20 Best UFC Referees of All Time

Best UFC Referees

A great referee is the unsung hero of any sport. They allow the spectator to enjoy the action and can step in with fair and accurate calls when needed. Sadly, a bad referee can do exactly the opposite and ruin the spectacle that we are trying to enjoy.

That’s why we wanted to celebrate the best UFC referees of all time. These are men that have many countless great decisions in hundreds of bouts. They have authority in the ring, while making sure they are never in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Let’s get started with our countdown!

20 Best UFC Referees Ever!

20. Greg Franklin

Greg Franklin

Nationality: American

Still Active? No (2019)

Number of Fights: 109

Greg Franklin is an American UFC referee who has been officiating fights since 2006. While a great referee, sadly the UFC didn’t see the best of him. While he officiated in over 100 fights, most of them were outside the organization.

He is known for his professionalism and attention to detail in the octagon, and Franklin is also a certified personal trainer and nutritionist. He left the UFC in 2010, but continued officiating in other organizations until his retirement in 2019.

Highlights from UFC

19. Steve Mazzagatti

Steve Mazzagatti

Nationality: American

Still Active? No (Last UFC bout 2015)

Number of Fights: 459

Mazzagatti is one of the most famous UFC referees of all time, but not always for the right reasons. This is probably the most controversial entry on the list (don’t worry, Mario Yamasaki isn’t included), but he deserves to be here. Yes, many of his calls were controversial, but when you officiate for over 450 fights, you’re bound to get a few things wrong.

He was an important part of the rise of the UFC but as refereeing standards improved, he found the center of attention a little too often. He last reffed in the UFC in 2013 before continuing for another couple of years in the WSOF and Invicta FC before retiring in 2015.

Referee Admits He Cost Fighter a Loss – Web Exclusive

18. Kevin Mulhall

Kevin Mulhall

Nationality: American

Still Active? No (2019)

Number of Fights: 100

Kevin Mulhall is possibly most famous for being on the receiving end of a shove by MMA fighter Jason High. The American disagreed with the decision and then took matters into his own hands. The UFC immediately cut the fighter from the organization.

For many, Mulhall was underused as a referee and has since left the sport in 2019. He was able to make quick calls in the ring and always put fighter safety first. Sadly, we didn’t see more of him in the octagon.

Taphouse MMA- Advice from UFC Veteran Kevin Mulhall

17. Kevin Sataki

Kevin Sataki

Nationality: American

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 70+

Kevin Sataki is an American UFC referee who has been officiating fights since 2019. Sataki is known for his ability to make quick and fair calls in the octagon. He is also a certified personal trainer and nutritionist.

While a promising referee, he has since moved away from the UFC and has most recently been officiating in Fight Club Rush.

The Life of UFC Referee Kevin Sataki

16. Steve Perceval

Steve Perceval

Nationality: Australian

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 200+

There are not many non-Americans on this list, but Steve Perceval is one of them. He is an Australian referee who has been officiating fights since 2014.

He is known for his calm and composed demeanor in the heat of the moment. He also has the ability to communicate effectively with fighters during bouts. The certified fitness trainer could well move up higher on this list in the years to come.

UFC Referee Steve Perceval On Controversial Decisions & MMA Evolution

15. Jacob Montalvo

Jacob Montalvo

Nationality: American

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 150+

Jacob Montalvo is another ref who is relatively new to the sport and the organization. The American has been officiating fights since 2019 and he has gained a lot of respect.

Montalvo puts a lot of focus on fighter safety while being able to stay away from controversial decisions. He had a limited MMA career but thankfully, he’s a much better ref than fighter!

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qOHDe6I1kc

14. Kevin Macdonald

Kevin Macdonald

Nationality: American

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 300+

A referee lives and dies by their decisions and for a long time, Macdonald was known for getting it right. He’s been officiating for a long time and can manage fighters well in the octagon to ensure enjoyable fights.

Some of the biggest fights in the UFC have happened under his watchful eye. However, his UFC career came to a swift end after possibly the worst call the sport has ever seen when he ended the Cutelaba – Ankalaev fight far too early.

It was a very quick way to end his good name. Since then, he has been working with Bellator and Cage Fighters FC. Hopefully he can make it back to the UFC one day.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z63hgahp1RE

13. Josh Rosenthal

Josh Rosenthal

Nationality: American

Still Active? No (2019)

Number of Fights: 480

In another life, Josh Rosenthal would be much higher on this list and should still be calling fights today. His career was cut short by the consequences of his own actions, including being convicted of manufacturing and distributing marijuana.

