Yes folks, you read that right. Today I tackle the MMA equivalent of moving Sisyphus’s Rock.
Today, I’m going to stick up for Yves Lavigne.
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the French-Canadian born referee. In fact, I’ve often touted him as one of my favourite Mixed Martial Arts officials. It’s not because he’s an outstanding or even particularly memorable referee—just that he gives a whole hell of a lot of leeway when it comes to stepping in. To lose an Yves Lavigne fight, you really have to earn it.
Which is just fine by me. Despite what critics say, this isn’t the Colesium in Rome—no one is forcing these guys to get in there. They made the choice and they took the risk, and they all deserve the benefit of the doubt. Usually, most of the time, Yves gives you that.
Occasionally, too much of that. Marcus Davis had to endure almost half a minute unconscious before Yves decided he really didn’t want to continue. I think the first time you shook his arm and it was limp should have been a clue that the lights were out, but I’m not the referee, am I Yves?
Yes, fans have always seemed to have an axe to grind with Mr. Lavigne. Be it the aforementioned Davis stoppage or the Pete Sell bludgeoning or the Philippe Nover robbery, he certainly has his share of indefensible blunders inside the cage.
How strange, then, that his latest and most grievous blunder occurred outside it.
Allegedly, Lavigne made some light comments (to no less a prestigious MMA news site then Canoe.com) to the effect that Josh Koscheck was a pussy, he deserved (or at least directly caused) the Daley postfight sucker punch, and he made the crowd boo him. Oh, and also that GSP was totally going to kick his ass.
I say allegedly because soon after the story broke, Lavigne stated publicly that he never made any such comments, and the story has been removed from Canoe.com. Whether this was a legitimate error or an attempt at some "Chael Sonnen’s Twitter Account"-style antics—well, fans haven’t quite decided yet.
But let’s put aside the question of Mr. Lavigne’s guilt for a moment to focus on the larger issue at hand. Innocent or not, the incident has already cast an inscrutable pall on his career. Josh Koscheck has stated that he doesn’t care if Lavigne never made the comments, he doesn’t want him officiating any more of his fights. I’d be willing to bet he won’t be the last to turn an untrusting eye on the French-Canadian.
Also interesting was fan reaction to Lavigne’s comments when the story first broke. Again, let’s put aside whether or not he actually made the comments, and focus on the comments themselves. Sure, they were biased, but were the really inaccurate? Did Lavigne really say something that wasn’t true?
It’s strange because his comments accurately reflect the feelings of 99.9 percent of the MMA fanbase, the other .01 percent being AKA and Josh Koscheck’s mom.
You could argue Josh wasn’t afraid of Daley’s standup—who can really say but Kos himself?—but he certainly didn’t want any part of it. He used his wrestling to take Daley down, neutralize his ability to strike, and control position to a decision win. Any other interpretation of events is, in my opinion, not possible.
Lavigne felt this reflected fear of striking on the part of Koscheck. He also felt it’s what compelled Daley to hit him after the fight, and the crowd to boo. Stop me if this sounds familiar to anyone.
Hell, Yves is being generous to Kos here. The crowd wasn’t booing the wrestling-based gameplan so much as Josh’s ill-advised attempt to become the Cristiano Ronaldo of MMA. That whole "dissing the Habs" thing probably didn’t help matters either.
Then he goes on to make some predictions about the GSP-Koscheck rematch, and states that Kos will look for the big KO, a’la Matt Serra. This will fail due to GSP’s improved striking, leading to another dominant defence by the champ. Again, none of what he said is revolutionary, or incendiary, or anything but the consensus opinion of the majority of fans.
Take out the fact that Lavigne is an official (and a French-Canadian, while we’re at it) and are his comments really so outrageous?
But, alas, we can’t separate the man from the job, can we? To many, these comments reveal the presence of bias. Bias, that awful thing that prevents referees from being the paragons of impartiality they are supposed to be. How can Lavigne be trusted to referee another match ever again now that we know he interprets events like we all do and seems to have a favourite fighter, like we all do?
So I guess the question is: will having these beliefs effect his performance as an official? They could, but I don’t think it’s a guarantee. You can still have biases and personal beliefs, but suck them up and put them aside for the sake of professionalism.
How many of us have bosses, or co-workers, or procedures, or whatever at work that we can’t f**king stand, but we still put up with and work with to the best of our ability for the sake of the job?
All I’m asking is for folks to remember that referees are people too, and are capable of having opinions just like people. Did it show poor professional judgement for Lavigne to make these comments to the press, if indeed he even did? Absolutely. However, I don’t see anything in those comments that makes me think he should lose his job as an official as some have called for.
Unless it’s revealed that Lavigne was the one who slipped GSP the grease during the Penn fight—at which point I’m liquidating my assets and seeing if there’s any extra space in Matt Lindland’s bunker.