Yoel Romero's cornermen weren't exactly on their best behavior Saturday night at UFC 178, UFC President Dana White told MMAjunkie, but the UFC is also partially to blame for a controversial delay between rounds in the middleweight fight with Tim Kennedy.
White said the type of behavior seen by Romero's cornerman's is "the dirtiest trick in the book" but added the victorious fighter also got extra time because a UFC cutman applied too much Vaseline to his face, forcing referee John McCarthy to further delay the start of the third round.
"So that's what throws the whole wrinkle in," White said of the immediate backlash that arose after the fight, which saw Romero rebound from a near-knockout late in the second round to score a TKO win in the third.
Romero (9-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) vs. Kennedy (18-5 MMA, 3-1 UFC) was part of UFC 178's main card, which aired on pay-per-view from Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Romero got nearly 90 seconds between rounds to recover from Kennedy's punches in the second. When the one-minute rest time ended, his cornermen failed to remove his stool — prompting heated instructions from a commission official — and then walked out of the octagon. Then McCarthy noticed a glob of Vaseline on Romero's face that was applied to a cut over his left eyebrow and hailed a cornerman back into the cage to wipe it off.
"There was also a language barrier," continued White, referring to the member of Romero's Spanish-speaking team that removed the stool. "But I saw the guys from the commission. They were yelling, 'Get the hell out of there!' I don't care what language you speak — you know what get the hell out of there means. You know what time you're supposed to be out of the octagon."
Cornermen use the allotted rest time between rounds to coach fighters. If there are cuts or other injuries on the fighter's face, a cutman is used to clean blood, apply Vaseline, or a apply an enswell. In the UFC, that cutman is employed by the promotion, which in 2009 disallowed corners from applying Vaseline after "Greasegate," a controversy in which B.J. Penn accused now-former champ Georges St-Pierre of getting unlawful aid from a cornerman who smeared grease on his chest between rounds. UFC cutmen are not licensed by the overseeing athletic commission, in this case the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and the referee has no ability to discipline them.
The referee, in turn, is allowed to pause the one-minute rest period to check the appearance of a fighter and his or her ability to continue, a one-two punch that aided the delay.
"It was our guy who globbed all that Vaseline on his eye, so a really weird situation," White said. "Extremely controversial."
White, however, didn't jump to schedule an immediate rematch between the two.
"Everybody knows that's an old dirty trick, but the thing that throws a kink in the whole thing is that it was our guy that put the Vaseline on, so there was nobody trying to take advantage, and they called his guy back in to wipe the Vaseline off, and he didn't understand.
"So it's very unfortunate, and it's an odd thing that absolutely never happens. Who knows. I have to see how he feels; I'm sure Kennedy wants a rematch. But you can't take anything away from the guy. It was an awesome fight."
Following the fight, Kennedy's rep told MMAjunkie that the fighter plans to protest or appeal its official outcome. Kennedy also confronted Romero backstage.
Asked whether he might have benefited from extra time between rounds, Romero said, "Maybe. I don't know."
For complete coverage of UFC 178, check out the UFC Events section of the site.