Best and Worst MMA Referees in the UFC

5 Best and 5 Worst MMA Referees

The referees are extremely important for an MMA fight. They participate in the fight directly and they have to watch out for all the details in the octagon.

MMA Referees 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, I shall list some of the best MMA referees and worst MMA referees, both in the UFC and out of the UFC. Then I will proceed to give you explanations and believe me, there will be some referee’s decisions that are pretty much self-explanatory.

Also, I included a video of some of the worst MMA referee moments in history.

Worth noticing is that the referees that are included on the “worst” side, are not there because of their overall skills (which are good) but because of some big mistakes they made during their career.

Worst MMA Referees

Cecil Popes

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. 

Kim Winslow

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 favorite MMA referees. 

Dan Miragliotta

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. 

Yves Lavigne

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 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. 

Steve Mazzagatti

This guy is probably the worst on our list. Also, everyone else’s the 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

Marc Goddard

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

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 aforementioned 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. 

John McCarthy

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. [1]

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 (wrote) 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. 

Josh Rosenthal 

This guy is a relatively young, but very prospective referee who is already one of the most reliable and most respected referees out there.

Josh 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. 

Herb Dean

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.

The Bottom Line

For the end of this article, I have one of the best Dana White’s moments.

Remember when I said that Steve Mazzagatti isn’t Dana’s favorite referee? Well, let’s see how he rants about it for 9 minutes straight.

If you have more questions about the UFC, check out our beginner’s guide to the UFC where you will probably find the answer!

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
Article by

Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He has been training in kickboxing for over seven years and holds a Taekwondo black belt. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. Vladimir is a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster. He was known as The Bulgarian Cowboy in the Western world. In addition, he has a YouTube channel where he talks about his love of esports, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Our testing and reviewing method.
Scroll to Top