“If I was to speak about how important proper regulation is, I’d keep you on the phone for 20 years.”
It’s safe to say that Marc Goddard is a little bit concerned about the state of mixed martial arts on this side of the Atlantic in terms of its lack of regulation.
Goddard is one of the most recognisable referees on the planet and, not only that, he is almost universally respected as one of the most reliable.
The Brit has become famed for his considered, but no-nonsense approach, to officiating and, as an acting technical committee representative of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation, he’s trying to assist in the establishment of a system that enables future referees to become the best they can be.
The issue of MMA regulation in certain countries is a topical but sensitive one, following the tragic passing of Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho last week, and Goddard does not understate the necessity for improvements in that realm.
“Important?” Goddard asked. “Important is too small a word for this subject.
“There is literally nothing more important in this sport right now than the proper involvement, regulation and structure from governments.
“We have to do this now. The time is now!
“The subject is an understandably sensitive one at this time given what happened in Dublin last week but we have to learn from such tragedies.
“This is a contact, combat sport and not too many people appreciate the notion of that. The responsibility of everybody involved is to ensure that for the two combatants who are facing off in the ring, cage, Octagon or whatever, that we have collectively ensured the safest possible environment for competition.”
In Ireland, it seems that steps are being made in the right direction with the IAPA statement released on Thursday that revealed that provisional discussions were underway with government officials but these things take time and nothing should be expected to change overnight.
Mixed martial arts is undeniably still in its infancy and with the strides being made in all other facets of the sport, the standard of officiating is another element that Goddard, a former professional fighter, remains supremely passionate about.
“I got my breakthrough as a referee by accident,” Goddard explained. “I turned up at an event at which I was supposed to be competing but couldn’t because of an injury. The promoter was a friend of mine and asked me to fill in for a referee who hadn’t turned up. I did just that and the rest is history.
“Back then, about 12 years ago, learning to be a referee consisted of being thrown in at the deep end and learning as you went.
“There were no courses in place in the UK when I started. We had John McCarthy in the States but that was in the States.
“I can’t stress how different things are for young referees nowadays.
“Now we have a developed progression, a pathway and standardisation for MMA officials worldwide which is honestly something I wouldn’t have been able to predict when I’d started out.
“The speed at which this sport is developing is nothing short of incredible and the platform is there now for referees to be the most informed and prepared as they possibly can be.
“Just as fighters are making strides as the sport becomes more mainstream, so too must referees and it’s vital that we all recognise that need.”