Posted 09/25/2013 by Marlene Taborda in Michelle in Charge

Who’s The Boss… Rrrreally??

By Michelle D. Drake, Special Guest Contributor, September 25th, 2013

Mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport today. The speed at which it gains new fans on a daily basis is astounding… and its growth is only expanding at the most rapid of rates. For promoters, fighters and companies that wish to advertise on fighter’s asses, that’s a good thing: a very good thing! For fans, sellers of beer and t-shirt-making companies, too, MMA’s growth is a good thing. For aspiring referees and judges, the expansion of MMA is a good thing—seeing a trend?! What’s not a good thing is the miss-information regarding the rules of MMA being put out to fans, fighters and coaches.

But I’m not here to talk about how that information is being delivered nor how to fix it. Instead, I’d like to clarify the rules for you fine folk sat before your computers or smart-phones reading my incredibly awesome drivel. One rule in particular in which we’ll discuss here today is who is really in charge of ending a fight – the doctor or referee. It came to light this past UFC 165 when Big John McCarthy asked the doctor to not stop the Jones vs. Gustafsson fight due to Jones having a gnarly gash above his right eye. BJM was heard “begging” the doctor to not stop the fight and to let it continue.

But first, I need to set the record straight…. it’s not a rule, per se, that I’m going to talk about today. It’s more of a “spirit of the law,” type of rule. In all the laws and rules that govern us, there are concepts known as, “letter of the law,” and “spirit of the law.” Letter of the law is just that—what the words say. Spirit of the law is what’s not written, but what is implied. Well, if you refer to the Unified Rules of MMA, neither the letter nor spirit is mentioned with regards to doctor stoppages. So we have to defer to what our most experienced and trusted referees tell us to do. BJM and Herb Dean are to whom I’m referring. Both gentlemen have told me (and all others who attended their training seminars) what I’m about to explain to you… keep reading!

We referees are the ‘sole arbiter’ of the match that we’re officiating. Meaning, we get the final say.  We are the head honcho in charge of that fight we’re in the middle of. The doctor is not in charge of anything except assessing an injury and determining if the fight can continue or not. The doctors work with us, not over us. We can override the doctor’s opinion and let the fight continue OR we can stop the fight if we so desire. Now with that said, more often than not we will heed the doctor’s advice because, well, they are the doctor and know way more than we do!

BJM has been in the fight game since day one. He’s been in the refereeing game since day one—quite literally. He’s seen thousands upon thousands of injuries…. it’s safe to say he can determine what a fight-ending injury is and what’s not. So BJM persuading the doctor this past Saturday to not stop the fight was him acting in good faith for the fighter according to his experience. It’s our job to ensure fighter safety as well as having a good, clean, fair fight.

Neither of which were compromised.

Do keep in mind that what I’ve stated above are just general guidelines. Each state has its own rules regarding doctor stoppages. In Indiana, we must adhere to the doctor’s advice and stop the fight—but that’s only after we’ve asked the doctor to assess the fighter. In California, for example, the doctor can actually stop a contest without being asked to check on any injury! So there’s a long way we have to go with getting all states on the same page as well as getting all rules outlined and spelled out. But with the help of this little blog and other officials speaking up, eventually everyone will be on the same page of MMA rules knowledge!

As usual, I thank you for reading this and look forward to your questions, thoughts and comments.

Your friend in the cage,



Michelle, along with her youngest daughter, two dogs and turtle, reside in Indiana. Her eldest daughter serves in the United States Navy and if she talks to Michelle any longer than 12 seconds, you’ll see what a proud Navy mom she is! Check out Michelle on facebook and twitter.




Marlene Taborda