCPrinceAlbert.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Does Albert have a case? Was this a situation where a grunt counts as a verbal submission or did Winslow overstep her bounds?
To listen to the complete audio of our interview with John Albert, click here (begins at 35:00 mark).