Dec Larkin is a seasoned veteran of Mixed Martial Arts. He boasts nearly a decade of refereeing experience. Before donning his black gloves, Dec already had a background in MMA, having competed in the sport for 18 years. During that time, he amassed 30 plus MMA fights. Definitely a man who knows the Cage from all angles and aspects of it.
“It helped that I had a background and know what to look for whenever they are in certain positions.”
He started out refereeing amateur fights as well as overseeing sparring in gyms, and in-house competitions to gain the experience he needed. Dec now referees both amateur and professional fights all over the Island of Ireland.
I asked Dec if he had an idea of the number of bouts he has overseen.
“That’s a figure I couldn’t even pick out of my head…thousands…In the last ten years I have done nearly every show in Ireland.”
Dec also runs a successful flooring business, with several employees. He credits having a good team around him with allowing him the flexibility to travel all around Ireland, keeping fighters safe.
Dec is hugely respected in the MMA community by fighters and coaches alike. Following Clan Wars 33, which he reffed alone due to a last-minute change, the feedback from all involved seemed to be glowing. However, I am sure this is not always the case. I was interested to hear how he deals with negative reaction to his decisions. He admitted that it can be annoying sometimes.
“If I stop a fight, I stop it for a reason. I am not stopping a fight out of ‘I don’t like that guy ‘, I’m just going to stop it that for me is not who I am, I would never do that.”
He went on to say that if anyone does question his call, he is 100% happy to explain to them the reasoning behind it.
“ It’s very surprising what I can see that nobody else sees.”
I was amazed when I was at Clan Wars at how well Dec was able to maintain concentration and focus throughout all 20 fights. When I asked him about it, he modestly shrugged it off. Although he did say that drinking lots of water helps with concentration, especially under the heat of the competition lighting.
Dec’s schedule is fairly hectic between work, refereeing and family life. Luckily his job is physical enough to help him maintain the fitness levels required, without the need for exhaustive lengths of time in the gym.
I asked Dec what the differences are between refereeing amateur fights versus professional ones. Apart from the obvious differences in the rules he said
“It all depends, if it’s a very experienced amateur fighter, I’ll give them a bit more time. If they are on the ground and they are taking shots, if they have had 10 plus amateur fights…I would tend to give them a bit more leeway, and not stop the fight too early on them.”
It was reassuring to me that Dec takes the experience level of amateur fighters into consideration. He recognizes that athletes in their first few fights need more protection, than their more battle-hardened counterparts.
When it comes to the professionals, Dec Larkin understands that this is how these athletes make their living. It’s their job.
“I’m not there to ruin anybody’s night…I don’t like stopping fights. I don’t like taking points off people…I would let a professional fight go a hell of a lot longer than an amateur fight.”
Remarkably, Dec has never been injured in the cage. A testament to how good he is at defusing potentially dangerous situations. I am in no doubt about the bravery required to put your body between two fighters who are in full fury, especially some of the bigger guys. I was interested to hear Dec explain how much of this is done on instinct.
“It’s just pure instinct…I jump in, it doesn’t matter what size they are. I would never hesitate”
The MMA community is very much like a second family for Dec (In fact Dec’s wife is also involved in MMA, doing the timekeeping for the shows) and this aspect of it seems to be the part he enjoys the most. He was on his way to Cage Legacy when we spoke, and he laughingly told me he didn’t even know who was on the card.
Dec has the respect of the fighters and he further stamps his authority on proceedings with a rules meeting, 2 hours before every event. Miss it at your peril!
“No matter who they are, whether they are professional or not, they all have to be in the rules meeting.”
Given the opportunity to speak to someone with as much experience as Dec, I wanted to get his thoughts on the future of MMA in Ireland.
“In the North it’s great, people up here love fighting…I think it’s very hard in the South with all the new protocols. MMA in the South is really struggling at the minute.”
Diving into this with Dec, he suggested that the cost for amateurs associated with dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s in the Republic can be a barrier to entry for a lot of young people. Essentially pricing them out of the sport. This is a common concern amongst those who truly love the game.
When I asked Dec Larkin if he had anything else he wanted to say – he simply replied
“Just get out there and support your local shows!”
Written By: Arwen Sheridan – Check out her Blog here!
Many Thanks to Dec Larkin for taking the time to speak with us.