Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Men in Black: Exclusive interview with UFC Referee Steve Mazzagatti

By Jesse Holland/UFCMania

Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Steve first and foremost thank you for taking the time to talk with us here at UFCmania. The first thing I want to do is clear up a common misconception about your position, especially for some of our newer fans. You’re not actually employed by the UFC are you?
Steve Mazzagatti: No, certainly not. I work for the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). They control the officiating for combat sports here in Nevada.

Jesse Holland (UFCmania): If you’re employed by the NSAC, how difficult is it to travel to another state when you have a pay-per-view (PPV) in California or say, Ohio?
Steve Mazzagatti: Well the commission in each state regulates their own guys. What happens is the promoter will organize an event and request the refs they normally use. Most states it’s not an issue but a place like Florida it’s hard to get an out of state ref to come in because they like to use their own guys.

Jesse Holland (UFCmania): Can the UFC choose which referee will officiate which bout?
Steve Mazzagatti: No, that falls under the NSAC as well. In fact, the commission is meeting on Monday (3/5/07) to determine the refs for each fight at the next WEC event.

Jesse Holland (UFCmania): How difficult is it to officiate in different organizations when the rules are sometimes drastically different? In PRIDE you can use stomps but not elbows, and in the UFC it’s just the opposite. Is it hard to remember where you’re at?
Steve Mazzagatti: Oh yeah, it’s a challenge, especially when the events are so close together. But I feel if fighters can do it then so can I. It’s all part of the job that’s why it’s so important for me to stay sharp. What a rule is today might not be a rule tomorrow so as the sport evolves as a ref you gotta evolve too.

Jesse Holland (UFCmania): You mention staying sharp. I can assume you don’t just pull up to the arena five minutes before show time, call your fights, and then catch the first cab back home?

Steve Mazzagatti: (Laughs) No, it’s not that easy. I have a responsibility to make sure I don’t miss a thing in that cage. I prepare pretty intensely for each event. I usually start by watching tapes and then I go to different gyms and start rolling with the grapplers there. I’ll talk to other refs and observe them in action. I’m fortunate that I live here in Nevada so I have a lot of places in my backyard plus I grew up training and sparring in half of these gyms. It’s hard to catch submissions they can sneak up on you outta nowhere and you gotta be sharp, right on top of it or someone’s gonna get hurt. It’s not just the subs either I remember Koscheck/Sanford Kos knocked him cold from the side mount. Man that’s hard to do you and something you wouldn’t expect. You gotta be alert and be ready for the possibility of a stoppage at all times.

Jesse Holland (UFCmania): What’s your relationship with the other refs in the UFC like Big John and Herb Dean?
Steve Mazzagatti: We’re friends, we have a mutual respect for each other. We also make sure we take care of each other. I’m probably more likely to go and hang out with Herb. We (the refs) like to compare notes sometimes but we never pass judgment on the officiating of another ref.

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