The Best UFC Referees [Updated List]

Best UFC Referees

The UFC is almost thirty years old, and numerous refs have stepped into the cage. Fight fans often talk about bad officiating, but who are some of the best UFC referees in the promotion’s history?

Check out our list of the best UFC referees ever below with a little background on each of these great officials.

Best UFC Referees

Keith Peterson

  • Background: MMA & Muay Thai
  • Years Active: 2009/2010 to Present
  • Fights Officiated: 617 Fights(192 Knockouts, 126 Submissions, 286 Decisions, 4 Draws, 6 No Contests, 3 Disqualifications)

“No Nonsense” Keith Peterson is one of the best UFC referees currently working in the sport. Peterson has officiated over 600 fights in his career and is a fixture at every UFC event.

Keith was a longtime martial artist who decided to go into officiating after an amateur MMA career.

Many know Keith from his ongoing feud with Dominick Cruza over the stoppage against Henry Cejudo. However, Peterson actually gained more fans with his response to Cruz. We rarely worry about a bad call when we see Peterson in the cage.

Keith Peterson

Marc Goddard 

  • Background: MMA
  • Years Active: 2007 to Present
  • Fights Officiated: 896 Fights(297 KOs/TKOs, 197 Submissions, 385 Decisions, 9 Draws, 6 No Contests, 2 Disqualifications.

The reliable Marc Goddard is the UK’s first big-name MMA referee. He is one of the best UFC referees in the sport, with three decades of experience.

Like most of the refs on our list, Marc was a lifelong martial artist who started ut fighting. When Marc retired from fighting, he transitioned to officiating. Goddard began getting recognized by MMA fans when the UFC held events in the UK.

Marc was so good that the UFC got him licensed to work at different UFC events in the US. On top of being a respected official, Goddard runs an MMA ref certification program and his own MMA gym.

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Big John McCarthy

  • Background: BJJ
  • Years Active: 1994 to 2017
  • Fights Officiated: 957 Fights(340 KOs/TKOS, 277 Submissions, 315 Decisions, 9 Draws, 15 No Contests, 1 Disqualification

Big John McCarthy is often considered the standard for what people consider the best UFC referees. He was one of the first UFC referees and set the standard for the job.

John was an ex-police officer who got into reffing through the Gracie family. He trained at the Gracie Academy early on when Rorion was helping create the UFC.

Originally, Big John wanted to fight, but Rorions didn’t let him. Instead, Rorion let John be a referee from the second UFC on.

That was when Big John would yell his iconic trademark to start a fight: “Let’s get it on!”

Not only is Big John the standard for MMA officiating, but he also helped establish many of the sport’s rules. Every fan and fighter owes Big John McCarthy a little gratitude for his work in MMA.

Big John McCarthy

Mike Beltran

  • Background: BJJ/MMA
  • Years Active: N/A
  • Fights Officiated: 421 Fights(160 KOs/TKOs, 89 Submissions, 160 Decisions, 8 Draws, 4 No Contests, 0 Disqualfications

Mike Beltran is one of the best UFC referees and one of the most intimidating. The California native towers over most of the fighters and is well known for his long beard.

Before becoming a famous MMA official, Beltran was a detective and part of many drug bust operations. On top of being a cop, Mike is also a lifelong martial artist and athlete.

His love of combat sports led him to pursue a career as an MMA referee. Mike has earned a lot of success and has become one of the most respected officials in the sport.

Jason Herzog 

  • Background: BJJ & Judo
  • Years Active: 2008 to Present
  • Fights Officiated: 845 Fights(273 KO/TKO, 208 Submissions, 344 Decisions, 5 Draws, 9 No Contests, 6 Disqualifications
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Jason Herzog is considered one of the best UFC referees of the modern era. A veteran referee of nearly 900 fights and counting, Herzog has shown to be a reliable third man in the cage.

Herzog rarely made crucial errors in his fifteen years as a professional MMA referee. We know Jason will call if down the middle whenever he’s in the cage. He’s passionate about his job and always does his best to protect the fighters.

Mark Smith

  • Background: Wrestling, BJJ
  • Years Active: N/A
  • Fights Officiated: 588

Mark Smith is one of the best UFC referees currently working and one of the most interesting. Smith is a retired Air Force pilot who used to fly F-16s during his service. 

After retiring from the Air Force, Smith began working as a pilot for Southwest Airlines. While he was flying planes, Smith was also an avid martial artist and MMA fan.

Mark would enroll in an MMA official certification program in the early 2010s; the rest is history. He has currently officiated nearly 600 fights with little to no controversy in his career. This record of quality makes Smith one of the best UFC referees in the sport today.

Josh Rosenthal

  • Background: MMA/BJJ
  • Years Active: 2007 to Present
  • Fights Officiated: 492(170 KOs/TKOs, 146 Submissions, 162 Decisions, 3 Draws, 6 No Contests, 4 Disqualifications

Josh Rosenthal has lived a crazy life. He is mostly known for being one of the best UFC referees in all of MMA.

Rosenthal is a fixture on most big MMA events around the world and officiates events weekly. Although Josh is known as a great MMA referee, he did run into legal trouble during the early 2010s.

He was arrested in California and sentenced to 36 months for an illegal marijuana-growing operation. Many top MMA commentators like Joe Rogan, who is a cannabis advocate, protested Rosenthal’s imprisonment.

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But Rosenthal would persevere through his prison time and continue working as a top MMA referee.

Josh Rosenthal

Jacob Montalvo 

  • Background: BJJ
  • Years Active: 2010 to Present
  • Fights Officiated: 184 Fights(64 KOs/TKOS, 35 Submissions, 81 Decisions, 0 Draws, 3 No Contests, 1 Disqualification

One UFC referee you may not know much about is Jacob Montalvo. Jacob is a Texas native who’s a BJJ black belt with years of experience. Montalvo has competed in big super fights against UFC vets like Carlos Dieg Fereira.

Jacob, a longtime martial artist, started officiating in small events in Texas. He would eventually gain experience and be allowed to work the big events in the UFC.

Any time there’s a UFC event in Texas, you will likely see Jacob Montalvo working the event. In his decade + as an official, Montalvo has never been criticized for any blatantly bad calls.

Kerry Hatley 

  • Background: N/A
  • Years Active: N/A
  • Fights Officiated: 235 Fights(72 KOs/TKOs, 44 Submissions, 111 Decisions, 2 Draws, 6 No Contests, 0 Disqualifications 

Another one of the unsung referees in the sport is Kerry Hatley. Kerry has probably worked on numerous big events in the last decade.

You may not have heard much about him, which is a good thing for the best UFC referees. Hatley is a great third man in the ring who always does a good job.

Frank Trigg

  • Background: MMA
  • Years Active: N/A
  • Fights Officiated: 197 Fights(71 KOs/TKOs, 46 Submissions, 77 Decisions, 0 Draws, 2 No Contests, 1 Disqualification

Frank Trigg is one of the highest-level MMA fighters to transition to becoming an MMA referee. Trigg is no stranger to the spotlight as he main-evented countless fights against the best fighters in the world.

After Frank retired from fighting, he felt he would do a good job as an MMA referee. Trigg would quickly become one of the best UFC referees in the promotion. His experience as a fighter has made him a great ref that all of the fighters respect.