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Exclusive: Referee Kim Winslow Discusses Critics, Sexism, Homemade Bread, and Her Worst Cage Experience

By Jason Moles

After making history in June 2009 as the first female MMA referee to oversee a UFC fight, Kim Winslow drew controversy earlier this month for her handling of the Muhammad Lawal vs. Lorenz Larkin match at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine. Last week, CagePotato had the chance to chat with Winslow, who spoke to us about her life inside and outside of the cage, her pioneering role in MMA, and how she responds to criticism of her job performance. Read on for the full Q & A…

CagePotato: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Tell us a little bit about how you first were introduced to MMA, and when you knew you wanted to be an MMA referee.

Kim Winslow: I introduced myself to martial arts in 1992 by studying my first art form, Tae Kwon Do. I then saw the first UFC event in 1993 and was instantly enthralled. I had to watch every one of them and could hardly wait for the next one to come out. As the sport evolved so did my training in MMA, and I switched to more modern art forms and trained in Muay Thai, BJJ, kickboxing, boxing, grappling, street fighting, Krav Maga, some judo, and lately Capoeira for fun.

CP: What experience or training is required before a commission will license you?

 KW: Every state has different requirements and it is your responsibility to find out what they are and meet them when you apply. Refs are required to renew their license every year in each state, and in some states twice a year.

CP: Back in 2009 at the Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale, you made history by becoming the first woman to ever ref a fight in the UFC. How difficult was it to break into the industry and how does it feel to be a UFC pioneer?

KW: I had already been in the industry for years! I was working my way up just like everybody else! Difficult is just a matter of perception and I don’t have any comparisons, just my own experience. I am very goal-oriented and when I have a sport that I love very much I don’t take no for an answer. If someone says no I simply find another way. If I get criticism I use it to improve. My bosses have always been good about giving me constructive criticism. I always feel good when I accomplish a goal but then I always set a new one to replace it.

CP: Refs get thrown under the bus all too frequently. Joe Rogan recently called out Mario Yamasaki, criticizing his decision to stop a fight. How would you have responded to Joe and what are the Athletic Commissions telling referees to do if this ever happens again?

KW: Athletic Commissions don’t tell us what to do in those situations. We are expected to handle it as professionals and we know it’s part of the job. I don’t critique other referees or calls that they make so I will not comment on what happened with Mario. I will say that we are human and we make mistakes and we simply try to minimize them as much as possible.

CP: After allowing King Mo to land 15 unanswered shots to Lorenz Larkin, he called you out and suggested that you and Cyborg should fight while he refs. Have you ever considered being a fighter?

KW: I did consider it but I am too old to start as a fighter and I have always been too concerned for my opponent’s safety to go down that road. I am capable of fighting, I just don’t have the desire to hurt someone without due cause. I have already been in enough fights in my lifetime and don’t wish to continue it as an adult.

CP: How do you respond to people who think you suck at your job?

KW: First, I don’t read what they are saying so I don’t know what you’re talking about. I do know that the people I am supposed to make sure are happy with my performance are! They have the opinions that count to me. I knew going in that no matter what I do there is always going to be this element that will never like what I do and always find something wrong with it. You take my performance and juxtapose someone else’s body in there and I wonder if the reaction would be the same. Something tells me it wouldn’t.

CP: What was the scariest thing to ever happen to you or a fighter while you were in the cage?

KW: I have never been afraid for myself in the cage. Once, I was watching a fight that happened without a sanctioning body, and both fighters were covered in blood from head to toe and the ref would not stop the fight. One fighter had a really bad cut that was arterial and every time his heart pumped it would send out a spurt of blood onto the canvas. As the fight continued he was getting weaker and weaker. There was no doctor but there were, thank God, REMSA in attendance. The fight ended with the fighter collapsing and the ref never even checked on the downed fighter but went and hugged the winner. I was truly afraid I was going to see a death that night.

CP: One of our writers, Rex, wants to know who makes the sammiches in your house?

KW: Okay – I will humor you on this one! I cook very well and I make homemade bread, as well as many other meals from scratch. I enjoy cooking as it relaxes me and is much better for you than fast food or pre-packaged junk.

CP: Was there ever a time when you raised the wrong fighter’s hand after the winner was announced?

KW: I am human and I believe I have done that one time in my career. In many small shows they do not announce the corner of the fighter just the name. There are soooo many fighters that it is hard to remember who all of them are. I try to double check before each bout who is in which corner but it’s easy to mix them up or forget. There is more to it then just raising a hand sometimes.

CP: What is the biggest mistake a referee can make?

KW: To me that is impacting the fight to a point where the outcome is different then it should have been through an error.

CP: Do you think the UFC will ever have a women’s division?

KW: Sorry – I agree with Dana on this one. Until they have enough women that are trained to fill different weight divisions and you don’t have the same few women fighting each other over and over, then no.

CP: What’s the most sexist thing a fan has ever yelled at you during or after a fight?

KW: I tune out the crowd completely so I don’t hear anything while I’m in the cage. If someone is going to say something sexist or rude to me after the fight, I ignore him or her and move on.

