Thursday, December 30, 2010

Interview with MFC Referee Brian Beauchamp

My Lunch with Pro MMA Referee Brian Beauchamp
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
By Cher Woodiwiss

A week ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Ontario Professional Mixed Martial Arts referee Brian Beauchamp. He is not only a professional MMA referee, but a very accomplished athlete. As a former member of the Canadian National Judo Team and a black belt for over 30 years, some of his impressive credentials include winning the 2007 Grapplers Quest “Canadian Grappler of the Year” award and also being a four-time Pan American champion in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He is the only Canadian to ever be a Pan-am champion in both Judo and BJJ. Brian is the type of guy that people can look up to and who inspires others to keep chasing their goals and dreams. He also believes that no matter what your age is, it’s never to late to follow your dreams. On the back of his BJJ pants he has sewn the famous quote by Charles “ Mask” Lewis, “Simply Believe”. Brian says, “Don’t let people put limits on you. Believe in what you want to do, believe in how you do it and do it right and if people think you’re crazy , then just believe.”

He began Judo when he was 10 yrs old at the YMCA in Whitby, Ontario with his three brothers. His brother Glenn is a two-time Olympian for Canada participating in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics finishing 5th in Seoul. Three members of the Beauchamp family were on the national team at one time, so it was quite a competitive household. Brian is currently a BJJ brown belt under Fernando and Mario Yamasaki. Yes, that would be THE Mario Yamasaki, the legendary UFC referee.

The first thing I asked was how and why did he get into the business of MMA as an official. He said he had been watching the UFC for the last 5 years and he was becoming a fan as the sport grew. He told me with his pedigree as a former wrestler, judo player and current competitor in Jiu Jitsu (which are the main components of MMA), studying to become a MMA referee felt like a good fit as he believed the sport would someday come to Ontario. He went on to explain that not just anyone can be a referee in the MMA. He considers it to be the one of the hardest sports in the world to officiate at a high level. There is no other sport with the exception of MMA that has multiple Olympic combative sports combined into one. There is so much going on. It’s a multi-faceted sport where you need to be capable of making split second decisions. He finds that his experience in combative sports gives him that edge. His skill set helps him to make proper, informed decisions. I asked him what he thinks of female officials. He answered that there is always room for more qualified officials. It doesn’t matter whether its a man or a woman; as long as they are good ones that know what they are looking at!

I asked him if he had any advice for those that are looking to get into this field. Brian told me that it’s a very tough road and a thankless job, so it’s not for everybody. Two years ago Brian travelled to California to take the MMA Officials course, COMMAND, under Big John McCarthy. Big John said it can be a very hard sport to get into. Brian compared the certification from Big John McCarthy’s Command course to that of a university degree; you can have one but that doesn’t mean you are going to be employed. It can be very political as well. Getting a commissioner to take a chance on you and to hire you can be difficult. He says that there really isn’t any infrastructure or mentoring program to get you better, unless you are lucky enough to know someone. Brian was lucky enough to have good people in his corner. He is continually being mentored by John McCarthy and Dale Kliparchuk as well as his BJJ instructors the Yamasaki’s. Dale Kliparchuk is the Vice-chair of the River Cree Combative Sports Commission in Alberta. He has been an important part of Brian’s referring career. It was Dale who gave him permission to shadow John McCarthy at MFC 22. Shadowing means he does everything but get in the ring. It’s a great opportunity to learn, listen and discuss MMA in a real setting. He told me that John and Dale have mentored him in person, by phone and by reviewing video of matches he has officiated.

The Maximum Fighting Championships (MFC, the biggest Canadian MMA promotions company) has been a great venue for him to gain high level experience, as many of the fighters in the MFC have fought in the UFC, Pride, and other organizations worldwide. Working for the River Cree Commission has also helped him to deal with the pressures associated with a live television broadcast. The growth of MMA has far exceeded the growth of high level officials and because of this, there has been a void of good judges and referees. I asked him if the number of people watching and the cameras make him nervous before a bout. He told me that he doesn’t get all that nervous. He does not listen to the crowd. He just focuses on the fighters and tries to stay in the moment. When the crowd yells instructions to him, he disregards all the comments because he knows that he knows more than they do and as the soul arbitrator of a bout, he has the best seat in the house and is in the best position to watch the fighters and consult with the ring doctors if necessary.

When I asked him what his favourite part of being a referee is, he said he has the best seat in the house and he likes the travelling. The worst part about refereeing is the pressure to perform without mistakes, and all eyes and the press are on you. “But I have received praise from fighters and their corners even when they lost and that is the biggest reward for me”. He also told me that the pay is poor, and for many bouts, he has paid his own way to the venue and paid to put himself up for the night, which is something he was willing to do for experience and exposure to the sport.

When asked what qualities make good referees, he told me that they must have knowledge of techniques, be able to make quick decisions, and work well under pressure. Confidence is also important. Referees have to know what they are doing and stand by their decisions to be respected.

I wanted to know if he noticed any common mistakes fighters make in the ring and what he thinks makes a good fighter. He told me that a fighter needs to control his emotions, and that it is best to be cold when he fights and without emotions which he realizes is easier said than done. He uses Cain Velasquez and Fedor as an example of fighters who seems to come out mentally and emotionally prepared for each of their fights as Cain knows the consequences of not keeping emotions in check. If a fighter doesn’t, it depletes the body of energy it needs to fight. Brian thinks a common mistake fighters make is rushing in. He has noticed through his experience that the higher the level of competition, the more patient the fighters are. He said that he has fought at the highest level in Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; controlling your fears, breathing properly and letting your skill come out is the key to winning.

Lucky for Brian, being an MMA referee has brought him all around the world from Canada and the USA to Kandahar, Afghanistan. He travelled in October to Kandahar with Wreck MMA to referee five MMA fights for the troops which was a little Thanksgiving treat for all the brave men and women over there. He told me that as a person who serves his city as a firefighter and a former reservist for the Canadian forces, it was a incredible trip from flying over there on the Prime Minister’s Airbus, to meeting the troops, to experiencing a week of relentless heat and never ending sand. He told me his experience was very touching and eye opening and he couldn’t even begin to describe what it was like. The troops loved the fights and 3,000 NATO troops were there to cheer them on. His trip made him realize that those troops are going through hell over there in unbelievable conditions. It also made him realize the true sacrifice of our soldiers over there some of whom do up to three tours in a row and are sent home with post traumatic stress syndrome and a whole myriad of other medical conditions. These soldiers are expected to function normally in our society even though he believes whole heartedly that doing a term at war sucks some of the life out of you. He feels our soldiers are underpaid, overworked and underappreciated. Those were the words that came to his mind while he was there living amongst the soldiers. He told me the word hero is a understatement. If he didn’t have a hero before, he sure does now. When I asked him if his trip was one of the highlights of his MMA career, he responded that it wasn’t the highlight of his career as a referee, it was the highlight of his life as a human being to share a week with troops serving our country.

This says it all about Brian Beauchamp, a humbled guy who appreciates those who work hard and make things happen. He is a great athlete, firefighter, MMA referee and all around person. I wish him the best of luck in his ventures and hope to see him as a regular UFC official. I hope he continues to achieve his goals and inspire others to do the same.

Brian is currently booked to referee MFC 28 Supremacy, (Jimmo vs. Lewis) for the LHW Title, Feb 25, 2011 at the River Cree Resort live on HDNet and awaiting word on UFC 129 in Toronto April 30, 2011.

By Cher Woodiwiss

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