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Can You Really be an MMA Referee?

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Can You Really be an MMA Referee?

One of the questions we get a lot from MMA fans and aficionados is "I've been a fan of MMA for years.  Can I become an MMA referee, even though I've never trained in the martial arts?" 

Good question! Refereeing an MMA fight looks easy enough, but that's because most of the times you're seeing a ref do his/her job, it's at a professional event that's being televised - such as a UFC, Bellator or Strikeforce event - and the referees you're watching have been doing it for a lot of years. When you think about the ref's we all know and love: Herb Dean, Josh Rosenthal, Mario Yamasaki, Big John MMcCarthy, Steve Mazzagatti, Kim Winslow, Yves Lavigne, Dan Miragliotta and more...what you might not realize is that they've all trained in at least one, if not more, of the martial arts systems that make up MMA! Additionally, they've been ref'ing for years.

It just makes sense, as how can you keep the control, and the respect, of the fighters you're ref'ing, if you don't know how? When the cage door closes and the bell rings, there are THREE people in the ring. Two of those people are fighters. Opponents. Competitors. Combatants. Warriors. They're fighting. And what's the ref's job? It's to protect the fighters.

And if the third person in the ring - that would be the referee - doesn't know how to control a fighter in the throes of battle, then the truth is: the ref really can't do his job.

For example, take a look at this video... 

Not quite sure why they let the fight continue after that initial sucker punch, but they did. After the ref tried to stop the fight, the agressor kept punching away, and, in the throes of the battle...either ignored the ref, or just didn't hear him. Either way, the ref was forced to take physical action, in order to stop the fight and protect the other fighter.

Without the proper level of training, it's doubtful this ref could have done what he did, and stop the fight before more damage was done. In fact, the fighter was pretty aggressive, and he could have easily turned on the ref and hurt him. What if the ref had no martial arts training? Yeah - it could have been pretty bad.

So to answer the question: "I've been a fan of MMA for years.  Can I become an MMA referee, even though I've never trained in the martial arts?" we'll have to say "No!" It's just not safe...for any of the three people in the ring.

And if you ask any athletic commission, you'll most likely get the same answer. Ask any professional MMA fighter, and they're likely to tell you they don't want their third partner in the ring to be an MMA fan, as valuable as fans are - because it's their life at stake. They want to be ref'd by a pro. 

So if you're thinking about becoming an MMA referee, do it! But if you haven't trained in any of the martial arts yet -- get started now! In about 2-3 years, you might then be ready.


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