Anthony Smith

Anthony Smith blasts MMA referees in wake of Aljamain Sterling DQ call at UFC 259: “If you don’t want to take the heat, then get a new job”

UFC light heavyweight Anthony Smith blasted MMA referees in the wake of the Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling DQ finish at UFC 259.

Sterling was unable to continue after an illegal knee to a downed opponent left him on the mat unable to continue fighting against Yan. Though Yan was mostly dominating the fight up until that point, referee Mark Smith deemed the knee intentional. After the cage-side doctor said Sterling couldn’t continue, Smith was forced to award Sterling the victory via DQ, which also mean that he won the UFC bantamweight title. It was the first time in UFC history that a title has changed hands off of a DQ loss, and in the days since then there has been plenty of chatter online.

One of the talking points to come out of the fight was the fact Sterling took the DQ win and the belt instead of continuing to fight, which is in contrast to what Smith did at UFC 235 in March 2019 when he fought Jon Jones. Just like Yan was dominating Sterling, Jones was dominating Smith until he nailed him with an illegal knee. Smith could have taken the DQ win in that fight, but he instead continued to fight with Jones deducted two points for the infraction. Though Smith lost that fight, he gained the respect of fans for continuing on, and so it was interesting to hear his take on the whole Yan vs. Sterling situation given that he was involved in a very similar circumstance.

Speaking to James Lynch of Fanatics View, Smith shared his thoughts on the whole Sterling illegal knee DQ win. Instead of placing blame on Sterling, Smith instead chose to go after the MMA referees for mishandling these sorts of situations. In Smith’s view, the fighter shouldn’t be making the decision to continue fighting, the referee should.

“I’m not going to get into the whole, was he faking, was he not faking, was he as hurt as it says. There’s no reason for me to get into that. No matter what I say, people are going to twist it like I’m sh*tting on Aljo. So I’m not going to get into it,” Anthony Smith said. “But what I will get into is I’ve been hard on refs. Never in my fights have I said the ref screwed me or it’s a bad stoppage. I’ve always taken my wins and losses on the chin. What I am saying is that referees need to have more responsibility and be willing to take more responsibility. You’ve never seen Tom Brady get sacked and end up with a roughing the passer (penalty) and then the referee talked to Tom and figured out what they’re going to do. You make the call, that’s your job. I understand these referees don’t want to take a lot of heat, they don’t. But if you don’t want to take a lot of heat, then you need a new job. I don’t care about how mean the fans are to you and what your Twitter mentions look like. You need to make sure these decisions are made and they aren’t put on the fighter.”

Smith said that his opinion on whether or not Sterling should have continued is irrelevant. Ultimately, he believes that the blame lies on the referees not wanting to make the call and leaving it up to the fighter to do so.

“I’m not going to judge anybody for making that decision (to continue fighting or not). Is that the decision I would have made? No. But I don’t expect everyone to live their life how I live my life. That’s up to him. But my problem is that Aljo should have never had to make that decision. I don’t understand why the legality of the knee is the issue in making the decision. Had Aljo’s knee been up but he was in the same position, he would have stopped that fight immediately just basically off the reaction that Aljo had while he took it. Why does the legality of the knee change that? Because if you would have stopped it before because it was an illegal knee and he was too injured to continue, why wouldn’t you do it right away because it was illegal? I know why. Because refs don’t want to take fights into their own hands because they are afraid of people being mean to them on the internet,” Smith said, while also adding that he has become tired of referees making the cage-side doctor the one who ultimately calls off the fight.

Do you agree with the points Anthony Smith made regarding the Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling DQ at UFC 259?

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Adam Martin
MMA journalist, podcast host, and handicapper for,, and MMAOB Daily Podcast host. Join me LIVE @ 5 pm EST every Monday for my live free podcast. Over 10 years of experience writing about MMA. I love this sport.