Referee Marc Goddard believes more education and time are needed to get officials and coaches on the same page when it comes to knowing that a fight should be stopped.
While fights are stopped a bit more frequently in the world of boxing, the sweet science has been around for hundreds of years. MMA is still in its infancy stages — especially compared to boxing and other major North American sports — and because of that, Goddard feels that the MMA mindset hasn’t had enough time to evolve.
“It’s definitely the MMA culture,” Goddard said recently on The MMA Hour. “Things are still being figured out, things are still being learned, and yes, you will see it far more regularly in boxing. I’m not saying MMA coaches are any less persuasive or demand any less from their fighters. Of course they love and care for them just the same. But it’s a definite culture thing.”
Goddard has started his own officials training course for would-be officials, fighters, coaches, media members, commentators, and others who want to learn the unified rules of MMA. Courses can be utilized from the vantage point of a referee, judge, or both.
Being the third man in many marquee matchups, including countless world title fights in the UFC and other promotions, along with incredible passion for the job, have helped Goddard understand what to look for when it comes to the swings a mixed martial arts bout can bring.
“There’s a certain visual aesthetic when it comes to MMA, because, by in-large, the cast majority, 99.9 percent of fights in MMA are finished on the ground,” Goddard explained. “People just aren’t used to seeing fighters being stopped on their feet.
“For myself, I don’t care what’s at stake. I stopped a UFC world championship fight from a standing fighter. Because as a referee, there’s a marker in a fight: Two fighters come out and the fight begins competitive. The tide starts to turn, one fighter might start edging ahead and getting the upper hand, one fighter is forced into being defensive. The onslaught continues and the momentum builds, that defensive position turns into survival. That’s the switch. That’s the aesthetic switch that a referee should be looking for to step in and call a halt to the fight.”
Coaches of fighters such as Calvin Kattar, Brian Ortega, Anthony Smith and others have received scrutiny from fans and media over the last couple of years for not throwing in the towel when things were getting dicey.
No matter how those coaches may have reacted when the times were dire, at least in Goddard’s mind, it has no bearing in how much these coaches care for their athletes. In the end, their hearts are in the right place.
“You can actually say the exact same for MMA corners and MMA coaches,” Goddard explained. “I’ve met some amazing people and I know they love and care for their fighters very deeply. But again, it’s a time surfing, it’s an educational thing, and the culture of MMA competitions being stopped when the person is completely unconscious, or they’re on their back face down eating shots, etc., I think time will take care of that.
“And, of course, greater awareness and education — not just for officials, but for coaches, too. It’s a collective responsibility.”