With the widely increasing influence and popularity of the UFC, professional fighting has become more widespread than ever. Aiming to replicate the success of the UFC, nowadays, numerous organizations promote Mixed Martial Arts (MMA for short) fights. One less well-known example of an MMA fight promotion company is the Invicta Fighting Championship. Unlike the UFC which features both male and female fights, the IFC only features female fights and since its establishment in 2012 has” been dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis”. However, just like the UFC, the IFC holds events that feature matches for title’s based on the fighter’s weight class. Invicta was brought to the mainstream thanks to a recent controversial match between Amy Montenegro and Celine Haga held in Invicta FC 21.
Competing in the cage for the Strawweight title, which is a popular division in the UFC, Amy Montenegro (7-2) faced Celine Haga (10-13) for the third time. Entering the fight, both Montenegro and Celine Haga had experienced a lot of success and positive momentum. Montenegro had just won the last 4 out of 5 while Haga was successful in the past by winning 9 of her last 11. Both fighters were often victorious and eager to earn another win.
The fight saw constant back and forth action with Celine taking an early lead due to launching a combination of kicks. Celine had put Montenegro on the verge of submission until she had an armbar to end the first round that her back into the match and gave her a slight lead on the scorer’s cards for the rest of the fight. This lead should have evaporated in the last round where Haga gave it one last shot and applied a “schoolyard choke” that left Montenegro completely unconscious seconds before time expired. Typically, whenever a fighter appears to be unconscious or not breathing, the referee intervenes and ends the match in an attempt to keep the fighter safe. However, this fight’s referee, Greg Franklin did not notice that Montenegro was unresponsive and let the time conclude ending the fight (Fighter chokes opponent unconscious, still loses bout).
The controversy lies in the notion that MMA rules dictate that a match is supposed to end in a submission win if a fighter goes unconscious. Since the referee failed to stop the match, the victor was going to be decided by a decision. All three judges unanimously gave Montenegro the decision with a score of 29 – 28 despite her getting taken down at the end (Invicta FC 21 Results).
The lack of a decisive submission win for Haga has generated a lot of controversies not only by the media but other professional MMA fighters on social media. Which raises the question, what should the referee have done differently? As with any officiating job, officiating an MMA fight is tough. Still giving referees a free pass for their errors should never occur. One of the first things Greg Franklin could have done differently was looking for movement. When Montenegro was on the side of the cage and unresponsive, Greg Franklin should have realized that she was not conscious and stop the action. Similarly, watching Montenegro in a submission hold means that he should have been paying extra attention near the end. Overall, although the fight has ended with the wrong decision, it is still important to hold referees accountable and to make sure that they do not make the same errors in the future.