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Chase Hooper on controversial UFC St. Louis stoppage: ‘It was either a panic tap or an unintentional one’

Chase Hooper doesn’t know whether Viacheslav Borshchev tapped or not, but he doesn’t much care either.

This past Saturday, Hooper faced Borshchev in the featured prelim of UFC St. Louis, scoring a second-round submission victory in one of the best performances of his career. Despite Hooper’s excellent showing, the finish was controversial, as “Slava Claus” immediately protested the stoppage and told referee Keith Peterson that he had not tapped. Upon replay, only a singular tap from Borshchev was visible, possibly as part of a transition as he was defending against a D’arce choke. A number of fans and fighters took issue with the finish, but Hooper isn’t one of them.

“There was that specific angle where I felt like it was pretty direct, his hand was out, tap, whatever that means. I did feel that one movement,” Hooper said on The MMA Hour.

“But that’s my responsibility as a fighter. I wasn’t going to let go. Both me and him have to trust Keith — the referee — with the objective lens. He’s back from the fight. I’m in the mix, kind of tunnel vision. I did feel like it was either a panic tap or an unintentional one. I felt like I had it locked in but I didn’t squeeze enough to really force that issue.

“But again, I felt like his grappling was very primitive, and from a lot of guys getting put in submissions and they’re not used to it as much, they might tap a little earlier than you would actually have to.

“At the end of the day, as the fighter, it’s on me to go until the ref tells me to stop,” Hooper continued. “That’s Keith’s bad if he didn’t tap. But that’s me trusting him, trusting his refereeing experience. He’s been in the cage longer than me, a lot more times. So yeah, it’s deferring to the responsible party in there. We can’t be responsible for our own safety in there. We need someone a little smarter for that. I’m trusting Keith with that decision. If he wouldn’t have stopped it, I would have been just fine with that too. Honestly, I felt like he was making me work quite a bit for that TKO.”

Tap or not, Hooper was dominating the action. He dropped Borshchev early in the fight and spent most of the rest of it laying into his opponent with an onslaught of punches from top position. The action was so one-sided Peterson, nearly stopped the bout in the second round due to unanswered strikes from Hooper, but Borshchev was just able to survive, causing Hooper to transition to the submission attempt. And Hooper thinks that might have played a role in Peterson’s quick trigger on the finish.

“That’s not my job to determine if he tapped or not,” Hooper said. “All my job to do was to let go when the ref told me to stop. I felt like the fight could have been stopped earlier from the strikes. Maybe that’s part of the reason Keith was looking for a way to help get him out of there, because he was doing just enough to keep it from getting stopped. But yeah, it’s not on me.”

Unfortunately for Hooper, the controversy does put a cloud over the best performance of his career thus far. Still only 24 years old, Hooper is undefeated since moving back up to lightweight and appears to be developing into a legitimate prospect, but instead the conversation is about a questionable referee stoppage. But Hooper doesn’t mind. At this point, he’s used to it.

“As long as they don’t overturn it, we’re golden,” Hooper said. “Which, I don’t think they really overturn fights anymore. It seems like a pretty hard thing to do. It’s one of those things where, any publicity is good publicity. It gets people watching the fight.

“Honestly, at this point, this is my ninth UFC fight. My Contender [Series] fight, I started off rocky. It’s been an up-and-down path the whole way. I’ve been so used to the fans trying to take away from whatever success I have, or dog-pile on you when you have troubles. I’m just so used to it at this point that it doesn’t bug me.”

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