UFC apologizes for breach of protocol in removing judge in China

The UFC has issued an apology stemming from an incident that occurred at the UFC Macao event this past weekend.

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The UFC issued an apology Tuesday after an incident at a weekend event in China in which president Dana White removed a fight judge in the middle of the proceedings.

White made the call to remove judge Howard Hughes from his duties during Saturday’s card in Macao, sitting Hughes on the sidelines for the rest of the show after two questionable calls in early bouts.

An official UFC statement Tuesday called it a protocol "breach" and apologized for the incident.

"After an internal review, the UFC organization announced today that a breach of its independent regulatory protocol occurred on Saturday night during UFC Fight Night Macao," the statement read. "After the second fight of the night, UFC President Dana White requested that Howard Hughes, one of the event’s five assigned judges, be removed from working any further bouts. Pursuant to UFC’s protocol, neither White nor any other UFC executive possesses such authority. Nevertheless, protocol was breached and Hughes did not work further bouts on Saturday night.

"The UFC organization has always been in support of government regulation and oversight. Additionally, the UFC has established a protocol when required to self-regulate events due to the lack of an official athletic commission, federation or other regulatory body. In those instances where UFC holds events in locations without a regulatory body, the UFC’s protocol dictates that the organization’s internal regulators will handle all commission functions independently and without interference by company executives or employees.

"The UFC remains committed to maintaining the strictest regulatory environment for competition and vows that no similar breach of protocol will happen again.

"Both White and the UFC apologize to Mr. Hughes for calling his professional judgment into question. Hughes has judged more than 25 UFC fight cards and the UFC looks forward to him working on its events again in the future."

When the UFC travels abroad to countries without a recognized commission, the promotion acts as its own governing body, assigning referees and judges as well as handling drug testing and other issues for the fighters on hand.

Former Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Marc Ratner, who is the UFC’s vice president of regulatory affairs, typically handles all of these duties firsthand when a show of this nature happens.

Unfortunately, Ratner was unable to be in Macao this past weekend, and in his absence White made the call to remove Hughes.

Hughes was a judge chosen by Ratner and has worked several UFC shows previously, but on this occasion when his calls didn’t jive with popular opinion, White opted to yank him from the card all together. Now, days later after the incident, UFC officials have issued a statement on the matter considering the unprofessional nature of the move considering something like that would never happen if a show were taking place in a state like Nevada, California or New Jersey.

White noted at the post-fight news conference that he was the one who made the call to pull Hughes.