He started officiating in the UFC in 2008 and only stopped when he went to jail. Upon his release in 2015, he did ref a few more bouts in the UFC but hasn’t worked since 2019. He was a quick and decisive ref who could have overseen a lot more than the impressive 480 fights he did.

Best Referee Moments in MMA

12. Leon Roberts

Leon Roberts

Nationality: English

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 300+

As with Kevin Macdonald, Leon Roberts is another referee that has suffered from one terrible call. In the UFC, he developed a reputation for clear and effective communication during fights which allowed them to flow. Before 2020, he was often used by UFC for their fight nights.

That was until José Aldo vs. Petr Yan happened. Unlike Macdonald, who called a fight far too early, Roberts called this one far too late. Ever since UFC 251, he has been working exclusively with Cage Warriors.

Despite that terrible call, he’s been an excellent ref for a long time. He also happened to go viral for putting a fighter in a choke position when he wasn’t getting off his opponent!

Ref Forced to Use Rear Naked Choke on Fighter

11. Kerry Hatley

Kerry Hatley

Nationality: American

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 150+

Kerry Hatley is one of the most active referees working in the game right now. As well as being used by the UFC, he also often works with many other organizations such as Bellator, Fury FC, and PFL. He even officiates Muay Thai too.

He has an excellent ability to make the tough calls and having a clear mind in those high-pressure situations. As with every ref on this list, he has gotten things wrong at times but has become one of the most respected officials in the game.

Superman Punch KO 2012 Legacy FC

10. Keith Peterson

Keith Peterson

Nationality: American

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 500+

Now we move into the top 10 UFC referees of all time, with Keith Peterson being at the ten spot. He’s an authoritative figure in the octagon, which has led him to have the nickname of Keith “No Nonsense” Peterson.

He’s been in the game for a long time now, with plenty of experience behind him with over 500 fights. He’s excellent at managing fights and also frequently works with other organizations, such as Bellator and AOW.

9. Dan Miragliotta

Dan Miragliotta

Nationality: American

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 700+

You don’t need to be a big guy to be a great ref in the UFC, but it can help. Dan Miragliotta is one of the most physically imposing UFC refs to have officiated in the sport, and he uses that size to manage fighters effectively.

That ability is also helped by his martial arts background, which includes him being a muay thai instructor and a black belt in both shito-ryu and kenpo karate. There have been some controversial moments in his 700+ fights, but he continues to be a reliable and trusted ref in the UFC.

Dan Miragliotta – Go Kiss Later

8. Chris Tognoni

Chris Tognoni

Nationality: American

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 550+

Many may argue with Chris Tognoni being this high, but I think he deserves his place. Still very much active in UFC, he’s consistently used for high-profile fights and is becoming increasingly respected for protecting fighters.

Often the criticism comes from his condescending tone and being very verbal, which many put down to him being an ex-teacher. He’s improved as a ref over the years and given his performances recently, gets our number eight spot.

IMMAF 2015 Referee Chris Tognoni Interview

7. Mark Smith

Mark Smith

Nationality: American

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 500+

Being a UFC referee, you need to respond very quickly to dangerous situations, cope well under pressure, and make the right calls in a split second. They are also features you need to be an excellent fighter pilot. Mark Smith has been both.

He’s used those skills from his old job to be brilliant in his new career. This is all despite not having a background in MMA. He ensures fair fights and ensures that fighters stay as safe as possible. He’s one of the best refs the UFC has ever had.

UFC Referee Mark Smith on Early Stoppages

6. Mike Beltran

Mike Beltran

Nationality: American

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 400+

While Dan Miragliotta may be memorable due to his sheer size, Mike Beltran is distinctive in the octagon for a whole different reason. For most of his career, the ref has sported some epic facial hair, along with being heavily tattooed.

But there’s a lot more to Mike Beltran than a unique look. He’s an exceptional referee who has overseen over 400 MMA fights. Working mostly in the UFC, he’s developed a great reputation for carefully managing fights and ensuring they go smoothly.

Legendary UFC Ref Mike Beltran Reveals the Highs & Lows of Officiating

5. Yves Lavigne

Yves Lavigne

Nationality: Canadian

Still Active? No (2020)

Number of Fights: 305

There are some referees in this list whose influence goes far beyond just how good of a referee they were. People like Yves Lavigne were important in developing MMA, and the UFC, into the respected sports they are today.

