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Chicago Ref For Tomorrow's UFC Fight A Lightweight...In Experience?

By Kim Bellware in News on Jan 27, 2012 8:00PM


While Chicago's first UFC event in nearly four years is barely a day away, the undercard events have been rolling all week. The fighters, including the main event light-heavyweight contenders, Chicago's own Rashad Evans and Phil Davis, have popped up around town for open workouts, press conferences and plenty of smack talking.

But the latest controversy leading up to tomorrow's second-ever UFC on Fox bout isn't about the contenders' verbal smackdowns; it centers on the only Chicago-area official slated to ref the three-card event, Rob Madrigal.

There are questions as to whether Madrigal, set to ref at least one preliminary bout, has the experience to be officiating an event of this size.

Association of Boxing Commissions president Tim Lueckenhoff told The Tribune yesterday that using someone with Madrigal's pro experience in the UFC is "definitely, definitely" a safety risk. Per the Trib:

"You can't allow that," said Leukenhoff, who heads Missouri's Office of Athletics. "You want to give guys experience but you don't want to give experience on a world stage."

Pro MMA wasn't legalized in Illinois until 2010. The Association of Boxing Commissions has used roughly a dozen local referees, some of whom the Tribune reports "now have worked hundreds or thousands of pro bouts." Madrigal, meanwhile, has only been professionally refereeing fights less than two years, officiating 13 fights in that time.

Rob Hinds, a longtime MMA ref who has also worked UFC events told the Trib that "UFC's level of talent is so high that its bottom card is stronger than any other pro show"

"The fighters, they deserve the most competent, the most experienced, the most knowledgeable officials out at that level," said Hinds. "This is not where you get learning experience."

For UFC's part, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner, Madrigal's credentials aren't a concern.

"I do not go in anywhere and tell the [Illinois Athletic Commission] what to do," Ratner told the Trib. "He'll get some exposure and I look forward to meeting him."

Tomorrow's preliminary fights between Chael Sonnen and Mark Muñoz and middleweights Michael Bisping and Demian Maia (which Madrigal will officiate) will be broadcast on Fuel TV while the main event will air at 7 p.m. on Fox.

Last minute plan: If you're in the downtown area today, the weigh-in between Evans and Davis goes from 4 to 4:30 p.m. at the Chicago Theater and is free and open to the public.