Referees are some of the most scrutinized individuals in all of sports. Sometimes it’s unfair scrutiny, but in the case of Steve Mazzagatti, the scrutiny is quite justified.

The ref is one of the more recognizable people in MMA, but for all the wrong reasons. I’ll let UFC President Dana White explain the majority of MMA fans’ feelings on Mazzagatti:

“Mazzagatti will fuck up any fight. The worst referee in the history of fighting. Period. I don’t care if there was a fight back in the old days, okay, the Stone Age. Mazzagatti is the worst referee ever. The guy has no business watching mixed martial arts, let alone refereeing it.”

I’m sure there are worse referees out there, but none have more high-profile screw-ups than Mazzagatti. His most infamous moment came at UFC 81 when Brock Lesnar made his UFC debut against former champion Frank Mir. Mazzagatti deducted a point from Lesnar for hitting the back of the head (something that normally requires a stern warning) and was extremely slow in seeing Lesnar tap out. Considering Lesnar was locked in a kneebar, the heavyweight could’ve suffered serious damage to his legs. And Mazzagatti even admitted to costing Anthony Johnson a fight.

He’s made some extremely questionable calls in his career, but perhaps none worse than what transpired at World Series of Fighting 3 in the rematch of Jon Fitch and Josh Burkman. Fitch was caught in a guillotine and clearly went limp. Burkman, realizing this, let go of his opponent and began to celebrate. And then Mazzagatti stepped in to “call the fight.”

With such glaring instances of incompetence, should referees be held accountable for their mistakes? Referees are human and mistakes will happen, but when they’re this blatant and occur repeatedly, it’s time for some penalties to be handed out. The referee is in the cage to not only enforce the rules, but also to protect the fighters. It’s obvious Mazzagatti wasn’t protecting anyone at WSOF 3.

Other sports leagues have penalties in place for when referees make mistakes. The athletic commissions need to institute similar measures for MMA.

It’s one thing to be a second or two late in a stoppage, but it’s quite another to be light years behind. Mazzagatti and other officials need to understand that there will be consequences for not doing their jobs. If you make a mistake at your job, you should be held responsible. The same should be true of referees who clearly fail inside the cage. A stern warning should be the first measure, followed by monetary fines or a suspension.

After all, if there are no consequences, what motivation is there for referees to be competent in their jobs?

Photo: Steve Mazzagatti (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.