The fighters are the most important and well-known part of MMA. But they’re not the only ones there. You have referees, who oversee the fight in the octagon, and the judges, who sit outside the ring and observe the fight. The referees are extremely important for an MMA fight. The participate in the fight directly and they have to watch out for all the details in the octagon. They need to be very active and know the rules better than anyone, but also be very observant. Due to a large number of possible tricks and violations, they also have to be experienced in order to see through all such moves. To bring up some names, we shall list some of the best and worst, and then proceeded to give you explanations, and believe us, there will be some referee’s decisions that are pretty much self-explanatory.
Best MMA referees are Marc Goddard, John McCarthy, Herb Dean, Josh Rosenthal, and Mario Yamasaki.
Worst MMA referees are Cecil Popes, Kim Winslow, Dan Miragliotta, Yves Lavigne, and Steve Mazzagatti.
But, the position of a referee can be quite difficult because their refereeing is open to public criticism and interpretation. Some referees are notoriously known for trying to be the stars of a fight, while others are more reserved. Here, we’ll be discussing both these groups and give you a list of the best and worst MMA referees.
Difference Between MMA Judges and Referees
Although the difference is probably well-known and we’ve already discussed it in an earlier article, it’s not in vain to recapitulate the difference between a judge and a referee.
Judges are ringside observers who score the match and make the final decision in case there’s no K.O. or a disqualification. They do not participate in the fight directly, but rather just observe it. They score each round based on the fighters’ performances, they can deduce points for rule violations and ultimately decide the winner if both fighters are still standing after the fight is over.
The referee, on the other hand, participates in the fight. He is always inside the octagon and has to watch out that the fighters respect the rules and each other. He’s responsible for announcing the winner, but his actual powers are quite limited. He can deduce points for rule violations, he can stop a fight, declare a fighter as unfit for further combat, but he cannot influence the final decision about the winner.
Worst MMA Referees:
Cecil Popes is one of the least popular MMA judges and is notoriously known for always trying to put the focus of a fight on him. He is theatrical, he tries too hard and is generally speaking pretty annoying to watch, let alone work with. He desperately tried to imitate the best among them, but failed miserably each time. Luckily, he’s not the worst decision maker out there, although he has his fair share of controversial calls.
The only female on our list, Kim Winslow made a lot of enemies in the MMA because of her refereeing. It’s not just the inconsistent calls and the often-ridiculous explanations for her decisions, but also the fact that Winslow has a tendency of jumping in late in situations that can be extremely dangerous and threatening. All of this practically destroyed her reputation and made her one of the least favourite MMA referees.
Although one of the most famous, Miragliotta is one of the worst MMA referees out there. During his career, he’s had a fair share of bad calls and even some embarrassing situations, like the one where he raised the wrong fighter’s arm during the announcement of the winner. Among his worst decisions are late stoppages in quite obviously risky situations and it’s mere luck that there have not been any grave incidents during his matches.
This guy is not even that bad compared to some of the others on our list, but he’s had his fair share of pretty stupid decisions. He once TKO’d a fighter who was clearly conscious during a fight, but one of his silliest moves was when he called a stoppage, only to withdraw his own decision a second later. We all know the importance of speed in the MMA, so imagine how such a decision might have impacted the match. Luckily for Lavigne, it didn’t, but it gave him a spot on our list.
This guy is probably the worst on our list. Also, everyone else’s list. Yeah, this guy is quite possibly the worst MMA referee out there (you know how much Dana White hates him). A list of his stupid and wrong decisions could be an article for itself, but he’s been known to deduce points without any valid reason and his infamous stoppage of a women’s match is still scorned upon even today, earning Mazzagatti the title of the worst MMA referee.
Best MMA Referees:
The British referee has a truly respectable reputation and is deservedly considered to be one of the best referees out there. His decisions are practically universally acclaimed and he’s been out of the press for most of his career. He’s also very experienced and has refereed several important UFC events. He pays a lot of attention to the rules and ensures fighter safety.
Mario Yamasaki has one controversial decision behind him – a very dubious disqualification – but that’s about it. Everything else is – perfect. Yamasaki is a great and experienced referee and although there are a lot of people still not getting over the afore mentioned disqualification, they should really put that to rest because Yamasaki is one of those that have proven, over and over, that they are among the best out there.
The one and only – Big John. He is a legend among MMA referees and for most he is the original, the one and the only one, despite not being active anymore. He had a long and well-respected career and there is absolutely no doubt that he has become a synonym for MMA refereeing. He knew the rules, he cared about the fighters and you could never say that he was either controversial or dubious in his decisions. It’s absolutely clear why he’s on this list and you should not doubt it for a second.
This guy is a relatively young, but very prospective referee who is already one of the most reliable and most respected referees out there. The is very observant, which is why his calls are always thought out, righteous and practically always correct. He has a reputation for not making bad decisions and being consistently on a high level, which is truly admirable. The fact that he is not yet in his prime and still has a lot to offer just shows you how good this guy is.
With Big John going into retirement, Dean is without a doubt the best active MMA referee. Dean’s career is not just long, but is also lauded on every step. From his first fight, he’s been consistently good and constantly among the best. He is very respective of the rules, he’s made some great and important decisions during his career, but is also known for stopping the fight at the right moment, thereby saving “his” fighters from any serious harm. Some of his moves and decisions have become iconic within the MMA community.
For the end of this article, we have one of the best Dana White’s moments. Remember when we said that Steve Mazzagatti isn’t Dana’s favorite referee? Well, let’s see how he rants about it for 9 minutes straight.
And that’s it for now. Keep checking to see our new content and more on the topic of martial arts.