Gene LeBell: Refs, judges need to be on the mat, and in the ring
Judo Gene LeBell is one of the fathers of mixed martial arts, haivng been in the first televised MMA match, in 1963. He has taught grappling to Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Karo Pairsyan, and tens of thousands of others, including the new face of women’s martial arts, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. Yes, the Rowdy is borrowed from Roddy Piper, one of the few men to earn a black belt under LeBell.
“She’s the best women’s martial artist bar none,” says LeBell of Rousey. “I have been around since the last supper. I have seen all the women in all the martial arts, and she’s in a class by herself. Showtimne is very lucky, very lucky to have such an athlete, and a good human being.”
“You meet her and you fall in love. A lot of people say geez Ronda is the prettiest girl in the whole world. I’d like to date her, I’d like to marry her. Well She’ll go out with anybody, any man that can beat her. She’s a 25-year-old virigin because nobosy can beat her. I mean, she just beats the living hell out of me, because she’s sadistic like her uncle Gene.”
A stuntman and fight coach by day, LeBell is also an MMA judge by night, and has some pointed words about the state of judging and reffing in MMA, and a route to improvement.
“I have a beef with judges and referees,” said LeBell. “To me, I don’t think you should ever be able to referee oer judge unless you have a physical background in that art. I’m a big fan of professional football, but I’m not qualified to be a judge. I lek soccer, I like swimming, incidentally, Ronda is a great, world-class swimmer, you just don’t hear about it, but I’m not qualified ot judge.
“In MMA, it’s the flavor of the month and everybody wants to be a judge or a referee. I see a lot of referees that could use a little bit more instruction … I think it should be mandatory for these judges that want to do MMA to go to Mauy Thai schools, go to Judo schools, go to Greco Roman schools, go to freestyle wrestling schools, Kempo, Shotokan, Taekwondo, all those schools and learn a little bit of everything. You want to know if a body slam hurts more than a left hook, and how much damage can something get? You have to be on the mat or in the ring to know the difference. It’s my humble opinion.”