Cagepotato Comments

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RwilsonR- January 31, 2012 at 9:41 am
CP, how do you respond to people who think you suck at your job?
CP: First, we don’t read what they are saying so I don’t know what you’re talking about. Second, we just delete comments we don't like. Third, we hire Danga.
XENOPHON- January 31, 2012 at 7:39 am
@ what SnackDaddy Says:
Come on, are you really asking Cage Potato writers to feel empathy for people who suck at their job?
ScarTissue- January 31, 2012 at 6:40 am
Cage Potato, sucking at their jobs since the other Ben left.
SnackDaddy- January 31, 2012 at 12:02 am
CP: How do you respond to people who think you suck at your job?

That is just about the worst/most inappropriate question someone has ever asked in an interview.
Todd M- January 30, 2012 at 8:14 pm
It's easy to be sexist (fun too) but I kind of always look at her like a female bouncer and think that's cute but a man should really be doing that job. I get the wole political correctness angle but really how many girls were at home screaming I'm not watching UFC till they get some female referees?
Todd M- January 30, 2012 at 8:10 pm
I think she has enough knowledge of the sport but like a few of you guys mentioned I have a problem with her indeciseveness, a referee has to be confident and sure in their decisions. I also think that she stands to far away from the action and I'll admit I too have wondered what she could do to stop an out of control fight, but then again she is probably stronger than Yves Lavigne.
echoxer0- January 30, 2012 at 7:19 pm
that why she sucks she just tunes out what ever people are saying about her.

she tuned out King mo while Larkin was getting his face pounded in.

stick to making bread and sammies
cabj1905- January 30, 2012 at 5:50 pm
This interview makes me embarrassed to visit this website. I hope nobody ever gives CP another exclusive. Who sends a complete amateur to do an exclusive interview?
mikelphone- January 30, 2012 at 5:26 pm
I don't think I'd be able to Ref a Pro fight.
I'd be too excited just to be watching a fight from inside the cage.
fatbellyfrank- January 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm
Didn't mind the interview at all.And Terryetim, yes I can , OH HELL YEAH BABY
Tai-Pan- January 30, 2012 at 2:35 pm
Damn CP, I was really hoping you would ask her about the Finney/Cyborg fight/disaster.


Oh well, that question about sucking at her job was awesome.
XENOPHON- January 30, 2012 at 2:31 pm
Go back and look at that more time.
She obviously knows how to suck cock...and she is tall enough to do so while you stand on the hood of your SUV.
I've never done that one before...nor have I got laid inside a airline one mile high.
..and who said Kim never steps into the middle of a fight?
Sloppyspray- January 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm
We all know she doesn't make sandwiches, unless they're blood sandwiches.
Shoulda asked her what it's like to be a vampire, who turned her into a vampire, etc.
amsterdamheavy- January 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm
@TerryEtim - Nice, I just spewed iced tea all over the fuckin place
intercept440- January 30, 2012 at 1:30 pm
cp "what was you worst experiance in the cage?"

Kim " When Cyborg tryied to backdoor me in the lockerroom after she beat gina carano, it was like that first time in the shawshank redemtion when tim robbins has to fight off a rape attack..."

CP "..........uhhhhh....ooookay...uhm next question..i guess"
TerryEtimFrozenNTime- January 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm
Could you imagine thrusting inside of that? No way.
Kaboom82- January 30, 2012 at 1:13 pm
You guys blew such a great opportunity to clear up so many things
Such as what sort of adults Pugsly and Wednesday have turned out to be.
Who's brother was Uncle Fester, hers or Gomez?
Did they get to meet MC Hammer when he did the theme for which ever movie it was?

Instead you chose to ask a bunch of touchy-feely questions because she has the wrong genitals for her current occupation.

Rip Journalism 1465-2012
bootystar- January 30, 2012 at 1:08 pm
don't sweat it xeno, women are calling the shots at fox & fightsports too, we're swimming in pudding, sour cream pudding
XENOPHON- January 30, 2012 at 1:01 pm
Lame interview.
Even lamer to ask her about cooking. The again this is Cage Potato. Weak sauce applies.
Next time ask her or the others how their pay, retirement, and benefit package stacks up against those who work for Zuffa?
boober- January 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm
A one on one exclusive interview with Kim Winslow, and you did'nt even ask her if she was related to the Winslows from Family Matters... way to drop the ball CP.
The12ozCurls- January 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm
Next time ask Ms. Winslow some stuff that we really want to know about. Here are a few suggestions:
"Boxers or Briefs?"
"Do you wear a cup while officiating a bout?"
"Have you ever met Roofus the Stunt Bum?"
"How big is Cyborgs crank?"
"Did you thoroughly enjoy Haywire?"
Let me know if you need any more help CP, I am here for you guys.
Me likey- January 30, 2012 at 12:52 pm
i think nobody should ref a fight that is 1 above their own weight class. man or woman.
Viva Hate- January 30, 2012 at 12:49 pm
You guys should have asked her what it is like to always be stuck in the middle of Popeye and Bluto.
Get Off Me- January 30, 2012 at 12:48 pm
"1 point...fighting with illegal cock...1 point"
KarmaAteMyCat- January 30, 2012 at 12:48 pm
That was a really good insight, I enjoyed the Interview Winslow is one of my favorite ref's so whatever to whatever, Tit for Tat haters, Tit for tat.
Well Done.