In a sport where the athletes actively try to inflict harm upon each other via techniques often only recognizable to the most trained of eyes, being the third man in the cage can sometimes be the most difficult job of all. For that reason, it’s worth noting when a qualified individual joins the ranks of MMA’s officials – which is the case with the newest addition to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board’s list of licensed referees. On February 22, at Asylum Fight League 44 at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, N.J., veteran fighter and jiu-jitsu coach Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro will make his debut in the cage, not as a competitor but as the one in charge of protecting the competitors’ health and safety while the fights are underway.
In a career that spanned nine years of cage time, Shaolin amassed a 20-5 record, fighting for such promotions as DREAM, Cage Rage and Shooto. His last bout was on November 19, 2010, under the Strikeforce banner.
Throughout most of his career – and especially after his time as a competitor was up – the fourth degree black belt, Mundials champ and Nova Uniao rep has always been teaching. He has an academy in New York City.
Of course, Shaolin isn’t the first fighter to become an official with the New Jersey commission. The NJSACB also employs jiu-jitsu legend Ricardo Almeida as an MMA judge, female fighter Munah Holland as an inspector, and for Muay Thai bouts, Coban Lookchaomaesaitong as a referee and Kaensak Sor Ploenjit as a judge.