For husband-and-wife team, Andrew and Devleena Canday from India, their shared passion for Mixed Martial Arts is inspiring others to dedicate time to the often under celebrated job of officiating.

The first GAMMA certified officiating couple, who have been married for four years, first met during their college days of boxing, but their true passion was combat sports which they work hard not to forget. “We make it a point to take time during the week to lift weights and train together for MMA or BJJ. We are living proof of the phrase, you train together, you stay together.” Having a common combat sport background and sharing similar values has been an integral part of their journey as a couple, “everyone experiences different moments of stress in their lives which can create internal pressure that needs an outlet. Having MMA and BJJ in our lives has given us our outlet, which has kept our relationship strong, our bodies healthy, and our minds wise.”

Andrew is an engineer and businessman by profession, running a manufacturing company alongside his father, and co-owning a cryptocurrency exchange, but he still finds the time to dedicate to his refereeing responsibilities for GAMMA. In India the MMA movement is young and fast moving and the Canday’s are now GAMMA’s first internationally certified husband and wife.

“For several years, we have been educating Indian athletes about the sport of MMA and staging a number of national championships and other events. I made the transition from athlete to referee and there has been no turning back since that moment. I have made it my mission to impart sound knowledge of the sport and to educate individuals that are willing to learn and then certify them under the banner of GAMMA India. I currently have a home-grown team of over 40 well trained and experienced officials in India, including my beloved wife Devleena.”

The role of officials is often underrated in many sports, and MMA is no different. Outside of championships, event organisers tend to invest their money in the production rather than having a significant number of certified officials. “Educating the coaches and athletes about the importance of officials is the only solution to this issue. I really appreciate how GAMMA welcomes individuals from the teams of participating countries to join the officiating team at all international tournaments. This gives them an inside view of the hard work and time that goes in behind the scenes.”

While the pathway into refereeing is not for everyone, Andrew Canday speaks fondly about why he enjoys it. “When you are an impartial referee or judge, there is a certain level of respect and honour that comes with the job over time. Every time I enter the ring to officiate, there is an adrenaline rush that always kicks in. It is these feelings that keep bringing me back for more.” It is not only these feelings which make him a quality referee, he believes that there are several attributes required from those tasked with protecting the athletes in the ring. “I believe that every referee must be a practitioner of the sport that they officiate, and I feel that every referee should have the ability to keep their nerves under control, be able to make good quick decisions, have a keen eye and ear for detail and obviously know the rules of the sport like the back of their hand.”

Those attributes are crucial components in ensuring athlete safety and the integrity of the competition. “It is a combat sport, and athlete safety is the utmost important aspect of the sport. The rules have been carefully designed and need to be correctly enforced by the referees.”

GAMMA focuses a lot on developing the rules and innovating for the good of the sport and the athlete experience, and the addition of striking MMA has proved to be a popular one. “Striking MMA is one of the finest additions I have seen added to the list of combat sports in the world. It may still be a little underrated, but athletes require even more stamina to get through the rounds. It is fast paced, easy to present and very understandable to new audiences and those watching on TV. I personally find those matches very exciting when I have been refereeing.”

The ongoing development of referees and judges, and the accompanying systems is an important element for the future of GAMMA and gathering feedback from the experienced officials is crucial. “We need to continue ensuring we are being inclusive, but we must also strike a balance between offering opportunities to less experienced officials and making sure that the matches are being refereed to the highest possible standards. I would like to see mandatory attendance at an official’s seminar, arranging bonding activities for groups of officials to build team spirit and welcome new officials and making sure that there is an understanding of English as that is the language used at the international competitions.”

GAMMA is especially grateful to all our referees and judges who give up so much of their time to make sure that our competitions are officiated safely and follow the highest professional standards.