Opinion: Safety in MMA
As I sit and write this piece, the UFC on Fox 11 is a few hours away. With fighter safety being a prominent fixture in the news, it’s a perfect time to hop up on my soap box and give my two cents.
A recent article by the Orlando Sentinel highlighted how the upcoming UFC card is loaded to the gills with premier officiating talent. In the piece, veteran official Gary Copeland chatted about Herb Dean and the legendary “Big” John McCarthy, who are both to referee Saturday night, stating,
“Those are two of the biggest names in MMA,”
“They’ll be in good hands, I’d put those two in the top tier as referees.”
“The last thing you want to do is put an inexperienced referee in. You’re talking about somebody’s winnings, their record. And for fighters, their pay is based on their record,”
“You have to be a certain kind of person, a take-control type of guy to be a referee. You’re basically the third person in the ring. Your job consists of three things: No. 1 protect the fighters, No. 2 enforce the rules and No. 3 maintain the action.”
In recent stories floating around within the MMA news cycle, there has been sharp criticism over the fighter safety practices in place in our beloved sport. While I still steadfastly maintain that personal accountability on the part of the fighter is a critical and undeniable element of fighter safety, sound officiating is undoubtedly snugly seated alongside accountability as one of the single most important aspects of fighter safety.
Moreover, this is one of the few portions of the fighter safety equation that is in the firm control of the promotions and state athletic commissions. Seasoned and attuned referees are a quintessential key to providing the safest possible atmosphere for competition. As such it’s heartening to see two of the greatest referees of all time at the helm for tomorrow night’s card.
Now, none of this is to say that bad things cannot happen even with top notch referees at the forefront of the action, because they can. However, veteran officials with proven track records of safety, records void of late or questionable stoppages are a definite asset in fighter safety. So it’s definitely good to see that both the UFC and Florida’s athletic commission has assembled a fine team of referees to officiate the UFC on Fox 11 fights.