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Ask the Ref: Introduction – A ProMMAnow.com blog featuring MMA referee Kim Winslow

Referee Kim Winslow deducts a point on Cyborg Santos. Photo by Esther Lin for Showtime

My name is Kim Winslow and I am the first female pro mixed martial arts referee in the world.

I started training in Tae Kwon Do in 1992. In 1993 I started watching this new video called The Ultimate Fighting Championship. I was absolutely enthralled and just a little horrified at the same time. I could hardly wait for the next one to come out.

I was thrilled to watch this small man (Royce Gracie) beat out all the big guys by using strategy over brute strength. This really got my attention and intrigued me. I had to know more.

I was absolutely hooked from that moment on. I watched every one of them and got to see a sport from infancy evolve into what it is today. I eventually moved on to more modern art forms including BJJ, Muay Thai, Kick Boxing, Street Fighting, Grappling, and Boxing, Krav Maga, basic Judo, and recently Capoeira.

I was also a boxing fan and watched any bout that Mills Lane refereed. Mills is from Reno and I developed a huge amount of respect for him. Mills was my inspiration to become a referee.

I started out in boxing but was just never comfortable there. I was invited to a gym to work with a heavyweight boxer to help him prepare for an upcoming fight and there was an MMA team training at the same time. It was Ken Shamrock’s Lions Den.

Ken was gracious enough to let me in with his fighters to work with them while they were training for the IFL. I was moving from one ring to the other and it made it so clear to see what was right for me. I was made for MMA and I never looked back.

Mills suffered from a stroke several years ago and I do send a signal out that his sons suggested that I use. It’s the same one Mills used to use to start a bout.

I was an Air Traffic Controller from 1991 to 2006. I am attracted to stressful jobs with high adrenaline. I have a skill set that is very unique for the sport. I am able to focus for long periods of time and not be distracted by things outside the cage environment.

I am able to handle high level of stress that comes with this job. I am human and I will make errors but they will be minimal. I have demonstrated that I possess what you cannot teach a referee – judgment, timing, and positioning.

As a referee you have to be very flexible and utilize critical thinking in a fast paced environment. For instance, you see something you may never have seen before and you are the sole arbitrator and have to be able to handle it swiftly and fairly.

If there were no specific rule you need to use common sense as to where it would best fit. If you see a fighter grab a guy’s head and slam it into the canvas there is nothing in the rules that say he cannot do that. However, this is NOT sportsmanlike behavior therefore common sense tells you that this would be a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Flexibility is required, as the rules will vary depending on the promoter and/or the sanctioning body. As the referee it is your responsibility to KNOW what is different about the rules and then enforce it.

I started refereeing in 2006 in the amateurs. I received my first PRO certification with the State of Washington in 2007 with New Jersey to follow the same year. I worked numerous shows across the country in 2006 and 2007 on Indian reservations without sanctioning bodies.

The first time I worked with a new promoter who was not familiar with me I volunteered my services. I asked if they were happy with the service I provided that they use me again and this time I would be paid. I always had repeat bookings with promoters.

 Common questions that I am asked:

Have you ever been hit? Yes, but not often and never on purpose. My adrenaline is high so I don’t usually feel it.

Have you ever been injured? Yes, I broke my hand December 9, 2011 but thought it was just my finger and refereed three more fights after the injury. It turned out to be a boxer’s fracture. That is the one and only referee injury I have had in over 5 years. When I was training in martial arts I always had some kind of injury and would know it was too long since I had been in class when my bruises would start to fade.

Are you ever afraid in there? No I am NOT afraid but I do get a great deal of adrenaline that flows from the fighters and that does have an effect on me. If you are afraid then you have no business being in there.

Have you ever had any problems with fighters not listening to you? Yes! I had to disqualify a fighter after deducting a point after being warned several times for grabbing the fence. He grabbed the fence again impeding a takedown and was then taken down when I went in to take a point. I took the point and when I went to put him back on the ground where he was before the point was taken he refused. It was either go to the ground or be disqualified. I had to disqualify him. That has really been the only time and it didn’t bother me because he was deciding his own fate. I have not had any problems stopping a fight. The fighters have a tendency to hear my voice better. They use female voices to train in military exercises for stressful situations because our voices seem to penetrate better and we are heard. This is an advantage for me that most do not think about.

“Ask the Ref” is a ProMMAnow.com blog featuring female pro mixed martial arts referee Kim Winslow. Submit your questions for Ms. Winslow by sending them to prommanow@gmail.com with “Ask the Ref” in the subject line, or you can submit your question in the comments section below.

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