Referee Mika Sinkkonen has been the third man in the cage for over 3,000 fights.  The Finn nicknamed “Moukari” (Sledgehammer), former fighter and active practitioner, has seen it all in the cage.  Let’s learn more about the well-respected referee commonly seen officiating throughout Europe, as he discusses stoppages in fights with Ronda Rousey and Big Nog, how he got into MMA, his favorite referees, and much more.

Mika Stopping an M1 Challenge 10 Bout in 2008

Exclusive Interview

MMA Viking : How did you get hooked into MMA?
The first time I saw MMA was UFC 1 in early -90’s. Gerard Gordeau versus Teila Tuli, and I was immediatly hooked. It was time when we talk about no holds barred (NHB), the sport has developed from those days to modern day MMA. I like MMA because there is all aspects of fighting.

“My short MMA career (five fights) ended when I broke my knee the third time.”

Why did you want to be referee?
I started wrestling when I was nine years old and after my wrestling career I compete in MMA, BJJ, and submission wrestling. My short MMA career (five fights) ended when I broke my knee the third time. Then I think maybe I have more to give to MMA as a referee. I went to a ADCC referee seminar to learn officiate submission wrestling and after that I ask Fight Festivals Petteri Maunu if I can be a judge in his MMA event.

Finland has old history of mma in Scandinavia. Which is the oldest mma event in Finland? Can you count out old Finland mma events?
The oldest Finland MMA event is Finn Fight started in 1998. There hasn’t been Finn Fights in couple of years but I hope it will be back some day. Other old events was Focus Fight, Vaasa Fight, Shootfighting Semi Pro events in Järvenpää, MMA Action, Fight Festival to name a few, sorry if I forgot somebody.

Do you remember the old names of the referee at that time?
Kari Aittomäki was first Finnish MMA (NHB) referee and there was also Mikael Ekberg.

When and which event was your first you refereed?
First time I was judge in Fight Festival autumn 2002, and first time as referee later same year at MMA Action. We had the first MMA referee seminar in Finland in 2002.

Mika Keeping an Eye on the Action

Do you have advice for promoters and fighters from the referee’s situation?
At the end, I like to say to everybody that MMA is best live, so go to check your local MMA events. And to promoters: if you need a professional referee to your event you can contact me.

What is your biggest accident and incident ever happened in your career? 
Maybe some too late stoppage. I can’t name one, but that has happened. Often people see too early stoppages, but my opinion too late stoppage is worst.

Who is craziest fighter ever you have dealt with in the referee biz?
I have officiated about 3,000 fights so there are some hot / crazy fighters and situations. I don’t wanna say names but I can tell one fight. During break, the red corner fighters (home town guy) sister came close to cage and yelled something and blue corners fighter “answer” by “giving her the finger”. Very bad behavior. I didn’t saw the finger but red corner guy saw it and start shout and tried to attack blue corner guy. It was hard work to keep them separated. After few words and warnings and everything I had fighters under my control again and fight could continue. After that episode it was all bad blood and very hot emotions especially the red corner guy. And all this happened in country where crowd was also very emotional. That was hot situation to be referee I have to say.

What is your important point to work as a referee?
Safety first. And fair fight of course.

“Sometimes the referee actually can smell the blood under the spot lights.”

Who are your favorite referees, and why?

Shimada – One of Mika’s Favorite Refs

Dean Herb, Big John McCarthy and Yuji Shimada. They all are very experienced and can make a fast decisions in right moment. They are calm and make their work exemplary. And I have worked in same event with Shimada. He is funny guy.

Sometimes there happens incident in the judgement of the referee in the fight. Referee can see much more things in the cage than other peoples and fans.

Please explain those things ONLY REFEREE can see in the cage.

Referee can see fighters eyes, body language and hear their words and other voices. Sometimes fighter who are being submitted or ground and pounded give a look to referee. It’s “don’t stop yet” or “stop and save me” look.

In that moment referee should be awake. Referees also can feel the heat of the fight / fighters better than other people. And one important thing is that referee should never go inside the fighters feelings. Referees have to always be confident and stay behind his decisions. Referee hears better what the corner says. And yes, sometimes the referee actually can smell the blood under the spot lights. With all those things he can “read” the fight.

Mika Is Commonly Seen As The Third Man in the Cage Throughout Europe

Let’s talk about Minotauro versus Mir. Do you think referee should have stop the fight earlier to save Minotauro’s arm? How about Ronda Rousey versus Miesha Tate?
No. Both fighters are professionals and they should know their limits and what it cost if they are not going to tap. Referee should stop the fight is he see that arm snaps but we don’t know what referee actually see or hear in that fight.

Please count out all the countries you have refereed?
Finland, Estonia, Russia, Sweden, UK, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Lebanon, South Korea, Japan and Brazil.

Which land was the toughest task to work referee? Why?
Bulgaria or Astrakhan in Russia. Because the mentality of crowd was very hot and aggressive. And they expect their home country fighters to win… and that doesn’t happen every time.

Any last words?
I like to say everybody that MMA is best in live, so go to check your local MMA events. And to promoters: if you need a professional referee to your event you can contact me. [email protected].