Marc Goddard on Why He Won’t Referee Leon Edwards’ Fights

Veteran MMA referee Marc Goddard avoids officiating fights involving UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards and has recused himself from certain bouts to maintain professionalism and avoid conflicts of interest due to personal connections or past controversies.

Marc Goddard is steering clear of officiating bouts involving the UFC welterweight champion. During an appearance on Mike Perry’s Overdogs Podcast, the veteran referee discussed the complexities of his profession, including how personal relationships with fighters can complicate things.

Goddard mentioned Leon Edwards as a specific example. “Leon Edwards,” Goddard said. “You’ve never seen me referee Leon Edwards in the UFC and you never will. Why? Because I was Leon Edwards’ first coach in MMA.”

Way back when Edwards was just an amateur, Goddard coached him. Who knew then that this raw novice would become the UFC welterweight champion of the world? But you’ve never seen me referee him, and you never will.

Goddard wants to avoid any hassle or being put in a predicament where he might make a call against Edwards. It goes both ways; it’s about keeping things simple and professional.

With over 20 years in MMA, Goddard is known for his transparency regarding in-cage decisions. One controversial call came during Israel Adesanya’s first middleweight title clash with Alex Pereira at UFC 281 in November 2022.

Adesanya seemed on track to defend his title on points until Pereira’s powerful flurry prompted Goddard to step in two minutes into the final frame. When Adesanya and Pereira rematched at UFC 287 five months later, Goddard ensured he wasn’t assigned to that fight.

“I specifically requested not to do that fight,” Goddard said. He didn’t want Adesanya to have any negative connotations seeing him walk into the dressing room. It was all about Izzy that night.

For better or worse, Goddard is one of the most talked-about referees in MMA. He prides himself on minimizing mistakes and prioritizing professionalism above all else when potential conflicts arise.

“On a personal front, I have beef with no one,” Goddard said. He understands that fighting is an emotional business and sometimes things won’t go a fighter’s way due to an official’s judgment or error.

When he retires from reffing, his best tweets will be those unsent ones saved as drafts. His work comes from the heart; he’s grown up in this sport, competed, toured—he’s always been an active martial artist first and foremost.

Common sense and experience tell him when there could be a conflict of interest with a fighter, so he’ll opt out if necessary. It’s about looking after these people; he loves what he does immensely and wants no hassle.


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