There is one universal rule in the world of competitive athletics: you never hit an official. It’s a rule that Jason High broke on June 7 at UFC Fight Night 42 when he shoved referee Kevin Mulhall following a second-round TKO stoppage that left High with a loss. As a result of High’s actions, UFC President Dana White announced that High had been cut from the UFC.

On the surface, I have no issue with the decision to release High from the organization. If I were in White’s position, I likely would have done the exact same thing. But was this the best course of action for the UFC to take?

Understandably, this is a serious situation that needed to be handled swiftly and forcefully. However, High is a high-character fighter who has never had any issues in the past. One instance of losing his composure should not result in blackballing him from UFC competition.

Let me be very clear here: I am in no way defending High’s actions. There is no room in this sport for that kind of response to a loss. It simply cannot and should not happen…ever.

There are two big underlying issues here with High’s situation. First, White often acts before gathering all the facts and looking at the whole picture. Second, fighters simply have no protection whatsoever in regards to how punishments are doled out to them by the UFC.

White may be a polarizing figure and there are a lot of MMA fans out there who detest him for various reasons, but the fact of the matter is White is one of the best promoters in the world. He has done an excellent job of leading the UFC and the sport of MMA to where it is today. Without White, there is a good chance that there would be no UFC and MMA as a whole would still be banned in many places.

White’s biggest flaw, though, is that he now has too much power and he does not wield that power with a fair and balanced hand. For contrast, look at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell has cracked down hard on players in the NFL for behavior issues, but he does so in a manner that is consistent with the committed offense and the player’s history.

How can the UFC release High from his contract for pushing a referee when the promotion signed a fighter who violently knocked out a referee during a fight? You can’t have it both ways—either it’s forgivable or it’s not. Gilbert Yvel didn’t shove a referee out of frustration after a fight like High did. Yvel viciously attacked a referee during a fight. Yet Yvel, a fighter with a questionable history in the sport, was signed by the UFC and fought in the Octagon three times.

High was out of line and should be punished for his actions, but White can’t act all high and mighty and state, “You touched a referee. Done. Over. That’s worse than what [Paul] Daley did to [Josh] Koscheck.” If that was really the case, then why was Yvel ever allowed to fight in the UFC to begin with?

It is instances like this that are keeping the UFC and MMA from turning the corner as a major sport. Consistency is key, and White as the visible figurehead of the sport has to be consistent in his handling of these situations.

The other major issue that is illuminated with the High situation is the complete and utter lack of leverage fighters as a whole have in this sport. The fighters are the ones pouring their blood, sweat and tears into the sport. They are the ones who put their bodies on the line every time they step into the cage. Yet, they are always one loss away from the unemployment line.

I’m not necessarily saying that fighters in the UFC need to form a union, even though it is the next logical step, but the fighters do need a voice and an advocate in these types of situations. High is a fighter who has never been in trouble in or out of the cage, but this one instance is enough to send him packing with no recourse. At this point, the UFC as an organization can decide the fate of a fighter’s future on a whim, but who is there to hold the UFC accountable for its actions?

At the end of the day, High let his emotions get the best of him, and he has lost his spot in the world’s premier MMA organization as a result. While a severe punishment was warranted, High had no support to ensure that said punishment would be fair. It’s there where the UFC has revealed its true problem, and it’s one that isn’t going away anytime soon.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.

  • Oh Really

    Your Yvel comparison is very similar to the argument I made on the Daley article on this site…Heath Herring and Mike Kyle both competed for Zuffa after violent attacks before or after the bell…so we are on the same page with that…but when you say “Without White, there is a good chance that there would be no UFC and MMA as a whole would still be banned in many places.” This is just UFC spin.

    The original owners of the UFC actually worked with the NJ AC to create the unified rules. They took the rules to Vegas where Fertitta sat on the commission and according to some reports refused to review or pass the rules forcing the UFC to be sold…magically Fertitta had no problem getting the rules past the Nevada commission….so it could be just as easily argued that without White and Fertitta the UFC would be in the exact same spot it is today.

    • Fawn Lopez

      That might be the stupidest thing I ever read. UFC would long be dead without Lorenzo’s money/ connections and White. MMA would still be human cock fighting.

      • Oh Really

        You are free to believe everything you are told or you can do some research and learn the history…it is really up to you.

        The unified rules were created BEFORE Dana and Lorenzo were involved with the sport…so that alone negates your argument that it would be human cockfighting without them…but go on a drink the Kool Aid Dana pushes you if it is easier for you to handle.

  • Fawn Lopez

    White is a fight promoter. He is not commissioner of MMA. You say he is the figurehead of the sport. Does that mean he also controls Bellator, WSOF, etc? He runs UFC and can do anything he wants. This is not the NFL, NBA, MLB, ect. Comparing him to Roger Goodell is stupid since they have totally different jobs.

    Since High got banned for a year, he should of been cut.

  • J rod

    It was a little shove from an emotional fighter. People including the author are acting like he stabbed the ref or beat him down in utter brutal act of violence it was a small harmless shove pretty sure the ref didn’t even care. People are to oversensitive these days to a stupid level and this guys (high) career is now a causality of this cry baby society of misguided programed mentality.