From Worst to Best:Referees

MMA UK are going to be starting a new series of articles detailing our thoughts on the worst to best aspects of MMA. Our first article will be on who we think are the worst and best referee’s in MMA right now.

Honourary Mentions – Dan Miragliota

If I could do a referee between Yves Lavigne and Josh Rosenthal, I’d put Dan Miragliota. The big man is a pretty decent referee who was quick to react when Paul Daley took a sucker punch at Josh Koscheck. Much Kudo’s to the man.

Mario Yamasaki

I know a lot of people will be asking “Where is Mario Yamasaki on the list?” and honestly I’ll reply to that with a “Where is Mario Yamasaki in general?”. I wanted to make sure the list was full of active referees and Yamasaki hasn’t been seen in a cage for quite a long time. However, I hope he comes back soon as he definitely deserves to be near the top of this list.

Starting at number five and arguably one of the worst referees in MMA today – Steve Mazzagati

Dana White on Steve Mazzagati as a referee

Picture from

“Mazzagatti, as a referee?” White said. “This f**king guy shouldn’t even be watching MMA on TV, let alone refereeing it. I think he’s the worst ref in the history of any fight business, ever. He’s horrible. We don’t pick the refs. The athletic commission does. Those guys are picked by the government. It’s not that I don’t like him, he’s a nice guy. He’s an absolute nice guy, he has no business whatsoever being anywhere near mixed martial arts”

(Taken from the Opie and Anthony Show and

Here’s one of the reasons as to why Mazzagati is so heavily criticised

Number four Referee –  Yves Lavigne

Picture from

Yves Lavigne isn’t a great referee. He’s better than Mazzagati, but he’s made two glaring mistakes in his career.  He’s done the two cardinal sins of a referee. He’s stopped a fight too early (Matt Wiman Vs Mac Danzig) and stopping a fight too late (Pete Sell Vs Matt Brown)

Pete Sell was the only person who wasn’t angry at Lavigne after he took a beating saying;

“I want always to be given the chance to fight back, not matter what,” Sell said Tuesday. “I thought he did good with that. … I want any referee that judges the fight to always give me the benefit of the doubt that I’m always willing to fight.”

However, Lavigne had this to say about the fight;

“I did let Mr. Sell take maybe — not maybe — I let him take a beating for absolutely nothing,” he told The Canadian Press. “So I didn’t do my job properly. So basically, I screwed up. I screwed up and I’m going to learn from it and try not to do it again. … I’m going to make sure not to do it again.”

Sources from CagePotato

Number 3 goes to Josh Rosenthal

Picture from


Josh Rosenthal isn’t considered one of the most elite referees in the business and he may never be considered one of the top, but as it is for fighters, it’s the same for referees – every fight counts. Rosenthals last memorable refereeing gig was the Shane Carwin Vs Brock Lesnar fight. As you can see by his plaudits, he did pretty well

Dana White On Josh Rosenthal

When the fight was first starting, I looked at (UFC CEO) Lorenzo (Feritta), and you guys know how critical I am about this stuff,” White said. “I said, ‘How the hell did Josh Rosenthal get this fight?’

“Listen, I don’t know Herb Dean. I’ve probably said five words to Herb Dean in my entire life. I just think that Herb Dean is the greatest ref in the history of the world. When guys are in there, I wish Herb was in every fight. But I want to say Josh Rosenthal did a fantastic job, and I apologize for badmouthing him before he did nothing wrong.”

Credit to MMAjunkie

Herb Dean On Josh Rosenthal

“I think in the first round Shane definitely hit Brock with some good shots and was attacking him. For a second it seemed like Brock was in danger. The referee, Josh, did a really good job of keeping the fighter safe and not affecting the outcome of the fight. I agree with what he did. I think he did a great job. I feel that it was the best decision to be made.”

 Credit: Micheal Pepper and

Number 2 – Herb Dean

Picture from


For those who are new to MMA, Herb Dean is a pretty unique and significant figure when it comes to referees. He barely ever makes a bad decision and just seems like a generally nice bloke. His officiating his lauded across the world of MMA. In fact his boss Dana White has this to say about Dean.

…hold up Uncle Dana. Herb is awesome and defiantly one of the best referees in the world. However, we’ve got to disagree with your statement. As long as one man still officiates he will be the best in the business. His name is…

Picture from Addictedtomma

Big John McCarthy has been regarded as MMA’s top referee for many years now and I don’t think it will ever change. Honestly, the man never makes a mistake and the only reason he hasn’t been seen back in the UFC until recently was because he had some disparaging remarks about the company. Welcome back though John. The more quality refereeing we get in MMA, the better.



  1. I still like Herb Dean best, but that’s a toss up with Big John. Glad you have Rosenthal so high. He’s a bit of a sleeper to me.

    • I feel bad for Rosenthal man. I think a lot of people shit on him and it’s unfair. However, he had a great call against Lesnar and Carwin so I’ve got to give him some props for that. If Yamasaki was a little more active for sure he would’ve been really high on this list

  2. I’d also like to give a shout out to my man from Japan Yuji Shimada. The guy is essentially Japan’s answer to Big John and I have a hard time remembering a bad decision he’s made. He would let fights go on just long enough before breaking, wouldn’t stand people up too quickly and in general just did exactly what a ref should do: stay out of focus!

    I think, in a way, that the sign of a great ref is the same as a great editor in film, in that if they do a good job no one really knows they’re there. I still think we should give Shimada the cred he deserves. Go watch some old Pride shows to see him in action (if you notice him at all).

  3. Nice list – good job! Just a couple of things…Dana White, the UFC, MMA event promoters, etc. don’t “employ” the referees, so DW is not Herb Dean’s boss.

    Each state’s Athletic Commission Certifies and hence employs the refs. They also assign the refs to each fight…hence the reason Dana was asking “How the hell did Josh Rosenthal get this fight?”! 😉

    • Crap! I knew that…I’ll make sure I edit it up. It was a long day and I must’ve made a slip.

      Sorry for that and thank you every so much for having a read of the list, much appreciated

      • No worries – I kind of thought it was a mistake! Good list, and I like Shimada too, JB. 😉

  4. Big John stands them up too quickly for my liking.

    • I agree – and he separates them off the cage too early as well. Especially the women! Like real fast. Very frustrating…

      • Yeah..stupid mistake, but these things happen. I shall edit it in a bit. Out of curiousity, how did you actually find the site?

  5. Not really sure how I found it. We’re doing some work in the UK, and might have discovered you’all by accident while conducting some online research, or it might have been through a google alert.

    • Ah well, I hope you enjoyed the list (minus the mistake lol) and I hope you come back soon 🙂

      I might give you an e-mail later regarding an interview or something if you’d be interested?

      • Sure – no problem – would love to hear from you!

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