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There's A Shortage of Competent MMA Refs

According to Herb Dean in the Winnipeg Sun:

"I believe if you're going to be an MMA official you have to be trained in our sport -- or one of the sports that make up mixed martial arts -- at one time or another," said Dean. "You need to know what you're looking at. I think a lot of the guys do respect me as an official more ... maybe some of them don't because they know they could kick my butt if I competed with them (laughs). A lot of guys tell me they like the fact I've been in there as a fighter before."

That experience was never more evident back in 2004, when Dean was the referee in UFC 48. In the heavyweight championship fight between Tim Sylvia and Frank Mir, Sylvia broke his arm in the first round. Dean, understanding the headstrong mentality of some of the fighters, saw this and jumped in right away, stopping the fight. He knew if he didn't, Sylvia would have kept going and possibly suffered more damage.

"He was upset, the crowd was upset," Dean remembers, "but it turns out they caught in on video, they had a good angle of it, so I was vindicated. For a minute I was wondering where I was going to hide. I was looking for a good hiding spot or a large police officer.

"It's happened more than once, but that was my defining match as a referee."

This week, Dean has been working with potential MMA officials through a clinic designed to address the challenges referees face in the cage, different techniques you can use, and how to be an effective match supervisor. With MMA continuing its steep ascent into the mainstream, the problems it faces are not unlike any other major sport.

"I'm everywhere these days, so I guess there is a shortage," he said. "There's a shortage of competent MMA refs. There's a lot of people who would make good referees, but those aren't always the people who are showing up. That's what we're working on."