Ranking the 6 best MMA referees in the history of the sport

Referee Mike Beltran officiating an MMA fight in Southern California (photo by Amy Kaplan/FanSided)
Referee Mike Beltran officiating an MMA fight in Southern California (photo by Amy Kaplan/FanSided) /

Mixed martial arts referees have one of the hardest jobs around, so we show them some appreciation and count down the best in the sport’s history.

Being a referee is usually a thankless and stressful job and in the sport of MMA the stakes are much higher. Sometimes referees have a split-second to make a decision that may change someone’s life forever. Do they step in and stop the fight? Or do they let it go a little bit longer? Is the fighter unconscious, or are they taking a second to think about their next move? It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. Here, we’ll count down the best referees in the history of MMA.

6. Dan Miragliotta

Dan Miragliotta was supposed to be the second coming of John McCarthy, but he hasn’t quite turned out that way. He’s a solid official, who at times has been guilty of coaching fighters a bit too much inside of the cage. However, he’s not afraid to take a point when need be and most times his stoppages are on point.

5. Mike Beltran

Best known for his trademark mustache, Mike Beltran has one of the best looks in the sport. He’s also a great official. He’s always right on top of the fighters when there’s a submission attempt happening, and he’s also got the distinction of having disqualified a fighter for “butt scooting” on his resume. Beltran is also highly respected by both fighters and fans.

4. Herb Dean

Long thought of as the best or second-best referee in the game, Herb Dean has slipped a bit, as of late. He was amidst some controversy when he made the decision to stop a fight between Ben Askren and Robbie Lawler at UFC 235. However, he’s saved many fighters from undo harm over the years, just ask Tim Sylvia. When it comes down to it, Dean is dependable and can take control of the cage in tough moments. He’s a veteran presence who’s necessary and welcome at any time.

3. Marc Goddard

Easily the most controversial referee on this list, regardless of what you think of him, Marc Goddard is a top-notch official. Although he’s been guilty of talking to the fighters during bouts a bit too much, he knows when he’s messed up. One of the few officials who recognizes his mistakes and will openly talk about them on social media and other forums, Goddard is a live and learn type of guy. He’s drastically improved over the years and will be a staple in the MMA referee scene for years to come.

2. Jason Herzog

Easily the most underrated referee in the sport today, Jason Herzog is undoubtedly at the top of the game. Always looking out for the safety of the fighters, Herzog is notorious for looking after defeated or unconscious fighters the right way. As well, he’s not afraid to let fighters work in positions. While a lot of referees are quick to break fighters apart and stand them up, Herzog realizes that you need to give fighters a chance to improve the position and take advantage in certain spots.

1. John McCarthy

Although he’s officially “retired” from MMA officiating, “Big” John McCarthy is still the best the sport has ever seen. His time with the UFC goes all the way back to their second event. McCarthy is seen as the “gold standard” for officials and is oftentimes sought out for his advice and recommendations on all issues MMA. Simply put, he’s the godfather of MMA officiating

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