10...9... and the fighter stars to come back to the moment he is at..
8...7... he looks at the man in front of him counting and he has to get back to himself fast....
6...5... he puts his guard up, starts jumping and breathing right...
4.... the crowd is roaring, "let me fight! I'm READY!"
3....2...1 and "FIGHT!!"
The match keeps on, and the fighter that was counted by the referee shows his opponent that he was just lucky! In that particular moment, that fighter suffered an extremely strong punch with an amazing technique and perfect timing, shutting his lights off for half a second, enough to numb his legs for a moment. The reference promptly stopped the fight and started the countdown to determine the consequences of the punch, to protect the athlete and allow him, if possible to get back to himself.
The referee, a major role on combat sports, fight nights and competitions. Loved, hated and criticized, but which only responsibility is to enforce the rules of that particular sport, and to protect the athletes making sure they don't get more hits than they have to. It's a long process to become a referee, they will do courses made by the federation of their choice, and start refereeing amateur fights which are actually harder to referee. It takes time to get the needed experience and the responsibility is huge from day one. They are criticized by their decisions often, even if they follow guidelines for the enforcement of the rules.
On Fight Night, they will be present on the medical checks and will sign the hand wraps after making sure they were made following the rules. Before the event starts, they will do the Rules briefing with the athletes and their coaches reminding everyone the rules one by one sometimes in more than one language, and making sure everyone understood exactly what they cannot do.
After that they will get ready, put their latex gloves and check the names of the athletes they're about to referee, it's important to know how they fight, their style, to know how to move with them on the Cage. Double-check if inside the Cage everything is ok, no water or blood on the floor, and we're good to go! The fighters are called one by one, first the one on the blue corner which is usually assigned to foreigners, and after the red corner, which is usually assigned to local athletes. After them the referee goes in, go to both fighters one by one checking if they have the mouthguard and touch their gloves inside and outside making sure there are no sharp or hard objects in them, very old and dirty trick, he goes to the centre of the cage, call the athletes, make sure the doctor and judges are watching him, and start the fight! Once the fight starts everything can happen, the fighters give all they have, all that they have trained for, and the referee dances with them around the Cage making sure the rules are followed, and that the athletes are as safe as they can be considering the nature of this sport.
I would like to introduce you a dear friend, great referee, that followed a part of my MMA career as an athlete, a man of great knowledge on combat sports and a great coach, I actually fought one of his athletes twice, and he refereed my fight I don't know how times, his name is Roberto Geri. Hello Geri, can you please make us a small presentation of yourself for the Centurion FC fans?
Hello everybody, my name is Roberto Geri, and I've been a martial artist all my life. In my career, I've practised many disciplines and some of them as a competitor. I've started with Judo, then Karate, then Kyokushinkai and Sanda. After that, I have proceeded in my military career and police department doing wrestling and Israeli close combat. Once I've finished my competitor career, I kept on the formation of my martial art for a long period, that took me around the world achieving qualifications on the disciplines I teach today at my Dojo, Karate IV Dan Black Belt Master, Kick Boxing II Dan Black Belt Master, Kiokushin All-Around Fighting, Wrestling Instructor, Self Defense Instructor, International Combat Sports Referee, Fight1, Gamma, Iska, Head Coach of Bushidokai Fight Team Cecina, my team, that have created several international champions thru the years in Kick Boxing, MMA and Karate.
How many fights have you refereed in your career?
In my 20-year referee career, I've refereed more than 1000 national fights, and a couple of hundreds of International fights. Participated in several editions of the WTKA World Championships and Iska K1 International.
Which were the most important international events you have participated?
I've participated in several editions of Oktagon, Thai Boxe Mania, Road to Bellator, Bellator Turin, Bellator Florence, Petrosyan Mania, Centurion FC, World MMA Championship Gamma, One FC Singapore, Ring War Muay Thai Milan.
What was the most difficult fight you had to referee?
Between them all, I would say an MMA bout, international selections of 29/10/2016 to participate in Bellator, Cirillo VS Mihail Nika! A very physical fight with many guard changes in full mount and heavy striking, finishing with a KOT after an imperative and final ground and pound.
What do you feel when an athlete goes K.O?
When I referee, I am very careful and I try to read the fight as it goes. On the ring, we have the counts that pretty much helps us doing our job. On the other hand, in the cage, a referee needs to be even more careful and ready, because the fight can change every second. The KO it's always an adrenaline rush even for us!
What do you feel about the criticism around some referee decisions?
I'm not a fan of who hides behind referees decisions, but I have seen in the past, fights where the referee decisions weren't at the same level of the event they were called to the referee, ending up affecting negatively on the decision. Personally, I prepare refereeing a fight with the same attention I prepare an athlete for a fight.
What is your main goal when you referee a fight?
The safety of the athletes is my main goal!
What changes have brought Covid 19 to the referees?
Covid 19 is literally putting combat sports on the knees all around the world, reducing if not erasing to athletes the possibility of preparing themselves properly for the few fights that miraculously happen. On those few events, we deal only with athletes with a negative swap test. Health department demands that we do it ourselves along with the rest of the staff, closed-door events only, with rigorously no public assisting the show.
How was your experience in Centurion FC?
I had the opportunity tho participate in two editions of Centurion FC, and I have to confess that the Fight Cards are chosen by Patrón Gallo we're always very interesting. Events with incredible locations and spectacular shows. Personally, I would say that these events marked positively my career.
Wanna share any thoughts on the future of MMA?
Regarding the future of the MMA, I hope this difficult season passes fast, I believe that when it does, there be an explosion of events and a lot of opportunities! In Italy, we have extremely good athletes fighting their way up and others already famous and proudly representing the Italian flag such as Vettori, DeChirico, Pedersoli e moti altri. Fight1 and Gamma are investing a lot on the future of their athletes, like other federations at the moment. Personally, I dream of a combat sports globalization, where we can erase sport federations bonds, and focus on the future of martial arts and those who practice it! Thank you, Centurion fans, see you all in the Cage!