Josh Rosenthal will referee the heavyweight unification bout between champions Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin at UFC 116 on July 3 in Las Vegas. The Nevada State Athletic Commission voted unanimously for Rosenthal’s assignment following his nomination by executive director Keith Kizer during a public meeting held on Wednesday.
Rosenthal was one of four referees identified as available for the assignment, along with tenured officials Herb Dean, Mario Yamasaki and Steve Mazzagatti.
Lesnar’s agent, David Olsen, and UFC attorney Michael Mersch separately voiced their objections to the Las Vegas-based Mazzagatti receiving consideration for the assignment prior to Kizer’s nomination and the vote.
Olsen said he and his client believed there was “at least a perception of bias among the public” following Mazzagatti’s officiating of a bout between Lesnar and Frank Mir at UFC 81 in February 2008.
During that bout, Mazzagatti halted Lesnar mid-attack to issue him a point deduction for punching a grounded Mir in the back of the head. The bout was subsequently re-started in the standing position and Mir went on to win with a first-round submission.
Citing Mazzagatti’s “controversial decision,” along with public comments the referee had made in the press afterward pointing to an “actual bias” and the criticism the referee received regarding his officiating that night, Olsen requested that the referee be removed from consideration from the July 3 title bout.
UFC attorney Mersch, who was present at the Las Vegas meeting, also asked the commission to remove Mazzagatti from consideration based on similar claims.
NSAC Chairwoman Pat Lundvall said she had reviewed Mazzagatti’s post-fight comments in regards to the Lesnar-Mir bout and found no grounds of an actual bias on the referee’s part. Lundvall would not approve Mazzagatti’s removal from consideration, though the appointment ultimately went to Rosenthal.
Lesnar’s attorney had previously objected to Mazzagatti refereeing the fighter’s rematch with Mir, which eventually took place at UFC 100 in July 2009 with referee Herb Dean officiating the bout.
On Wednesday, the commission also approved the judges for the five-round title bout. They will be Adelaide Byrd, Glenn Trowbridge and Tony Weeks.