“I would easily agree to a polygraph test.” Goddard is one of the best referees in MMA
From 16 to 20 August, the open European championship in mixed martial arts is being held in Kazan. The main judge of the tournament is Mark Goddard . This referee regularly works in UFC fights and is considered one of the most respected professionals in the world. The correspondent of “Championship” talked to Mark about the intricacies of refereeing in MMA and analyzed the episode with the disqualification of Peter Yan.
– Mark, welcome to Kazan! Is this your first visit to this city?
– Thanks! I have been to Russia many times, but this is my first visit to Kazan. It is very beautiful here, I feel like on vacation here, like in Spain. I will be back here very soon.
– What places have you visited?
– It is difficult to find time, as we are limited by the hotel-sports complex-hotel route. But we managed to visit the Kazan Kremlin, and I really liked the Kul-Sharif mosque.
– What is your goal of staying at this tournament?
– I am the main judge of the tournament, I coordinate the work of the referee. In disputable cases, I correct them. I’m here to improve the quality of work, not to patch holes.
– How would you rate the level of Russian refereeing?
– They have a very good level of training, there are many experienced referees. We turned to their services at the Russian tournament. I would single out Vyacheslav Kiselev, who judged a couple of fights at the UFC tournament in St. Petersburg.
– How is the appointment of judges for fights?
– If the event takes place in the States, then the Athletic Commission will appoint. But if the tournament is outside the States (Moscow, Abu Dhabi, Australia), then first they call this judge or write to the mail about the availability on the given dates. Then they are determined for a fight in accordance with his level of competence and experience.
– Why do you think there have been so many controversial decisions lately related to stopping the battle (premature or late)? Do you see the root of this trouble in the fact that the judges interpret the same episode in different ways?
– Yes, yes, and yes again! Many people who watch fights think they know what they are doing. And they believe that they could judge this or that episode better than the referee. But trust me, these experts couldn’t. As I said earlier, it’s all about ability and experience. These are the two things that cannot be bought, no matter who you are: Barcelona footballer, lawyer, referee – these are the most important things. And one cannot do without the other. The longer you do something, the better your experience and abilities develop.
– Have you tried to solve this problem by conducting seminars?
– Yes, I travel and give seminars for judges all over the world. 2-3 weeks ago I spent them in Paris, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This is important (for IMMAF). This is an integral part of my job and very important for the IMMAF (International Mixed Martial Arts Federation) as it develops amateur MMA. And also, with my help, we are still improving the quality of the work of the judiciary around the world.
– How would you explain that controversial episode with the participation of Peter Yan in the fight with Aljamein Sterling? In what cases should a disqualification be given, and in what cases should a fight be declared invalid?
– This is a very difficult episode. And decisions in such cases are made by a judge. He had a choice, but in this case he decided to disqualify Ian, because he saw intent in this episode.
But meanwhile there are certain rules. In a three-round fight, if such an episode happened in the first or second round and the referee considers it an accident, then the fight will be declared invalid. If this happens in the third five minutes, then the referee proceeds to the judges’ notes. In a five-round bout, the referee will declare the bout invalid if an accident occurs between the first and third rounds. And if this falls on the fourth or fifth round, then everything is not so simple: the referee can also resort to judging cards or disqualification, which he did in the case of Jan, because he saw intent. This is a subjective decision.
– That is, the referee takes responsibility in deciding whether a deliberate blow or not?
– Yes, this is a subjective decision.
– A week after that incident at another UFC tournament, there was a similar episode in a fight between Eric Anders and Darren Stewart. But Herb Dean declared this fight invalid.
– Yes, but it happened in the first round. Therefore, Herb had no other choice.
– Have you or your colleagues ever taken a polygraph test? Especially after the controversial battles, which some have called “robbery” of the fighters?
– No, I never had to ( laughs ). But I would easily agree to hand it over if I was asked to answer for a particular decision in mixed martial arts fights.
– Can you tell any funny story from your career, when there were no rules as such?
– Perhaps one day I will write a book about it, because I have so many funny stories happened. There was a case when one fighter undressed and jumped over the cage in the middle of the battle, but the cage could not stand it and collapsed. I have a lot of such stories. But before I can forget about them, I need to write a book.
– Who, in your opinion, is the most undisciplined UFC fighter?
– Roman Bogatov. I stopped the fight three or four times, but it was finished. Roman behaved recklessly in the octagon, did not control himself, did not assess the risks and danger that he posed to his rival and me. Over the years of my career, I have seen a lot, but so many stops of the fight due to violations of the rules I had to do only because of the actions of Bogatov. Plus, he tried to sort things out with me, getting personal.
– And which of the fighters showed the most respectful attitude towards you?
– Oh, there are a lot of fighters in fact. Of course, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dustin Poirier. But it’s really impossible to list all of them, because during my career I have met a lot of noble fighters who are very good people in life – not only in the UFC, but also in other organizations
– What is the rule in MMA that you don’t like and would like it change or cancel?
– I would return the elbow 12-6, because of which John Jones has the only defeat in his career. Because the rest of the elbow strikes are allowed, but this particular strike is prohibited, which seems strange to me.
– Do you receive a lot of criticism in your address?
– So many. It is impossible to work at such a high level and not receive criticism. Criticism is good, I accept it adequately. But, besides her, a large portion of insults arrives on social networks, on Twitter. However, I take them calmly, because none of those people have ever come up to me on the street and have not presented me for my work.
– Do you interact with fans or fighters on social media?
– Sometimes. But I practically do not carry on personal correspondence with anyone.
– Did any of the fighters write you words of gratitude for the work done in the recent battle?
– Yes, I have a lot of such messages.
– Can you name those fighters who write to you?
– Let it remain a secret.
– Are you and other referees prohibited from communicating with third parties (managers, agents, matchmakers)?
– Yes. There is no common sense in such communication. None of the third parties have ever written to me so that I would help some fighter win. But if that happens, then I will make it clear to this person that this is a bad idea. And then I’ll notify the Athletic Commission to be sorted out.
– Earlier you said that you conduct seminars for judges. Do you do them for the fighters so that they understand the rules?
– This is a young sport, so they also have to explain what’s what.
– Football, for example, is not a young sport, but football players still do not understand some of the rules, especially with VAR.
– Because nobody understands how VAR works ( laughs ).
– Who is the best referee in the world in your opinion?
– Damn, this is a difficult question. I give credit to John McCarthy because he is the greatest judge. There are many good referees in the world, but judges of world caliber can be counted on one hand. Mike Beltran, Josh Rosenthal, Herb Dean, they judge top fights for a reason. But it is also important for me to train less experienced referees and bring them to our level, because I am not indifferent to this sport.