Herb Dean defends controversial calls


Reffing is the hardest, most thankless job in the sport. The ability to juggle a man's livelihood and his health, deciding when a fighter goes out if he could come to when he hits the ground, requires a near superhuman level of skill.

Referee Herb Dean is universally regarded as one of the best referees in mixed martial arts. At UFC 169 and UFC 170 Dean made controversial calls; on Monday he appeared on Ariel Helwani's The MMA Hour, and defended them, while acknowledging that criticism was inherent in the position

"I think that it's part of my job, that I am going to be criticized," said Dean as transcribed by MMAMania. "I think that I was very lucky to be the darling of mixed martial arts officials ... it felt kind of strange. But, I know that part of my job is to make decisions that a lot of times, people aren't going to be happy with."

At UFC 169 Dean stopped UFC men's Bantamweight champion Renan Barao from hitting Urijah Faber any further, but Faber had given a thumbs up, just out of view.

The moment the fight was stopped Faber explained he had had his thumb up, and  in the post fight interview, while offering Dean the highest praise for his skills as a referee, said it was the wrong call.

Given Dean's vantage point, which was the correct one given the attack, the thumbs up would have been difficult to see. While Faber does seem to have been OK, the math of the matter is that he took a dozen punches to the head without moving at all, which does not represent an intelligent defense.

"As far as how I came to that decision, he had already taken three shots, he had been hurt badly," explained Dean. "When Barao was doing his thing where he was trying to look up at me, he actually was taking his posture off Urijah a little bit. So I moved in to check in on Urijah, you know, like OK, he's kind of taking his posture off of him, and he's not responding to that. And what I did, a tool that's been very helpful to me over the years, I tell the fighters to fight back, show me something, and based on that response, is how I made my decision.... He attempted to show me that he was fine by raising a thumb. My position was a good position, but I was not in a correct position to see his thumb. I did not see that thumb. I can't expect him to know exactly where I am at all times."

At UFC 170 UFC Dean stopped UFC women's Bantamweight champion? Ronda Rousey from hitting Sara McMann any further, after Rousey landed a knee to the liver and McMann crumpled.

When asked if it was the right call, Dean was unequivocal.

"Absolutely," he replied. "She took the shot, and as far as with her posture, when she falls, she turns away from her opponent, hands out and holds her injury -- not blocking, but holds. There's a difference. Ronda is on the other side of her, shots are going to be coming from the sides. I could see if she had protected her body, but she held, which means that she's in a lot of pain. Usually when I see fighters hold something, often, something's broken. She's in no position to be defending herself."

Both decisions were controversial on the UG. Do you feel any different after hearing what the third man in the cage had to say?

MMA gear now available at the UG Store


RYU Signature Tee LE

RYU Signature Tee LE

Only $49.99

Super Body Care Travel Kit 1oz

Super Body Care Travel Kit 1oz

$7.99 $4.99


tags: UFC 169   UFC 170   Herb Dean   

Get the MMA Underground app. for iPhone and Andriod devices.
iPhone Application Andriod MMA Underground Application

Recent Comments »

CaptChaos site profile image  

3/19/14 2:36 PM by CaptChaos

I would have been fine if they stopped the Reem/Browne fight when Browne was getting mauled against the fence.The point I am trying to make is this... when the fighter is fine a few seconds after the stoppage that should tell us that maybe that fight should not have been stopped.Uriah was fine. he was not loopy, or dazed, or seriously hurt. many fighters are badly hurt during the fight and those fights continue. I get it though cause it's part of the sport.Plus both of these fights were Championship fights.Remember when Chuck fought Jeremy Horn? That fight could have been stopped several times. Horn was getting killed and knocked down several times with hard shots.I've screamed at my TV begging refs to stop fights before but neither of these 2 fights warranted a stoppage. Relax and asses the situation.

Doem site profile image  

3/18/14 10:53 PM by Doem

I agreed with the first call not the second

trainhardtwoin site profile image  

3/18/14 8:48 PM by trainhardtwoin

It's not about pain it's about protecting us from permanent damage. Just like Joe Rogan said "MMA is safer because instead of taking repeated blows you will get knocked out faster"That way we don't end up like Muhammad Ali. My Sensei always told me to not complain about my loses, because I shouldn't of been in that position in the first place.

ender852 site profile image  

3/18/14 4:40 PM by ender852

i agree with both calls

MisterHawkeMMA site profile image  

3/18/14 3:38 PM by MisterHawkeMMA

Where are you getting this "you have to give the fighter a chance to recover" rule? That's not a rule at all, I'm pretty sure you just made that up. And you might say that you would like for that to be the rule... but for every one time that a fighter would come back from near defeat, we'd have a ton of extra concussions from refs waiting too long to step in. The rules say "if you aren't intelligently defending yourself, then the ref will"... so the only arguments that can even be made is does deflecting blows constitute intelligently defending yourself? And for how long do you have to not be intelligently defending yourself for a fight to end? Neither are made clear... so that is what ends up being up to the ref. I'll NEVER get on a refs case for not agreeing with his discretion in either area. He's the one being paid to use his discretion, not me. I think we've all got to stop being such a stupid fan base, and instead of bashing refs for and judges for following criteria we don't like... we need to direct ALL of our concerns to the athletic commissions and try and get some of these rules altered.

MisterHawkeMMA site profile image  

3/18/14 3:23 PM by MisterHawkeMMA

Who cares if you get dropped with a shot to the liver, hold your liver, turn away, and eat three punches to the face without moving? The ref cares... that's sort of what he's paid for.

MisterHawkeMMA site profile image  

3/18/14 3:22 PM by MisterHawkeMMA

I agreed with Herb 100% in both situations. Even though I do think both fighters still had some fight in them, I think it's the fighters responsibility to show that they still want to fight, and neither did by a mile.

PointyShinyBurn site profile image  

3/18/14 1:05 PM by PointyShinyBurn

It has absolutely nothing to do with how badly a fighter is hurting after the stoppage, it's to do with whether, in the moment, they are intelligently defending themselves.

Sukulaku site profile image  

3/18/14 12:56 PM by Sukulaku

There are two ways of looking at it: What was the right call in that situation with that knowledge that Herb had and what was the right call looking back at it with the replays etc. From Herb's point of view, I think he made the right call. He didn't have enough time and data to make any other conclusions in those situations.

CaptChaos site profile image  

3/18/14 11:54 AM by CaptChaos

I agree with you 100% but Herb is not admitting he made any mistakes. That's the problem...