“I’m not going to say I didn’t say it, but I was wrong for saying it,” the referee told MMA Fighting. “I shouldn’t have gotten that angry, but I did. I screwed up.”
As a result, the veteran MMA referee vows never to oversee another “Venom” fight, and the event’s regulator said he won’t be assigned another.
“When Mr. Page performs again, Dan will not be in the cage,” said Michael Mazzulli, president of Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation, who oversaw the event this past Friday.
After reviewing the fight, Mazzulli elected to reverse a $1,000 fine he initially issued to Kiely for flipping the bird to Page. He also decided against fining Page, who won the grudge match in highlight-reel fashion in the first round.
While Mazzulli defends the referee’s performance during the bout, in particular the decision to dock Page one point for unsportsmanlike conduct, he admits Miragliotta went too far.
“I think emotions got to everybody in that cage, including the referee, and he knows that he was wrong,” Mazzulli said.
Still, the regulator added, Page and others should now be on notice that the behavior seen in the cage at Bellator Dublin won’t be tolerated, and fighters who buck the rules will be fined.
“It’s not professional, and it’s not how we want to portray the sport, and Mr. Page should realize that,” Mazzulli said. “He’s been very professional with me over the years. I think it was just a culmination of what was occurring two months before the fight.”
Shortly after the event, Page claimed Miragliotta called him a “piece of s*it” in the cage. He demanded an apology from the referee and hinted at a pattern of mistreatment.
Miragliotta, who spoke to MMA Fighting after receiving approval from Mazzulli, admits he snapped after approaching the Bellator star’s corner post-fight. He said Kiely had persisted about shaking Page’s hand against his recommendation, and he was trying to facilitate a show of good sportsmanship.
Then, he said, Page turned and told him, “F*ck off.”
“I was pissed, bro,” Miragliotta said. “I’m 56 years old. I’m a grown man. I’m older than him. I show respect to everybody. When someone says f*ck off like that to me with disrespect, I lost it. I never should have said what I said. And I know I was wrong.
“Under my breath, I turned, and one of his coaches was right next to me, and I said, ‘What a f*cking piece of s*it.’
“I knew I was wrong, and especially with it being his coach right there, and he said, ‘What did you say?’ And I said, ‘Man, I apologize. I never should have said that.’”
Miragliotta said he’d been trying to carry out orders from Mazzulli to maintain civility during the fight given the bad blood during its buildup. He stressed he didn’t dock Page one point for mimicking a selfie in the middle of the action, but rather for unsportsmanlike conduct leading up to the moment he stepped in, which happened to be after the faked picture.
“It was a bad matchup, and he was dominating the kid,” Miragliotta said. “He didn’t have to do what he was doing. At one point, and you can watch the video and probably read his lips, he’s hitting him, then he stops and calls him a f*cking b*tch, he hits him again, ‘f*cking b*tch,’ did it a third time.
“He was taunting the kid. So I was like, I warned him, I’m calling time.”
Miragliotta can be heard telling Page, “You’re going to lose this fight with me if you keep playing games.” He’d already separated the two and warned them moments earlier when Kiely flipped off Page. He said while Kiely apologized, Page didn’t respond.
After the stoppage, Miragliotta tried to smooth things over with Page by praising his skills.
“I go, ‘Bro, you are one of the most talented guys I’ve ever refereed,” he said. “I said, ‘Don’t ruin it with these antics. You beat the piss out of this guy, great job. You’re talented. You’re going places.’ He gave me a look like, ‘Screw you, f off.’”
Mazzulli said he brought Miragliotta and Page’s coach together cageside after the coach complained about the ref. Miragliotta again apologized for his behavior.
“(The) comment (from Page’s coach) was, ‘Would you have taken a point away from (Muhammad) Ali if he did that, showboating?’” Miragliotta said. “And I said, ‘If I give you a hard warning, I wouldn’t care if you were Jesus Christ – I would have taken a point away from you.’”
Since the fight, Miragliotta said he’s received over 200 messages about what happened, mostly from supporters who say he did a good job of taking control. Some, however, have accused him of racism, a charge he flatly denies.
“I did what I did because of what he did, not because of his color or religion,” he said.
Ultimately, he said, the rules back his actions. What happened afterward was not the correct action, and that’s why he won’t ever again referee a Page fight.
“I’ll never do his fights again, because I can never really look at him and not have that animosity toward him, because I’m not going to let somebody tell me to f*ck off, and there’s nothing I can do, and I’m an official,” Miragliotta said. “It’s not good for me or the sport.”