Sterling became the first fighter in UFC history to win a title by disqualification when he was struck with an illegal knee by Petr Yan in their bantamweight title fight this past Saturday. Sterling was eventually deemed unable to continue, and as a result, Yan was disqualified.
Smith was in a similar situation when he was on the receiving end of an illegal knee in his title fight against then-light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at UFC 235, but decided to continue fighting. He lost the bout by unanimous decision.
Many lauded Smith for continuing in his fight against Jones. On the flip side, many accused Sterling of taking the easy way out. But Smith said Sterling should have never been put in the predicament in the first place.
“My problem is that ‘Aljo’ should have never had to make that decision,” Smith said in an interview with Fanatics View. “What I don’t understand is why is the legality of the knee the issue in why he won’t make the decision because 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 once he took it.
“Why does the legality of that knee change that? Because if you would have stopped it before because it was an illegal knee because he was too injured to continue, why wouldn’t you do it right away because it was illegal? I know why. It’s because the 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 referees should be held more accountable for their actions and take initiative on the spot. He ripped Smith for turning for help when he thinks he should have stopped the fight the moment he saw Sterling visibly hurt.
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“I’m so sick of referees punting off the issues to the cageside doctors,” Smith said. “If we’re going to pretend you’re so experienced and so knowledgeable in this sport that we’re going to task you with stopping fights when people can’t continue, but then all of a sudden there’s a foul and you start looking around – you’re lost and you’re looking at the table and you’re looking at the commission and you’re trying to find a doctor.
“You should know what the fighter looks like when they’re injured. You should know when it changes. You should know the look in their eyes. You should know their mannerisms. I know that ‘Aljo’ was hurt when he first took the knee and I never reffed one of his fights. So if I know that, then Mark Smith should know that.”