Dean: Officiating Needs to Match MMA’s Growth

By: Staff
Nov 23, 2011
Herb Dean says MMA officiating needs to collectively get on the same page. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood

There’s no shortage of complaints when it comes to the judging and refereeing of MMA.

Herb Dean is widely considered one of the best officials, though, and he’s trying to improve the situation through his referee school.

“I think the sport has grown tremendously, and the officiating needs to keep up,” Dean told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Savage Dog Show.” “There’s a lot of things in officiating that we can change, and the best thing that we can do is first of all, make sure we’re all on the same page. I think that’s what these training courses do. The other guys who do training courses, we talk about it. We make sure we’re on the same page. So then when people go through training, now there’s mechanics that are accepted and there’s the right way to do things and the wrong way to do things. Now people are learning that.”

Dean is one of the Association of Boxing Commissions’ approved trainers for referees and judges. He teaches two eight-hour courses, MMA Official 1 and MMA Official 2, which involve coverage of rules and criteria, mock judging, referee mechanics and more. Aspiring officials can register for the courses at

“The first reason for doing this is to make this a better sport,” Dean said. “… If someone comes and they pay to take the class, that does not guarantee that they’re going to pass. Because at the end of the day, the first reason for this is to make sure that we have the right people in here doing the job. You would be surprised that people who have no understanding of mixed martial arts technique, they show up because they think it would be a fun time to officiate it.”

To pass Dean’s referee course, though, you have to demonstrate techniques. In Dean’s view, referees who can teach a technique will understand it when it’s applied in the cage.

Certainly Dean holds himself to that standard. He trained and fought long before he began refereeing, though he is now retired. He misses fighting but sees his role in the sport now as an official. It’s a difficult job, but it’s also been immensely rewarding.

“No matter where this thing goes, I feel like I’ve gotten to live two or three lives,” Dean said. “I’ve got to be a part of so many moments that are going to go down in history, that people are going to be talking about years from now. I’m already pleased. It just keeps getting better.”

Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:25:35).

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