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March 22, 2012

A Ref's Perspective With Kevin The Ref

I had some questions in my head about local and mainstream MMA(UFC, Strikeforce) and they were mostly questionable calls and decisions.  I figured who better to go to than one of the best refs in New England Kevin The Ref.  You may have seen Kevin on tv as well.  He has done some UFC's and even a few Bellators.  Not to mention, the best looking hair in the business.  You didn't think you would get through a whole article without a jab at your hair did you Kev???  Kidding aside, Kevin gladly obliged and answered any question I threw at him.  Please read along and let's all learn some more about the reffing side of MMA.

In the Miesha Tate vs. Ronda Rousey fight there has been chatter about if the ref should have stopped it. What are your thoughts on that finish?? 

From what I could see on tv, I was fine with the stoppage. My real concern when refereeing pro fights is when the fighter can no longer make sound decisions such as when taking a barrage of heavy head strikes or being choked unconscious. I tell pro fighters during rules meetings that, if they choose not to tap during an armbar I’ll stay out of it until they tap or I see signs of breakage. Tate escaped from a deep one earlier. She knew what hold she was in. In a title fight on the international stage, you want it to be decisive. The most important thing in these situations is positioning. The referee needs to be in the right position so that they can stop the submission the instant a break, tap, or scream occurs. Once a fighter submits, the referee must ensure no additional damage occurs. 

It certainly made for an awesome title fight!  Onto the local shows..At the last Reality Show the Eddie Saldana vs Dwight Grant fight it was stopped standing..You were the ref in the cage...what did you see then that made you want to stop it???

I was the referee in that bout. It’s not very common to call a bout from standing but the referees’ job is to protect the fighters’ well being. When a fighter starts taking effective, unanswered strikes we have a judgment call to make. Many factors go into this and it must be made in an instant. The referee must consider if the fighter is just surviving or fighting back, is the cage the only thing keeping them from falling, is the fighter in real danger of head trauma, etc. If my gut tells me to stop it, I have to listen to that. Sometimes people will disagree with my calls, but my first concern is always fighter safety. 

I agree Kevin.  I talked with Eddie and he was comfortable with the stoppage. What do you feel is the hardest thing to learn as a ref?? 

I think it’s different for each referee. Once you know the rules and the sport inside and out, it’s all about being comfortable and confident. Our decisions can have great effect and we must constantly train and evaluate situations. Referees need to stay active and sometimes there are not enough events to keep skills sharp and it’s easy to get rusty. 

There has been talk about the judging system and the judges getting it wrong. A perfect example is on the featherweight fight between Ian McCall vs. Demetrius Johnson. At first they announced it to be unanimous, then it was later announced it was majority. Then the next day it is announced it was actually a draw so they have to rematch. Being real close to the commission do you have any thoughts on how this can prevented??? 

As far as the Johnson/McCall fight, mistakes happen in every industry. It’s just about trying minimize them (and not have it happen on live tv!). Mohegan Sun actually has a great computerized system with photos of each fighter which automatically records each score and then tallies them. That takes away many “human” factors such as poor handwriting, identifying the incorrect fighter, poor math, etc. 

I know you do clinics to train new and up and coming refs. How do you explain on what to look for on how to have a proper ref stoppage to a fight?? What are the things you are looking for. 

It is really a judgment call which can’t really be taught. Personally, I look at the damage being taken and whether the fighter has switched from fighting mode to survival mode. A good referee must also keep in mind the level of the fighter meaning amateur bouts are usually stopped sooner than pros. Also, the main event/title/highly experienced fighters will often be given more “leeway.” But, at the end of the day, if I ever feel a fighter is in real danger, it’s my job to keep him/her safe.

Thanks Kevin for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions that were just burning in my brain.  Fans should take notice to the things that refs and judges look for so they will be more considerate to the refs when they make a decision.  As a fan, you may think it is an early stoppage but try to remember, the refs are only human and maybe they saw something that being further away you did not.

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