Kim Winslow: Being a referee is also about having the 'it' factor

by Ariel Helwani | source:

The first female referee in the UFC, Kim Winslow has come under heavy criticism recently for what is perceived as poor reffing, most recently at Saturday's Strikeforce when many, including the winner King Mo, felt Winslow was late in stopping the Lawal vs. Lorenz fight.

However, Nevada State Athetic Commissioner Keith Kizer, frequently named among the best commissioners in North America, feels the criticism is unwarranted.

"I had no issues with the stoppage," Kizer wrote to on Monday when asked for a response to Lawal's post-fight comments about the referee.

In 2009  MMAFighting interviewed Winslow, and provides relevance to the discussion today.

Michael David Smith: How do you feel about being the first female referee in UFC history?

Kim Winslow: Well, I was already the first female referee in MMA, so being the first in the UFC is just another step for me. It's an honor, and I'm trying to set the bar for us ladies and I look forward to seeing more female refs in the future.

MDS: Should referees be noticed, or are the best referees the ones we don't notice? Do you like getting attention from refereeing televised fights?

KW: I'm a little bit uncomfortable getting attention, to be honest. I like to do my job and go home. Getting attention is a little new for me ... You don't want a referee to stand out. The referees should be in the background. The fighters should shine, not the referees.

MDS: What is your professional background and how did you end up in the Octagon?

KW: My professional background is I'm an air-traffic controller. I started watching the UFC in 1993, with UFC 1 and was an instant fan of the sport. I also trained in martial arts even before UFC 1, starting out with taekwondo, and then I switched martial arts forms and learned Brazilian jiu jitsu, muay thai and other forms. So I'm trained in multiple styles, and I understand the ground game and the stand-up, and to me being involved in martial arts is very intellectually stimulating, like looking at submission attempts and how to properly apply them. That knowledge definitely helps. And I also think my work as an air-traffic controller has really helped me learn to tune out the background stuff and only focus on the task at hand. The crowd has no affect on me, and I can handle the stress, and my job has helped prepare me there. Air-traffic control and refereeing are both jobs where your primary focus is safety, and in that respect they go hand-in-hand, and they're also both high-adrenaline jobs.

MDS: How important is a martial arts background to being a referee? And do you think referees need to have fought MMA?

KW: Well, you have to know martial arts, but being a referee is also about having the "it" factor. Some people have it and some don't. A lot of people who have martial arts backgrounds wouldn't be good referees because they don't have that judgment, the ability to make those instant decisions. Other times you might meet someone who doesn't have as much of a martial arts background but does have that ability to understand how to make those decisions. Background in the sport can help, but it's not absolutely necessary. I'm also definitely a proponent of continuing education, and I still attend seminars. I would have loved to continue my martial arts training but my state, Nevada, does not allow you to train if you're a sanctioned referee because they don't want any conflicts of interest if you train at the same gym as a fighter -- which I understand.

MDS: So you've trained in martial arts but you've never had an MMA fight yourself?

KW: No, I am not a fighter, I'm a safety girl. I don't have the warrior spirit, I'm much more concerned about whether the other person is OK. Some of us are meant to ref and some of us are meant to fight. I have the capability to fight, but I'm not the person who fights unless I have to defend myself.

MDS: Are there any misconceptions that you think MMA fans have about referees?

KW: One thing I would like them to keep in mind is it's really easy to referee from the couch or the stands with instant replay, but we have to make split-second decisions based on what we see in the ring. We also see things and hear things that they don't: Sometimes we see a fighter's eyes roll back into his head, a flash knockout, which the cameras don't always catch. Fighters' recoveries from those flash knockouts can be absolutely phenomenal, sometimes they can recover by the time they hit the canvas, but we have to make fighter safety our priority. So fans should keep that in mind.

MDS: What questions do fans ask you about being a referee?

KW: The question I get a lot that I'd like to address is, as a female, whether I can stop a fight, and should I be restricted to lower weight classes. I've never been restricted to lower weight classes. The largest fighters I've been in the ring with were a 386-pounder and a 392-pounder up in Washington (Ernest Henderson vs. Gaylon Cooper in 2007) and I did get in the middle of them and I did stop them effectively without a problem. I do want people to know that. That is not a factor. We are not expected to fight the fighters. I am definitely able to defend myself if it came to that. And anyway I'm not a small female. I'm bigger than Steve Mazzagatti, Josh Rosenthal and Yves Lavigne. It's not a gender issue, and if I weren't capable of stopping fights I wouldn't have come as far as I have.