Lavigne may have made some questionable calls at times, but there is no doubt about how respected he was in the game. The professional referee last officiated in the UFC in 2019, before stepping away from the sport in 2020.

MMA The Reckoning Yves Lavigne Interview

4. Marc Goddard

Marc Goddard

Nationality: English

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 700+

Marc Goddard is the last of our non-Americans on the list. The English referee has developed an impressive reputation which has seen him officiate now in over 700 fights. He’s highly skilled at ensuring fighter safety with a strict implementation of the rules.

Along with being an elite referee, he’s also done plenty of work in the sport as a coach and a trainer. He’s still actively used by the UFC and deserves his place as one of their most trusted officials. There is no doubt that Goddard is one of the best current UFC referees.

Referee Marc Goddard Debunks The Biggest Myths About MMA Reffing

3. Jason Herzog

Jason Herzog

Nationality: American

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 700+

The top two in this list effectively pick themselves as the greatest MMA referees, but the best of the rest is Jason Herzog. As with Marc Goddard, he’s officiated in over 700 contests and is one of the most actively used and trusted refs by the UFC today.

He’s very calm in the octagon, which is in contrast to many other officials out there. He communicates effectively with fighters to ensure everything goes smoothly. You can easily see him reffing in over 1,000 fights before he’s done.

Jason Herzog took the blame for Anthony Smith’s damage

2. John McCarthy

John McCarthy

Nationality: American

Still Active? No (2017)

Number of Fights: 946

He was very close to getting the top spot but in the number two position is “Big” Jon McCarthy. Not only was he a brilliant referee, but he was instrumental in making the UFC what it is today. He goes down in history as a legend of the sport, especially with his work in defining its rules.

As a referee, he was close to flawless. He had an intimate knowledge of the rules to make clear, concise calls in the heat of the moment. He was a powerful and authoritative figure on the canvas to ensure that fights went smoothly with maximum entertainment.

He sadly stepped away from officiating in 2017 after nearly 1,000 fights but is still connected closely with the sport as a commentator and podcaster.

Big John McCarthy: 25+ Years of MMA Ref Stories

1. Herb Dean

Herb Dean

Nationality: American

Still Active? Yes

Number of Fights: 1,600+

I heavily considered Big John for the number one spot, but it has to go to Herb Dean. He’s the greatest of all time, and in terms of getting the big calls right, he has an incredibly high percentage.

Any fight that involved Herb Dean as a ref is sure to go off without a hitch. Of course, he’s not perfect, but when you’ve officiated so many fights, you’re bound to get a few calls wrong.

Overall, Dean can be described as both the perfect professional and able to end fights at the perfect time. Being an ex-fighter, he knows the sport inside out and still in his early 50s, we’ll be seeing him in the octagon for many years to come.

The Hardest Job in the World – Herb Dean

Best Referees Ever – FAQs

Who are the current UFC refs?

The UFC uses many different referees for their fights, but the five most active officials on the UFC referees list in 2022 are:

  • Jason Herzog
  • Keith Peterson
  • Chris Tognoni
  • Mark Smith
  • Herb Dean

At the moment, if you’re watching a big UFC fight, then you’ll most likely see one of these refs in the octagon with them.

Who is the female referee in UFC?

There have been very few female referees in UFC, and none are currently active. There are female referees in other organizations, such as Daniela Modad. The most famous female referee in the UFC was Kim Winslow, and she last worked for the organization in 2015.

Who is the oldest UFC referee?

This is a difficult question to answer as, unlike with fighters, the ages of referees aren’t very well known. However, the answer is probably Dan Miragliotta, who is 59 years old.

How to become a UFC referee?

There is no set path to becoming a UFC referee. It helps if you have a background in the sport, but you don’t need to have one.

Those looking to become a referee should look for opportunities at local events, before working their way up to regional events and beyond. Once you get into the sport, then you’ll want to complete the IMMAF International Referee & Judges Certification course to progress your career.

You can then work your way up to being a respected referee, and selected by the UFC to officiate their bouts. It’s difficult to do without MMA experience, but Mark Smith is a great example of how it can be done.

Has a UFC referee been knocked out?

In MMA, the referees often have to put themselves in danger, especially when they jump in to stop a submission, for example. However, a UFC referee has never been knocked out, but it has happened at other MMA events.

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Kenny Jarvis
Kenny Jarvis
I have been practicing and studying boxing since I was a teenager. I am passionate about the sport, along with many other martial arts. While my fighting days may be over, I love channeling my passion into my writing to provide insightful blogs.