A to Z Challenge: R is for Referee

The referee is charged with the most important job in the midst of an MMA match: keeping the fighters safe, and they’re paid to have the best seat in the house.

Unfortunately, if you’re interested in becoming an MMA referee for a spectacular view and prize-winning paycheck, reality will soon turn your chin like a left hook. Like most aspects of MMA, especially at the earliest stages, participation should be perceived as a passion project, because mining for riches will only get you fool’s gold. Moreover, a love of the sport isn’t quite enough; a deep knowledge of positions and techniques is also a prerequisite.

The process for becoming a referee at the higher ranks is a slow, arduous climb up the ladder. For instance, in California, you must begin at the amateur levels. To do this, you either already have to be licensed by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC)—and if you already have your license, you would oversee amateurs initially because you have little to no experience—or you must complete a COMMAND course (link here), a learning experience offered by “Big” John McCarthy—MMA’s most notable and longest tenured referee. Just as fighters must demonstrate their skillsets to ascend the ranks, the same is true of referees. 

Interestingly enough, referees, at times, are more popular than the fighters. When the ring announcer finishes introducing the competitors filling each corner and shares with the crowd who’s the third person in the cage, the pop from the audience announces their assurance that the fighters are in good hands.

Prompted from the A to Z Challenge at: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/


  1. Don’t forget Herbs course for getting licensed in California Dave, also the CSAC will not license new referees with no experience, you must get 100-150 amateurs under your belt first.

    Also, position knowledge is important but there are referees out there even at the highest levels with very little to no practical grappling experience believe it or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good info!!! I was just going off of what it says on CAMO’s site. It recommended John’s course, and I didn’t see anything about the number of fights required.


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