Fight fans witnessed arguably the most egregious display of MMA officiating ever earlier today (Sat., Oct. 30, 2021) at UFC 267 live on ESPN+ from inside Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.
The incident transpired during the undercard bout between welterweight veteran Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos and Octagon newcomer Benoit Saint-Denis. After a close first round dos Santos started to tag Saint-Denis on the feet. The Brazilian unloaded everything he had and seemed to have inflicted enough damage to finish Saint-Denis.
However, referee Vyacheslav Kiselev refused to step in to stop the fight in one of the worst referee performances ever. Dos Santos kept firing and nearly tired himself out from all of the output. Saint-Denis did end up surviving and lasted the rest of the fight, but he took about five years of punishment in his first UFC appearance.
Making matters worse was a point deduction handed out by Kiselev during the fight after dos Santos landed an illegal groin strike. There was no warning given and considering this is the same ref who refused to stop the fight when dos Santos was battering Saint-Denis it wasn’t a good look. In fact, Kiselev did such a poor job that he was removed from his scheduled duties for UFC 267’s main card opener between Magomed Ankalaev and Volkan Oezdemir.
As you may have imagined the MMA community was not happy with the horrific officiating. Everyone and anyone took to social media during and after the bout to show their disgust. Check out the reaction below:
EZ Dos Santos in there making a face like, I was not aware this was a fight to the death.— Ben Fowlkes (@benfowlkesMMA) October 30, 2021
That ref is ridiculous.— Nick Baldwin (@NickBaldwinMMA) October 30, 2021
I hope Goddard or someone gives this ref a talking to and dismisses him for the night before he gets someone killed. Seriously. #UFC267— Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) October 30, 2021
That was ridiculous in so many ways.— Aaron Br nsteter (@aaronbronsteter) October 30, 2021
This ref chose violence today! What else does he need to see to stop this?? #UFC267— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) October 30, 2021
What in the world is even happening? This is nuts. #UFC267— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) October 30, 2021
WTF is going on with this ref? Guy says he can't see, fight is over. Period.— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) October 30, 2021
Perhap “bloodthirsty” is too harsh but incompetent is definitely appropriate. This is how careers and lives are cut short.— Kenny Florian (@kennyflorian) October 30, 2021
The most important role of an MMA referee is to protect the fighters. This referee is doing a terrible job of that, in more ways than one. #UFC267— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) October 30, 2021
What’s up with this ref?— Eryk Anders (@erykanders) October 30, 2021
I think this might be the worst referee in the history of the UFC. Should not be officiating for the remainder of the night. Abysmal. #UFC267— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) October 30, 2021
Honestly the worst performance I have seen from a referee in my life. Honestly a hard job but man unreal. Makes you respect the good ones like @JasonHerzogMMA @JohnMcCarthyMMA @HerbDeanMMA and many more. I hated watching that I hope Benoit is heading to hospital right now !— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) October 30, 2021
this referee needs to be fired.— Dillon Danis (@dillondanis) October 30, 2021
This is the worst referee in UFC history.— Tommy Toe Hold (@TommyToeHold) October 30, 2021
The referee's name is Vyacheslav Kiselev. He's supposed to officiate Oezdemir, Ankalaev.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) October 30, 2021
This ref should be fired.— Casey Oneill (@kingcaseymma) October 30, 2021
If you are a fighter and you aren’t comfortable with the ref assigned to your fight, don’t be afraid to ask the commission for a change. I still regret not trusting my gut the one time I was assigned a ref I wasn’t comfortable with.— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) October 30, 2021
Jon Anik announces that Vyacheslav Kiselev has been pulled from the rest of the #UFC267 card after that Dos Santos vs. Saint Denis fight.— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) October 30, 2021
Reminder — the UFC acts as its own commission so it was likely Marc Ratner making that call. #UFC267
For complete UFC 267 results and coverage click here.