Read entire article...


tags: Kim Winslow   Muhammed Lawal   King Mo   


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Recent Comments »

Kings21 site profile image  

2/10/12 3:06 PM by Kings21

As if kizer would ever say something involving the athletic commission was not ok.

UGCTT_SidRival site profile image  

2/10/12 2:34 PM by UGCTT_SidRival

Wonder if KK has seen our romo thread about this bitch.

StretchPlum site profile image  

2/5/12 2:29 AM by StretchPlum

All baseball umpires have been great players, just like in football and basketball.

ChaosOverkill site profile image  

2/4/12 9:47 PM by ChaosOverkill

bump for keithy boy

Fake Pie site profile image  

1/11/12 8:37 AM by Fake Pie

Has Kizer ever admitted a mistake, ever? And did he say anything about the premature stoppage that night? She has no business reffing.

801 UNION TAPOUT CLUB site profile image  

1/11/12 7:08 AM by 801 UNION TAPOUT CLUB

What lanquage are you speaking? Your reply makes no sense, Kizer is on top of his game and has done an incredible job ever since he took the position. Be forewarned that the next UFC champion will be coming out of the 801 Union Street Fight Club.

daba site profile image  

1/11/12 12:45 AM by daba

Does the commission ever say "terrible" stoppage we were wrong to hire him/her as a ref? his word means nothing.

formulate site profile image  

1/11/12 12:23 AM by formulate

FRAT: I'm going to get flamed for this but.....I thought it was a good stoppage. Exactly what I like to see. He was fighting back( a little flaily but still) and she stopped it almost as soon as he went limp. He had the option to tap to strikes. He didn't. Probably should have. Before any of you bag on me, saying 'what would he know'. This is the exact choice I made against Krysztoff Sozyinski. I fought on and he put my head thru the ring floor. I was happy with my choice, cause it was not a grey area loss. It was decisive.The ref should be there to stop the fight when the fighter can't stop it himself. They should not stop it when the guy is taking a beating, I say let them take the beating. As long as they are coherent and can tap-let it go. Stoppages should rely on this list in order of precedence 1)fighter 2)corner 3)ref, they should not rely on 1) ref. Too many corners and fighters rely on the refs to make the stoppage even though a)they have already quit or b)have accepted the loss and want the ref to save them the embarrassment of tapping.This wouldn't make it a more brutal sport, if the competitors came into the fight knowing that. They wouldn't sit on their knees taking a beating to try and get the ref to intervene. they would continue moving to get in a better position or tapout. And if the athlete doesn't tap, his coaches and trainers-who know what he can and cannot do-would throw in the towel. Failure by the athlete or his corner to stop the fight appropriately would require them to be reviewed by the commission-at the behest of the officiating ref-and potentially lose their license(either corner license or athlete license, depending). Pretty straight forward really. If they stop it in advance, it opens the door to bias and doubt to the true result(see nearly every fight Herb Dean has officiated in the last 5 years). It would greatly eliminate the possibility of outside influences on the match in a straightforward way. One of the major reasons I, and many others started watching mma was because of the outside influences you would often see in boxing-conveniently bad stoppages, bad judging, mismatches, weird rulings(i.e. Hopkins-Dawson). If this continues to happen to mma, it will greatly stunt the sports growth.ALSO, it should be noted that a great majority of mma refs don't have any medical training to decide, in an educated manner, what is imminently dangerous to human health. A few might have as far as EMT/EMR certification, maybe. SO they are basically operating on their own perceptions, which are usually very limited. Some boxing refs trip out at the sight of a simple choke because they think it is a death move. They also think leg kicks don't do anything. This eliminates that concern because they pretty much can't intervene, unless the fighter can't respond.WHAT ABOUT THE SAFETY FACTOR? If commissions and promotions were so concerned about fighter safety, they would have clear decisive rules as to what constitutes a stoppage, this is not the case.

mrantistupiditay site profile image  

1/10/12 11:23 PM by mrantistupiditay

That's just great, but the problem is Winslow's incompetent, not her gender.

sextoymagic site profile image  

1/10/12 7:35 PM by sextoymagic

 I am sexist and HATE the fact that a woman is trying to ref.  How's about this site post a couple news stories to get the shit off the main page.