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Refereed by Herb Dean
Professional mixed martial arts referee Herb Dean is one of the most experienced and respected officials in the business. He has been third man in the cage for over 3500 professional MMA bouts, including more than 200 bouts in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, for which he has officiated matches since 2004. UFC President Dana White has publicly stated on more than one occasion that he believes Herb Dean is the best ref in MMA.
In addition to his primary role as an officiator, Dean is also an occasional MMA combatant. He fought his most notable opponent, Joe Riggs, in 2003, losing to strikes in the first round, but Dean also sports a submission victory and a TKO victory to his credit. Dean is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and an expert in both Karate and Judo.
Like any referee in the business long enough, and despite a generally stellar reputation, Dean has not stayed entirely free of criticism. His stoppage of the UFC 61 rematch between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock due to unanswered elbows on the ground was criticized as premature by many fans, as well as Shamrock himself. Though the camera replays clearly show Shamrock briefly go limp from the blows, and Ortiz attested to seeing and feeling the same thing, the popular groundswell for a "do over" was strong enough that the two met again six months later in December of 2006. With "Big" John McCarthy this time presiding, Ortiz finished Shamrock with strikes on the ground in round one yet again.
One of Dean's best moments as a ref came in his first ever UFC championship fight, the 2004 Heavyweight Championship matchup between Frank Mir and Tim Sylvia at UFC 48: Payback. Dean astutely, and decisively, stepped in to call a stop to the action at the 0:50 mark of the first round after witnessing an armbar by Mir snap Sylvia's forearm in two. Following an initial showering of boos Dean was vindicated moments later when the audience witnessed the breakage on the jumbo replay. Sylvia, who angrily protested at first, also came to thank Dean for prolonging his career and saving him from any further damage. Dean has gone on to referee countless other championship matchups, including Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir II at UFC 100, Lyoto Machida vs. "Shogun" Rua I, and Randy Couture vs. Gabe Gonzaga at UFC 74. Dean currently resides in Pasadena, California and continues to regularly officiate top matchups for the UFC, Strikeforce and other promotions.
Portions of this article draw on information contained on Herb Dean's official website, www.herbdean.com.