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Valel takes COMMAND in world of officiating

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IF Jerin Valel says your mixed martial arts match is over, your day is done.

Valel is the first and last word on officiating combative sports in Manitoba.

The 32-year-old Winnipeg native was recently appointed as the Manitoba Boxing Commission's head official and last month became Canada's first certified MMA officials course trainer.

"Everyone says boxing is the sweet science and if that's true, then MMA is rocket science," said Valel, a former MMA and kick-boxing competitor and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt. "In MMA, you have to understand boxing and kick boxing movements and stance, you have to understand wrestling and judo for takedowns, and on the ground you have to understand wrestling, grappling and submissions that come from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. To officiate MMA, you have to know those movements and you can't fake your way through. We tell the fighters do their job, fight and try to win. When you can't do that, and you're in danger, I'm going to stop the fight."

Valel, who will work as a referee at Friday's Canadian Fighting Championship 5 event at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, recently received certification from Big John McCarthy's COMMAND Referee and Judging Training School in California. It is the only recognized training and certification program in North America for mixed martial arts referees and judges and has just a 20 per cent pass rate. Now working with Big John himself, a former UFC referee, Valel said teaching the COMMAND certification course to judges and referees will bring officials to the elite level.

"John is the go-to guy in the officials training area. He's the sounding board, he's the oracle of information," Valel, a senior project manager with MTS, said. "John has been working with me to make me COMMAND's first certified instructor under the COMMAND brand. I plan to continue to evolve my teaching abilities and knowledge and hopefully will be the first teaching certified instructor in due time, and eventually running courses on my own via COMMAND program."

The Manitoba Boxing Commission has made major strides in regulating MMA, putting it under the combative sports umbrella with sports like boxing and kick boxing. Executive director Joel Fingard said Valel's status as the first Canadian COMMAND course conductor, puts Manitoba in a leadership position in the sport.

"MMA is a relatively new sport and there isn't a national standard in terms of the training and certification (of officials) so we decided to find the highest level of certification there was and bring that to Manitoba through Jerin and the training that he now has," Fingard said.

"He will be making sure other officials have the level of knowledge they need and testing their competencies in terms of the sport of MMA. A lot of commissions do feel it's important to have a Canadian trainer and he's going to be able to fill that role."

Manitoba has seven MMA officials certified through COMMAND, the most in Canada, including Valel, Adam Cheadle, Rich Dilay, Greg Jackson, Justin Swain, Jason Rodgers and Curtis McKinnon.

"I'm fiercely competitive and love a good challenge, so I strive to be the best and that's the reward," Valel said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 3, 2010 C4


Updated on Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 7:43 AM CDT: One of the officials certified is Jason Rodgers.

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