3 of the best MMA referees, and 1 of the worst

A quick look at one of the toughest jobs in MMA and some of the people who do it
Jul 6, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jorge Masvidal (red gloves) punches Ben Askren (blue gloves) as
Jul 6, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jorge Masvidal (red gloves) punches Ben Askren (blue gloves) as / Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
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MMA referees have a job on fight night that is second in toughness only to the fighters themselves. Unlike the combatants though, referees rarely receive any praise and regularly receive criticism.

Unlike umpires, who have designated positions on a baseball diamond to best view the action and remain relatively safe, MMA referees hear the door close and lock just like the fighters.

Unlike basketball referees, who have an entire court to traverse and partners to transition responsibility to, MMA referees are limited to an Octagon diameter between 25 and 30 feet. Add a six-foot-high chainlink fence and it sounds like a bullfighting arena with referees evading the action constantly in an effort to avoid injury.

If that did not sound stressful enough, it is time to talk about their actual responsibilities inside the cage. The first and foremost of these responsibilities is fighter safety. Contrary to the archaic perception of MMA, there are rules to the sport that are intended to avoid or reduce the likelihood of death or serious bodily injury.

Should one of the combatants become injured to the point they can no longer intelligently defend themselves, it is the referee's responsibility to shield them from further harm with the referee's own physical wellbeing.

If that responsibility were not enough on its own, the referee is also responsible for correcting actions that run afoul of the basic rules of MMA, such as eye pokes, strikes to the groin, and head clashes, just to name a few.

Their decisions can turn the outcome of a fight on a dime, from taking away an advantageous position, to deducting a point due to a flagrant or repeated foul, and even disqualifying an offending fighter.

As fans or consumers of the sport, these decisions are often controversial, especially on social media, where hindsight is regularly used to criticize the split-second decisions of someone who has a first-person view of the action. It is an unfortunate side effect of the job, as 99 percent of referees, even the ones who are considered subpar, do their very best to protect fighters and the integrity of the sport.

Here's who we think do their job the best and someone who could use a little more more.