New Jersey not only produces UFC champions like Frankie Edgar, it also produces world class referees, who sometimes get the call to work UFC shows. Tw big name NJ refs that appear regularly in the UFC are Dan Miragliotta and Kevin Mulhall, whom I've had the pleasure of working with at countless shows in New Jersey. Now it appears that another ref, Gasper Oliver, will be joining them overseeing bout in the big show. I've worked fights with Gasper and I can say that he's an excellent ref who really knows how to control the fight.
Here's an excellent article by David Weinberg of the The Press of Atlantic City that ran this week:
ATLANTIC CITY - Gasper Oliver deftly shuffled around the cage-encased ring, his gaze never leaving Ring of Combat fighters Jacob Kirwan and Ryan Vaccaro.
While 1,500 fans at Tropicana Casino and Resort roared, Kirwan wrapped his left arm around Vaccaro's neck and tightened the guillotine choke. Once Vaccaro tapped his hand against his thigh, Oliver moved in quickly to signal a halt to the bout after just 1 minute, 26 seconds had elapsed.
Once an aspiring mixed martial arts competitor, Oliver is now making his mark as an MMA referee. The 42-year-old Atlantic City resident is considered one of the state's top officials. If he continues to progress, he may soon find himself in the octagon for an Ultimate Fighting Championship fight.
"Gasper's probably the next referee who will make the jump (to the UFC) for us," said deputy attorney general Nicholas Lembo, who helps supervise MMA events for the New Jersey Athletic Control Board. "This fight at Ring of Combat was a step up for him and he handled himself very well. I could definitely see him doing a UFC show next year."
Oliver, a former wrestler at Atlantic City HighSchool, once aspired to fight in the UFC. He posted a 5-0 amateur record in MMA for New Breed Fighters before a series of knee injuries forced him to stop competing.
A desire to stay involved in the sport prompted him to become an inspector, then a judge. About a year and a half ago, he began his referee career in the amateurs, then made his pro debut at DaMMage Fight League at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort last November.
He officiated two fights at Ring of Combat XXXIV last month at Tropicana, including the Kirwan-Vaccaro bout for the ROC featherweight championship.
"I think it really helps to have been a fighter myself," said Oliver, who also serves as a referee and inspector in Maryland and Pennsylvania. "I know what to look for in terms of submissions and chokes. I can tell if someone has good position or if the hold isn't strong enough. The most important thing to me, though, is to have control in there."
Although he no longer competes, Oliver still practices jiujitsu at a studio in Egg Harbor Township. Not only does it help recognize moves as a referee, working out also helps ease some of his out-of-the-ring pressure.
After graduating from Atlantic City High in 1987, the divorced father of two worked 16 years in the casino industry as a dual-rate supervisor (part-time dealer/part-time supervisor) at the Tropicana before turning his attention to what was then a flourishing real estate market. When the market crashed, Oliver was forced to sell off his properties and opened his own painting business, Master Painters, in Atlantic City.
"Things were going so well in real estate I thought I was going to be a millionaire by the time I was 40," Oliver said with a laugh. "It didn't work out that way, but my painting business is doing well and I'm really enjoying being a referee. Hopefully, I'll eventually make it the UFC."
Oliver seems most at home inside the cage. He exhibited patience in the first fight at ROC XXXIV, a two-round bout that ended with Mike Beloit earning a unanimous decision over Manny Millan.
He was more aggressive in the Kirwan-Vaccaro bout, which was the main event.
"You can take all the training courses and seminars you want, but in order to be a good referee, you have to be able to perform under pressure," Lembo said. "I wanted to give Gasper a shot to see how he performed under fire and I thought he did very well. He has a bright future."