In a battle between two bruising middleweights, Tavares expected a war but during a fiery exchange he got caught by a nasty right hand from Silva that dropped him to the canvas. Silva followed up with another punch with Tavares scrambling to avoid any more damage but referee Mark Smith immediately rushed in to stop the fight.
While Tavares understands the visual associated with a nasty knockdown, he promises that he was never unaware of what was happening and he was still defending himself yet the action was halted before he actually had a chance to fight back.
“I’m going to touch on something here and this is not to take away from Bruno,” Tavares explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I have nothing but respect for him. He’s a warrior. He didn’t do anything wrong but I believe — and I don’t harp on things, I don’t dwell on it, I’m not crying on social media about it — but I 100 percent believe that fight was stopped way too early.
“Bruno did catch me, I stumbled a little bit, he blitzed, I fell down but at no point in that was I out. I’ve been clipped before to where I’m unsure [what happened]. That’s when I know I got clipped good, when I’m a little bit confused as to what’s going on. There was none of that. As soon as [Mark Smith] stopped the fight, I looked at him like bro, what are you doing? We work so hard, we train so hard and especially for me from what had happened [coming back from injury], it was a very, very long camp. A lot of time, blood, sweat and tears goes into that and for me to not even be given the opportunity to fight. I want to go out on my shield.”
Smith is a veteran referee, who mostly works cards held in Nevada, which is also where Tavares resides so they are definitely familiar with each other.
In the past, Tavares says he never had any issue with Smith as a referee but that all changed with the result in his fight against Silva.
“You know what’s the s***** thing, I’ve known Mark for years,” Tavares said. “When he got his start to refereeing and just because I know him, I’m not looking for f****** brownie points and extra credit and favoritism but I know you. I feel like I don’t need to tell you. You’ve reffed my fights before. I don’t need to tell you how tough I am and explain it.
“Let me get knocked out. I would rather that happen than you jump in and now we have this issue.”
As a result of what he believes was a premature stoppage, Tavares plans to speak to the Nevada Athletic Commission or any other governing body where he competes to ensure Smith is never the third man in the octagon during his fights.
Fighters can lodge complaints with commission officials to ensure certain referees don’t work their fights, which is the step Tavares wants to take where Smith is concerned.
“I’ve never been in this situation,” Tavares said. “I’ve never had a problem with the officiating in my entire career, 20 plus fights in the UFC and a lot of fights before that. This is the first time. This is new ground for me as far as going about and figuring out with the commission to make sure this guy is not in there refereeing my fight. That will be the steps that we take to make sure he’s not there.
“Again, personally, I was upset but it is what it is. I just feel on a professional level, him doing his job — he failed to do his job. I do not want him having anything to do with me on a professional level of things. It’s over, it’s done with and nothing we can do about it except I don’t want him ever refereeing another fight of mine. I feel like he f****** up, he dropped the ball on that and it cost me a fight.”
Tavares won’t likely cross paths with Smith for his next fight at UFC 292 in Boston but he hopes there’s no issue like this again when he inevitably returns to compete in Las Vegas again.
“I don’t care if he is offended by it. Take all the offense you want. I don’t want you,” Tavares said. “I’m a tough guy, he knows that, everybody knows that so at least give me a chance to fight back. I believe he stopped it early and I believe that was the consensus all around.
“But again, I’m not here to take anything away from Bruno. He did nothing wrong. He did exactly what he was supposed to do. That’s just on the officiating. I’m not crying about it. We’ve moved on.”