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15 Of The Worst Ref Mistakes In MMA History

Updated September 23, 2021 481 votes 139 voters 4.1k views15 items

List RulesVote up the worst MMA refereeing decisions ever

MMA referee screw ups happen from time to time. After all, referees are human. Even the most seasoned and trusted refs make bad decisions. But stupid MMA ref calls can be costly, and while there aren't any genuinely stupid MMA refs at the top level of the sport, everyone makes mistakes. A bad call can mean the difference between a champion and a loser. An early stoppage might give an undeserving fighter a win. Missing an illegal blow can cause injury. A late stoppage can leave a fighter unconscious for too long, which can lead to brain damage or worse (death, duh). 

MMA referees do more than just raise the winner’s hand at the end of a fight; they're responsible for the safety of the fighters. Some mistakes are worse than others, but even the slightest oversight can have a huge impact on a fighter’s health and on career. The worst decisions by MMA referees have had serious consequences. Buckle in for the worst MMA ref calls. 

  • 5

    Renan Barao Vs. Uriah Faber: Referee Herb Dean

    Video: YouTube

    When: February 1, 2014

    Where: Newark, NJ

    The Call: Renan Barao defended his belt against Uriah “The California Kid”  Faber in the main event at UFC 169. Things weren't looking good as Faber got dropped by a hard right overhand punch from Barao in the first round. On the ground, Barao threw a barrage of hammer fists, which mostly hit Faber’s glove. Faber was fully conscious, still defending, and waiting to get a better position when Herb Dean ended the fight.

    Dean called the fight just after Faber gave a thumb's up letting him know he was okay, and, according to a post-mortem on Fox Sports, after Barao gave him a look like "can we call this please?".

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  • 6

    Matt Brown Vs. Pete Sell: Referee Yves Lavigne

    Video: YouTube

    When: March 7, 2009

    Where: Columbus, OH

    The Call: Matt Brown came out strong against Pete Sell at UFC 96, throwing head kicks and punches in the first 20 seconds that dropped Sell. Referee Yves Lavigne stopped the fight, then changed his mind and told the fighters to continue. Brown continued the beat down, stopping intermittently to ask Lavigne to stop the fight (again). Members of the audience also yelled at Lavigne to stop the bout, and Sell ended up with a severe ass whooping. Lavigne later admitted he was wrong not to stop things earlier. 

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  • 7

    Chris Weidman Vs. Mark Munoz: Referee Josh Rosenthal

    Video: YouTube

    When: June 11, 2012

    Where: San Jose, CA

    The Call: Middleweights Mark Munoz and Chris Weidman headlined UFC on Fuel TV 4. In the second round of the fight, Munoz walked right into a big elbow, which knocked him to the mat. Weidman got his back. Unable to defend himself, Munoz absorbed 17 hard right hands to the head  and was bleeding all over the mat before ref Josh Rosenthal finally waved off the fight.

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  • 8

    Josh Burkman Vs. Jon Fitch: Referee Steve Mazzagatti

    Video: YouTube

    When: June 14, 2013

    Where: Las Vegas, NV

    The Call: Jon Fitch's big World Series of Fighting debut didn’t play out so well for him. Opponent Josh Burkman made quick work of Fitch, landing punches that stunned Fitch and brought him to ground less than a minute into the first round. Burkman locked in a tight guillotine and went for the finish. In a matter of seconds, Fitch was out, and referee Steve Mazzagatti stood by watching. Burkman let go of Fitch and got up to celebrate his victory before Mazzagatti stepped in.

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