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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One of the best MMA referees, Herb Dean

A martial arts student from a young age and a brief competitor in MMA, Herb Dean has long been considered one of the best referees in the sport.

Dean grew up in Pasadena, California and was training with literal MMA pioneer, Zane Frazier, who was preparing for UFC 1. Dean would continue to train in multiple martial arts until he made his own MMA debut in September of 2001, just weeks shy of his 31st birthday.

Dean's MMA career would continue into 2007 with less than optimal results, but the experience would give Dean a foundation for a career that would span more than a decade and beyond.

John McCarthy is often considered the UFC's first referee, predominantly because he became so synonymous with the brand when he joined the organization for UFC 2. Since McCarthy's retirement as a referee, Dean has stepped in as the UFC's main event caliber referee.

While Dean is often seen as the standard for referees, he would probably be the first to tell you he makes mistakes.

The UFC's regard for his skill as a referee though, was never more apparent than it was in 2020. Former fighter Dan Hardy was on the commentary team for a Fight Island card when he overtly exclaimed for Dean to stop a fight between Jai Herbert and Francisco Trinaldo.

While accounts vary as to what conversations followed, the UFC's stance was clear and Hardy was released from his broadcasting contract.

Dean continues to referee many high profile fights across the globe and display his dedication to the martial arts.