Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Veteran referee Marc Goddard chose to keep quiet when former UFC interim champ Colby Covington attacked him, even after two weeks’ worth of “incalculable” abuse from the public.
Goddard said Covington’s response to his performance in the UFC 245 title fight against champ Kamaru Usman was “totally and utterly inappropriate, abusive,” and “threatening.” As a result, he said, he received death threats and accusations he had a financial interest in the bout. But he resisted the impulse to respond, reasoning the damage to his career as an official would be greater than the satisfaction of defending himself.
”Imagine if an official had done that,” he said. “That’s 20 years of my life down the drain. I’d never work again. Such is the life.”
More than two months after the hotly contested fight, Goddard has broken his silence about the controversial aftermath in an interview with UFC commentator Dan Hardy, with whom he co-hosts the “LISTEN!” video podcast. The referee defended his decision to stop the fight in the fifth round and said he “handled it on the money, to a ‘T.’”
Covington accused Goddard of robbing him of a fair fight and called the matchup “fixed.” He said Goddard allowed Usman to claim he’d been fouled with groin shots and didn’t call several illegal shots to the back of the head in the fifth-round finish.
Before the fight’s ending, Goddard said Covington sang a different tune. He said during a standard pre-fight meeting backstage, Covington thanked him and added, “I’m glad you’re my referee.”
Goddard also said he explained to Covington why he would stop a fight.
”One of the parting shots I will always say to a fighter, regardless of who it is, I say, ‘If you’re hurt, if I think you’re in any danger in a fight, I need you to do one thing: Just show me you’re still there,’” he said.
After four rounds of back-and-forth action Goddard called “brilliant” and “unquestionably difficult” to referee, he didn’t want the “war” to end. But when momentum turned toward Usman in the fifth and final round, he couldn’t ignore what was happening in the moment.
”That fight was 24 minutes long,” he said. “(Covington) was getting beat up, and beating up. Some judge had it 2-2. That was a competitive fight. Those first four rounds were competitive, and the fifth round started competitive.
”Then Kamaru started to get the upper hand, and then he stung him a few times, and then there was the first knockdown, and then was the second knockdown. All this is real-time worrying in my mind. I am aware of the clock. I don’t want to stop the fight. I want this fight to go the distance. You’ve had 24 minutes of war for the highest prize in the sport from two A-line athletes. What’s not to respect? What’s not to understand? But I’m seeing things unfold, and I see Colby get put down twice in rapid order. Plus, 24 minutes of back-and-forth before that, so there’s a lot of damage sustained.
”Then I see him go down, and he stays in that turtle position – (he) started on the (double-leg takedown), then he’s pulling his hands back. This is where everything will narrow in for me. I’m now firmly put in the spotlight. I have a decision to make, and I’m trying to assess this. I have to assess this real time, coupled with everything I saw. People talk about the back of the head. They haven’t got a f*cking clue what back of the head is. Not a clue. I’m not even going to go there. Because what you think is the back of the head is not the back of the head.”
Goddard said he nearly stopped the bout twice after Usman put Covington down. But the former interim champ made an effort to show he was still in the fight.
”I know he’s hurt,” Goddard said. “I know he’s not out; he’s hurt, which is why you see when he gets knocked down, I run in, I see him reacting, I move back. The second knockdown, you close the distance, he reacts, I move back. Then the shots start coming in. This is where things narrow down for me. I have to make a choice, one way or another.
”Could I have let that fight go on? Yeah. Could have I stood back and let it go on? Yeah. Should I have let it? And that’s the narrative here. Should I have? And this is the point I make when I’m assessing what happened, I’m assessing the position he’s in, the two knockdowns, (and) he’s being punched. I don’t want to leave him. My trigger’s pulled.
”My job is to protect you, and regardless of you getting up and telling me you’re fine at that point, it’s over.”
Goddard compares the stoppage to a light heavyweight fight between Jim Crute and Sam Alvey, where Alvey was rocked and shot for a takedown prior to the stoppage. Alvey gave a thumbs up, but that wasn’t ever a part of his conditions for stopping the fight, he said. Motion and intelligent defense have always been always his requirement.
Covington is calling for an immediate rematch with Usman and continues to go after a variety of targets in the wake of his defeat. He recently told the “It’s All About Who You Know” podcast that he received food poisoning from a meal prepared by the UFC’s nutrition company and wasn’t in peak condition to perform.
Goddard may not win a public war of words with Covington. But he wants people to know where he stands – and that he doesn’t appreciate trolls.
”Apparently, when a ref wants to speak, when a ref wants to make things better, you want to be famous and you want the camera, so I can’t win either way,” he said. “And you know, people go about the referee, like, ‘He interjects himself in the fight.’ Yeah, because that’s my f*cking job, you idiot.”
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