Arnold Allen addresses illegal knee controversy against Movsar Evloev: ‘It’s so frustrating’

Arnold Allen isn’t thrilled with how his fight against Movsar Evloev went down.

In January, Allen’s fight with Evloev at UFC 297 was beset by controversy. In the third round, he landed a series of knees to Evloev’s head while Evloev had his fingertips on the canvas. While those blows would have been considered legal in some other jurisdictions, in Canada, Evloev was considered a downed fighter, and so referee Marc Goddard intervened. That allowed Evloev to reset and get checked out by the doctor before resuming the action. Evloev went on to win a unanimous decision, and Allen now finds himself on the first losing streak of his career.

Speaking with Ariel Helwani on Monday’s The MMA Hour, Allen addressed the controversy and gave his perspective on what went down in the cage that night.

“Being a ref must be a thankless job because you make the right call, no one says good job,” Allen said. “You make the wrong call, everyone says bad job. So I get it if maybe there’s a blurred line with that rule, it’s not unanimous everywhere. It is what it is. Maybe from his angle, the rules are what they are in the state.

“But I’ve seen slow-motions of it and I was trying to pull him off the canvas every time to make it as legal as possible. I did think it was legal to knee him with the fingertips on the canvas but I was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to pull him up and knee hard as a I lift him up.’ I’ve seen the slo-mos, his hand is up every time. But in that moment, it’s tough to see what’s going on and to make that call. …

“It just needs to be a solid thing everywhere. It’s so frustrating. You wouldn’t have it in football where you go to play in Brazil and they’re playing different rules. The game is the same wherever they play.”

Arnold doesn’t believe the difference in the grounded fighter rules in Canada was made clear to him before the fight, though he does allow that he simply could have missed the instruction with all the other pre-fight activity going on.

“Before the fight is all a bit of a haze,” Allen said. “You’ve got the adrenaline, apprehension and all that. But I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure I asked something about that and was told everything was normal. But maybe that’s just my memory of it. I’m in the zone just sort of locked in. But in my mind, it was everything was normal.”

Following the fight, California State Athletic Commission director Andy Foster submitted a proposal to the Association of Boxing Commissions for a new grounded fighter rule. The rule would remove the vague language around fingertips as and instead make it so that fighters are down only when a body part other than hands and feet is on the canvas.

For Allen, the loss is still a tough pill to swallow. He felt the tide was turning before Goddard stepped in, but he’s doing his best to make peace with it.

“It’s all good saying it, but I did feel like I was on the way to a finish,” Allen said. “It makes me look like a sore loser saying it, so I don’t want to be like, ‘Oh, I would have finished it.’ But any fighter, anyone in the sport will know, when you’re in a fight and you hit someone with a shot, or you feel a submission come on, you can feel, ‘This is it. He’s hurt. I’m closing in on this.’ But fair play to him. He didn’t play it up, he didn’t act it up. The doctor came in and had a look and he didn’t complain. He got straight back into it. So all respect to him on that. …

“It definitely sucks. It’s a big kick in the ball. But it’s part of the game. It’s a ruthless sport. You can do everything right and still not get the result. He’s a top competitor. It was never going to be an easy task when we took it.”

Allen, 30, doesn’t want to wait too long before accepting his next task. Now on the first losing streak of his career, he hopes to return to the octagon this summer for the UFC’s rumored return to England so he can get back on the winning track on home soil.

“Maybe summer,” Allen said. “I’ve got a couple of old injuries I need to fix. It was a long camp. So summer would be nice. Someone said something to me a bout July [for the return to England]. July would be cool. I’ve got to see a doctor this week about a couple of things, but hopefully nothing crazy. It shouldn’t be anything crazy.”

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