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'He asked me 'do you want to quit' because of an eye poke' - Rory MacDonald shares strange Mario Yamasaki story [Exclusive]

Rory MacDonald and Mario Yamasaki
Rory MacDonald and Mario Yamasaki
Modified 17 Feb 2021

In an exclusive conversation with Sportskeeda, Rory MacDonald recalled the time when MMA referee Mario Yamazaki allegedly pressed him to give up from a UFC bout because of an eye poke.

When asked about the potential return of the Brazilian referee to MMA, Rory MacDonald recollected the events of that night at UFC 167 and lamented the way things went.

Rory MacDonald held an impressive record of seven wins and one loss leading up to that welterweight bout - his first match against Robbie Lawler. He considers the result could have been different if it was not for Yamazaki's performance.

"I mean, I had my suspicions about him and the way he reffed fights. I have no proof for anything, but there was something unsettling about the way he was reffing. I had a feeling that he had other interests at hand when he was reffing the fight, but who knows," Rory MacDonald reviewed. "I felt like he did a poor job. I felt like I would have won that first fight if it wasn't for the stand-ups. I felt like he was very eager to see me stood up every time I took him [Lawler] down."

The Brazilian mixed martial arts referee was a recurring target of criticism due to his performances throughout most of his career, especially when refereeing UFC bouts.

Yamazaki has not been selected to mediate in another fight for the promotion since his disastrous appearance at a UFC Fight Night event in 2018. He was blamed for not stopping Valentina Shevchenko even after her opponent, Priscila Cachoeira, severely hurt her knee at the beginning of the first round.

UFC president Dana White said of Yamazaki's performance at the time:

"I am hoping, after this scary, incompetent showing, he hopefully will never set foot in that octagon again."

What did Mario Yamazaki say to Rory MacDonald?


The inconvenient moment involving Rory MacDonald and Mario Yamazaki happened three years earlier, the first time the welterweight contender met Robbie Lawler inside the cage. Not as bloody and electrifying as their second bout would be, their duel at UFC 167 was marked by controversy.

Although Rory MacDonald spent most of the second and third rounds on top of his opponent, the judges still decided to name Lawler as the winner in a split decision.

The new PFL signee also criticized Yamazaki's role in the bout because he felt the referee was pressuring him to stand up since he was constantly taking Lawler down.

However, the most polemic moment happened in the middle of the third round. Rory MacDonald called for an eye poke, to which Yamazaki stopped the fight immediately. But, according to MacDonald, the referee pushed him to quit.

"I got poked in the eye at one point, and he kept pressing me like, 'do you give up, do you want to stop, do you want to quit?' And I was like, 'No, I got poked in the eye, like, I want some time to recover,'" Rory MacDonald recollected.
"I've never had a ref, from an eye poke, ask me, like, 'do you give up, do you quit.' And he was really pressing me. I mean, it was like he was almost like trying to get me to say that. Which I was very suspicious of, especially with the stand-ups. And so I was like, 'No, I don't want to give up,' so I fought with blurry vision for a little while until I recovered, and it was fine, it didn't affect me too much besides losing my contact or whatever. But it was just weird, a weird thing for a ref to do, especially with as much experience as he had. So I feel like there's something a bit shady going on there. But to be honest, I have no evidence. It was just the one experience I had with that guy. And it wasn't a good one," concluded Rory MacDonald.
Published 17 Feb 2021, 05:23 IST
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