A Few Quick Words
with Steve Berger
By Jim Genia
Though UFC 37′s "High Impact" show was a success, controversy did rear its ugly head — this time taking the form of a questionably premature stoppage in the match pitting UFC veteran Steve Berger against newcomer Benji Radach. Berger found himself on the wrong end of Radach’s powerful right hand, and the ensuing scramble had the veteran working a submission attempt as the rookie held the fence and rained down blows. Referee Mason White called a halt to the bout at just 27 seconds of the first round. Though White was well within his power to stop the fight due to safety concerns, he admittedly missed the fence holding — a move that was illegal, and most likely affected the outcome of the match.
I caught up with Berger at the Ring of Fury show in Massachusetts, where he was cornering teammate Todd Fox. Always friendly and personable, Berger was eager to answer a few quick questions concerning the Radach fight and where we might see him next.
FCF: How are you feeling?
SB: Pretty good. Doing all right now. Ready to fight.
FCF: About that stoppage: obviously, you were very upset about it. Tell us your version of what happened.
SB: Basically, what everybody saw was I was off to a bad start. He caught me with a good right hand — he faked a shot and caught me with the right hand. Caught me right on the button. I was stunned for a second, I went down and immediately recovered, and from there I never felt like I was in danger. As a matter of fact, I felt that I had him in danger when they stopped the fight. I was very comfortable on the leg, and I thought I had a potential leglock or anklelock.
FCF: Was he hurting you when he was hitting you?
SB: No, [they were] just shots to the back of the head. Anybody who’s a fighter knows those don’t hurt. They really weren’t fully extended, and he was clinging to that fence to keep himself up, so there wasn’t much power on them.
FCF: When you went backstage, what did Joe Silva and Dana White say?
SB: Joe and Dana both just came up to me right as I was walking down the Octagon stairs and they apologized for a premature stoppage, and they reassured me that they’d have me back.
FCF: You mentioned that your father was sending in the paperwork to contest the outcome of the fight?
SB: Yeah, he called Joe [Silva]. No offense to Benji, but I think he just grabbed the fence out of instinct — I think anyone would’ve done that — ’cause he felt he was falling and I was on the leg tight. You know, I’m not a psychic and I don’t know whether I would’ve gotten [the submission] or not, but the fight would’ve went on. You can’t win a fight when you’re committing something that’s illegal, and I really don’t think Benji would even dispute that ’cause he immediately ran over to his corner and was ready to re-fight… I think we were both a little shocked that [the ref] stopped it.
FCF: So there’s a good chance the fight will be ruled a "no contest"?
SB: We talked to the commissioner and he said assuming the tape shows that Benji’s holding the fence, which from "go" he is — as soon as I get the leglock he’s holding the fence — he said that yeah, it would be ruled a no contest.
FCF: This was the Louisiana state athletic commissioner?
SB: Yeah. The Louisiana state commissioner.
FCF: What’s next for Steve Berger?
SB: Joe Silva called me two days ago and asked me to fight June 22nd on their show. It’ll be a war. This is my last weekend of eating the junk food and I got five weeks to train, and I’ll hopefully get a chance to show my skills.
FCF: Have any words for the fans out there?
SB: Hopefully, we’ll all get a chance to see me fight. [Laughs] I can’t control it whenever the third man in the ring stops it, but hopefully next time around I’ll produce a good fight.