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A series of officiating errors at Third Coast Grappling's 170lbs Kumite tournament left a bad taste in the mouth of fans and competitors.
The Houston event, held on August 8, drew eight world-class competitors hungry for the grand prize of $10,000.
IBJJF No-Gi World champions Renato Canuto, Johnny Tama, and Hugo Marques all entered the fray, as the thrilling up-and-comers Roberto Jimenez and Kade and Tye Ruotolo. They were joined by the disruptors Vitor Oliveira and Oliver Taza.
One thing became clear while watching the event. World-class grapplers require world-class referees.
Throughout the event, the three referees struggled with basic tasks.
– Restarts after going out of bounds were inconsistently applied with competitors reset in the same position or made to disengage and return to standing.
– Points were awarded and then deducted by either a side referee or the main ref.
And of course, the controversial call in the final that won Jimenez the tournament, but was overruled after the fact.
Here's the incident in the sudden death overtime period of the final that saw Jimenez awarded two points.
The "takedown" won him the match and earned him $10k as the tournament winner.
Immediately, the controversial call saw heavy backlash with Andre Galvao vociferously protesting at matside with the officials and event organizers.
After reviewing the footage overnight, the event organizers decided to overturn the result, ruling the match a no contest. However, Jimenez gets to keep the $10,000 as he was not judged to be at fault.
It was a costly mistake for the referees.
It's important to note that this is the same referee team that 3CG has employed over the previous four Kumite events – brothers Damion and Austin Oranday, plus an associate named Trevor Knox.
None of the previous Kumite events had seen such egregious mistakes by the referees.
The disputed takedown was, as far as officiating standards go, a pretty simple situation to call. Roberto Jimenez shot in, and was briefly held in a guillotine choke. He popped his head out, and to earn the takedown points he had to hold Ruotolo on the mat for three seconds.
Video review shows that Ruotolo was out by the count of two and wrestling to his feet, no longer under control.
We can speculate why this happened, but it's not for me to attack or defend the referees, searching for further faults or making excuses. All I can do is focus on what happened and highlight the mistake made.
Jimenez less than satisfied with the ending to the match
3CG took ownership of the situation by stepping in and overturning the win, but the allowed Roberto to keep the money, choosing not to punish him for the officials' mistake.
"We cant put the genie back in the bottle nor can we predict how it ultimately would've ended but we can take responsibility for bad calls and make changes. These athletes work too hard for matches to end that way especially finals matches. Congrats to Roberto and Tye on a great performance. Due to the circumstances we will be declaring the match a NO CONTEST. Neither guy officially will have a Win in our book but we can't take the $10,000 back from Roberto. It wasn't his fault. All we can do is get better for the future, and we will."
Scroll down to read out some of the comments from big names in the community to see how they reacted: