MMA refs learn to take their hits—and dish them, too
The task of staying attentive to the most minute of details while ensuring the safety of two athletes weighs heavily on any mixed martial arts (MMA) referee.
Yet, just like any sporting official, they also run the risk of getting caught in the middle of the contest themselves.
Joey Lepiten and Franco Rulloda can both attest to that, having figured in altercations with fighters in the past.
“He told me something, I think ’f*ck off.’ It was humid and a bit chaotic at that time,” said Lepiten, who infamously took down Iranian fighter Razi Jabbari shortly after a Universal Reality Combat Championship match with Team Lakay’s Honorio Banario in Baguio City nearly a decade ago.
“So I told him to get out [of the ring]. He pushed me off, and when I went closer, I’m not sure what was it—a punch?—hit me,” he recalled in the “Hit List” podcast over the weekend.
Instincts took over, according to Lepiten, who admitted that he had become unprofessional at that time and that he allowed his martial artist self to get the best of him.
Rulloda’s experience, meanwhile, happened in a card in Davao where he had been officiating for a whole night.
“I was the only ref available for that event,” he said. “But halfway through, exhaustion caught up and my temper [reached] its limit.”
Rulloda mediated between two fighters who he said shared long-harbored animosity toward each other. One of the athletes tried to get his foe to submit via a rear-naked choke and refused to let go despite his opponent tapping out.
“So I removed his levering arm and I applied a wrist lock on him to restrain him,” Rulloda said.