Local mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Hubert Desmond Cole is considering legal action against a referee after the official unloaded punches and kicks on him in the ring during a recent match in St Andrew.
Patrons at the event, which was Rough Fight League's (RFL) seventh tournament in a series of competitions, were given a jaw-dropping experience as they watched the referee carry out the attack on Cole, who unsuccessfully tried to evade the blows.
According to Andrew Mullings, CEO of RFL, the referee appeared to have been struck by Cole as he attempted to separate the two clenched fighters.
Mullings was of the opinion that the referee initially seemed to be defending himself, but acknowledged that he went too far. The CEO said he is considering to suspend the referee and said that some action should be taken against Cole for allegedly continuing to violate the no-groin strike rule.
However, Cole was adamant that he punched his opponent and not the referee. He claimed that he was treated unfairly and that he has suffered undue injury as a result of the attack.
Cole said, "Right now, my nose is broken. The nurse said it can heal by itself but I will have to put a bandage over it. I have to take at least one month from the hard hitting of the punching bags and pads because the nose will break again. I want this to be publicised. What I did was punch down the Rasta in the ring. All of a sudden the referee turned down on me. I want someone to pay the price."
A patron who claimed to have been at the event said he was stunned by the referee's actions. The patron recommended better regulation of these events to prevent future occurrences.
"When the opponent went down, the referee just started beating up the guy," the man said before adding that Cole did not seem to want to retaliate.
"It's one thing if the referee pushes you off and says, 'Watch yourself!' or 'I'll knock you out', but this one way overstepped his boundaries. His knuckles made straight contact to the face with power punches," the patron went on.
Mullings told the Jamaica Observer that steps were quickly taken to de-escalate the situation, as can be seen in video footage to which the Observer gained access. In the video, one man was seen skilfully climbing the cage to enter the ring in order to help separate the referee and Cole.
Mullings said the referee may be suspended or referred to a counsellor before he can return to officiating duties.
Though he condemns the actions of the referee, he did not sympathise much with Cole, claiming that he repeatedly broke the rules of the sport in that match and previous matches.
"One of the rules is that there should be no strike, whatsoever, to the groin of your opponent. The referee went to separate them and it appeared as if Hubert Cole struck the fighter, and while striking the fighter, he struck the referee. I think the referee lost self-control and did more than his fair share of separating the fighters and defending himself.
"This is an isolated event. This is not something we condone or endorse or advocate for in RFL. Despite all of that, this is not something new. It happens from time to time in international fights, but it was sad and irrelevant the way it was dealt with. The referee was cautioned and asked to exit the venue. We are considering whether to suspend him from RFL or ask him to go through counselling before he can return. The same thing has to happen for Hubert Cole. He lacks respect for opponents," he said, adding that adequate security is present at all his events.