From local shows to the UFC - Dan Movahedi's story proves that hard work really does pay off
PUBLISHED: 13:52 07 June 2018 | UPDATED: 15:02 07 June 2018
If you've watched MMA anywhere in this country over the past few years, there's a good chance you've seen Dan Movahedi in action. After years of hard work and honing his craft, the respected referee made his debut on the big show at UFC Liverpool last month. He told MARK HEATH about his journey so far.
It would be difficult to find a harder-working, more respected man in British MMA than Dan Movahedi.
Over the past ten years, the 33-year-old has travelled up and down the country – and beyond – refereeing fights, honing his craft and building his reputation.
That all culminated when he stepped into the cage at UFC Liverpool last month– probably the biggest MMA event ever held in this country – to take charge of his first fights at the pinnacle of the sport.
But Dan’s story starts long before that. He started training in kickboxing and MMA as a teenager – alongside Michael Van Wijk, better known as Wolf from Gladiators – before taking his first fight as a 20-year-old, when the sport was still struggling with the stereotypical portryal of thugs in cages.
He went on to have 13 fights, training alongside the likes of UK MMA legend Brad Pickett, but always knew that his future in the sport wasn’t as a fighter.
“I stopped when my son was born,” he told me. “It took up so much time, plus I always knew that it wasn’t going to be a career for me – at some point you have to turn round and admit that to yourself.
“I’d actually started refereeing while I was still fighting – a mate of mine put on a Thai Boxing show with a couple of MMA fights and he asked me to ref those.
“I enjoyed it, got the bug and carried on. I was working alongside guys like Grant Waterman, Leon Roberts and Marc Goodard, and I went with it.
“What appealed to me was that I was lucky enough to have good guys refereeing me when I was fighting, and every time I fought I felt safe – I wanted to give that back and stay involved in the sport.
“It’s never been about the money for me – I love the sport, and it gave me the opportunity to travel a bit too.”
And so began years of hitting the road for as many shows as he could fit in around his job as a postman, gaining experience and building confidence in the cage.
If you follow him on social media, you’ll know there is no-one who works harder at his craft – and he’s a regular at the big shows in this region too, the likes of Contenders in Norwich and BCMMA in Colchester.
“My goal was just to move up to bigger and bigger shows,” he said. “It’s taken me ten years to get to the UFC but I just knew that if I carried on doing what I was doing and didn’t take any short cuts, at some point I would get there.
“I’m so grateful to my wife, Helen, my kids, Castiel and Jack, and my mum, Susan, for their support and understanding because it’s really time-consuming and not at all glamorous – on the plane, off the plane, venue, hotel, home.
“I missed my own birthday with my family on the weekend of UFC Liverpool!”
Of course, being involved in such a high profile event was some compensation for that and, after years of grafting to get there, Dan said he felt at peace when he stepped inside the UFC octagon for the first time.
He took charge of two fights – Elias Theodorou v Trevor Smith and Tom Breese v Dan Kelly – and was widely praised for a timely stoppage in the latter when he correctly adjudged what many thought was an eye-poke to be a legal punch, which seriously hurt Kelly and saw Dan step in to halt hostilities moments later.
“I don’t find it difficult to make decisions like that,” he explained. “As long as I walk away from it knowing that I’ve made the right decision and both fighters come out safe I’m happy and I’ve done my job.
“I felt comfortable and at ease, but I still couldn’t believe that (legendary announcer) Bruce Buffer would be calling my name as part of one of the biggest shows there’s been in the UK.
“Almost as a fan, but also as a ref, it was great to see how things work at the top of the food chain. It’s still sinking in, but I’ve got more goals to achieve.”
Indeed, as you would expect from a man with such a work ethic and love for the sport, Dan’s still got a long list of things he wants to do.
“I want to be the best guy I can be,” he explained. “I want to make more appearances in the UFC, maybe see the world, officiate high-level title fights and enjoy my time.
“I also want to be involved in making sure that all the shows in this country are safe, have the right rules and are run properly – and wouldn’t it be amazing to get MMA in the Olympics?”
With Dan involved, don’t bet against it – with him and so many other talented, hard-working people at the forefront, the future of the sport is in safe hands.
He’s also on Facebook at Daniel ‘The Gentleman’ Movahedi.