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To Become an MMA Referee or Judge for the Edmonton Combative
Sports Commission

We receive a number of such requests from sports minded individuals who have seen the sport and wish to get involved. It is a relatively "new" sport, only a dozen years old in its current form. The Unified Rules are accessible on the Internet, but actual refereeing and judging is far more complicated than the rules suggest.

The North American parent organization for MMA is called the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC). They house the rules for amateur and professional boxing, MMA and Muay thai. It is a US government legislative body that can't change its government assigned name (ABC), but it handles the other two sports mentioned.

There are about 4 ABC approved certification courses for refereeing and judging MMA. The number one course, the "gold" standard, is the John McCarthy COMMAND course. You can visit John McCarthy's web site for COMMAND (certification of mixed martial arts national development), and there you will find the list of the moves, submissions, takedowns, positions - about 100 of them, that you have to recognize and know. Some have strange names (Peruvian necktie, twister, crucifix), some have Japanese names (gogoplata, omoplata, etc.). These are the classic (basic) moves performed in MMA. Knowledge of this information is the key to being considered as a qualified referee or judge in the Edmonton jurisdiction. We only use COMMAND certified referees and judges. This decision was made a couple of years ago and it has been excellent in terms of the performance results of our referees and judges. We have negligible controversial calls or results in this difficult sport!

Part of the McCarthy exam is to view the 100 items - you see each one performed for 5 seconds on a video and you have 10 seconds to write down the name; then the next one is viewed for 5 seconds and so on – for the total 10+. You need to correctly identify something like 90 to pass. So you really have to know the information listed on the McCarthy web site. When you take Big John’s course he actually presents each of the moves with fighters so you are reminded what each move looks like - but you have to know them ahead of time as they are tough to remember in one session.

The pass rate for the McCarthy course the first time for most people is less than 20% because new officials think they can identify all the submissions, take-downs and positions, but unless you have taken Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes for some period of time, it is doubtful you really know or can identify all of them. In preparation for the course you have to know your stuff otherwise you will not pass. Again, the submissions, takedowns and positions are listed on McCarthy’s web site and video clips of much of this technical information is also available by searching the 'net generally.

So if you want to be a ref or judge in Edmonton, the best starting point is to go to McCarthy's site and to see what you have to know to pass the course. Note you also have to pass a practical "in cage" component as well, when you take the course). So in a general sense to officiate you need to be competent in all three areas: theory, technical and practical.

To be quite honest most referees and judges spend a couple of years practicing Brazilian jiu jitsu in an MMA club so they know this stuff automatically. It's that tough a sport to referee and judge. In terms of Edmonton, one club I can suggest you consider is run by Bryan Hogeveen who is a sociology professor at the University of Alberta. He is one of the few people in the province with a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He has trained some of our judges. You don't have to be proficient in Brazilian jiu jitsu to join such a club - you are there to learn the moves in a relatively safe environment. You can e-mail Dr. Hogeveen at bryan.hogeveen@ualberta.ca . You could also contact our lead official Kyle Cardinal who trains people at a couple of different gyms. He can be reached at cardinalbjj@hotmail.com