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Referee Mario Yamasaki argues Dana White’s UFC ban was harsh: ‘I’m not that bad’

In a new interview, former UFC referee Mario Yamasaki delves into his time with the promotion and Dana White’s extremely public disdain for his services.

UFC 142: Silva v Prater Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Long-time fans of the sport will remember mixed martial arts (MMA) referee, Mario Yamasaki, who had a well-deserved reputation as someone who had a habit of letting fights go too long. Even now, you can still stumble upon Yamasaki Mortal Kombat memes, nearly five years after UFC President, Dana White, very publicly declared Yamasaki would never ref in UFC again.

“I think he’s disgusting, and I never want to see him reffing ever again,” White declared on an episode of UFC Tonight in 2018 after Yamasaki let Valentina Shevchenko rain down more than 200 unanswered punches on Priscila Cachoeira in an extremely ugly fight. “He makes me sick. That guy has no business reffing fights. And I promise you, you’re never going to see him [in UFC] again.”

In a new lengthy interview with Talkin’ MMA, Yamasaki defended himself from perception that he’s terrible, arguing that he’s being judged on his worst performances alone.

“Let’s say I referee 800 fights, and I f—ed up in four. The only thing that shows in my history are the four f— ups that I did, because those are the ones they keep pushing, pushing, pushing,” Yamasaki said. “Sometimes it’s not relevant but that’s there. You know, what Dana said about me, ‘Oh, he’ll never step foot in the Octagon again, blah, blah, blah.’ Those are the things that show most, not my 798 fights that I did right. They don’t care. They care only what you did wrong.”

“That’s why we say in Brazil, ‘casca grosso,’ thick skin,” he continued. “You gotta build that, because if you don’t do that, you’re not supposed to be in there.”

Of course, we know that Yamasaki’s performance was slightly worse than the 796 out of 800 he claimed. He had a well-earned reputation for non-stoppages dating back more than one decade. By the time White banned him from UFC, he was making headlines multiple times a year after dangerous incidents.

Despite the extremely negative exit, Yamasaki still has fond memories of his time with UFC and a friendship he had with White before things got too corporate.

“Without [UFC] I would have never visited the cities and states or countries that I did,” he said. “They always treated me first-class, you know, the hotels, everything was great. It’s a cycle. I’ve been there for 20 years and it’s something that I loved. It gave me joy, it gave me happiness, it gave me ‘fame’ and money. I can’t complain. They lost, not me. Because I will continue and [Dana White] is just media talk.

“We had a relationship in the beginning when it was small, when they just bought it,” he continued. “I was there before Dana White. When he bought it he was really nice, we went out all the time, talked, we had a close relationship, an open relationship like I could call him any time.

“When it became a corporation, he started to put people under him,” he added. “And people are jealous and they start blocking you. So, a lot of people starting blocking us, ‘Oh you can’t talk to Dana now, you have to talk to me. You can’t do this, you have to do this.’ And then he became really cold, especially after they sold the last time [to Endeavor], is even colder. It’s just a business now.

“The golden days for us, for referees — all the parties, all the stuff that we did was great,” he said. “Now you go there, you work like a salary guy, boom, leave. You can’t say anything, you can’t talk too much. It’s different. It’s a different story now.”

Yamasaki admitted he felt like he was treated unfairly in the end.

“I think Dana was a little too harsh on me, because I’m not that bad,” he said. “20 years there, and he always came to me, we’d talk a lot, and for him to just be a media guy, and just destroy a guy, ‘Oh he’s not going to step [foot] in here any more.’ I wasn’t that bad.”

As for who he thinks is the best, Yamasaki had some favorites, but believes most of the refs in regular rotation with UFC are doing a great job these days.

“Herb Dean is one of the best,” he said. “What’s the name of the guy from the U.K? Marc Goddard is great. [Jason] Herzog is great, too. A bunch of them now is good, because when you’re consistent and you’re working a lot, it becomes part of your daily, so all the referees that are on the UFC all the time now, they’re pretty good, they’re great.

“Everybody’s going to make a mistake,” Yamasaki concluded. “Herb made a mistake, [Big] John made a mistake, I made a mistake. It’s life. But, what happens in life, especially now with the media and the internet going very fast, you get your haters.”

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