Interview: First UK Female MMA Referee - Danielle Curzon

Danielle Curzon is the only child of Peter Curzon, 4th Viscount Scarsdale, and the first female MMA referee in the UK. I became even more intrigued by her story when I found out that she served as a body guard for Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the "Harry Potter" movies.

Danielle Curzon, first female MMA referee in the UK at a Cage Rage event.
used with permission from Chakir Dahmani

We met on Facebook and Danielle agreed to be interviewed.

In your interview (podcast) with Marq Piocos from wombatsports, you said, "Martial arts and aristocracy don't normally go together." How does your family feel about you and your chosen profession?

"Initially, they were very skeptical which I feel is down to their lack of knowledge of the sport. But as time progresses, they're slowly starting to accept it. I love the sport with all my heart and that means a lot more to me than my aristocratic roots which I walked away from at a young age. I feel MMA deserves a lot more credit and (attention from) mainstream media than what it gets. The amount of skill and fitness these fighters have to have is unreal. I would love to see them getting more credit."

The state commissions hire the refs in the US. Sounds like the promotion hires the refs in the UK? Do people worry about promotions encouraging the refs to favor one fighter over another? How do you prevent that from happening?

"I look at both fighters as objects when they are in the cage. I focus on looking for illegal moves and, most importantly, looking for the tap as the fighters' safety is my number one priority. I don't class them as people with personalities when they are in the cage. That is how I find it easy to treat all fighters equally. I keep out of all the politics of MMA. I think that's why I'm used. When I'm not referreeing, I am just a normal single mum. I get on with the other aspects of my life. When I'm at the shows, although I do speak to people, I tend to keep myself to myself."

How many matches have you officiated?

"I've been reffing now nearly every weekend for two years so it's building up to quite a number." Here's a video of Danielle as the referee for Tommy Maguire vs. Joe Holder - UCMMA 24 - Hands of War.

What's your martial arts background?

"I started training in Muay Thai at the age of 12 and progressed to black belt 2nd Dan in freestyle kickboxing. I've trained in MMA for about 5 years. When I was fighting in kickboxing, the MMA was my fun. I love the ground work. It's so rewarding and also tiring."

What has to happen in order for you to achieve your goal to ref for the UFC?

"Continue to gain experience and recognition, just as any fighter would who is striving to get in the UFC. It would be so amazing to be part of the UFC. I think it's every referee's dream."

Your next event, Cage Rage UK 25, is scheduled on Dec 3. On the podcast, you mentioned fighters are drawn from Cage Rage to go to the UFC. Which ones?

"John Maguire, Oli Thompson, Jason Young and John Hathaway. UCMMA Cage Rage is such an amazing platform for fighters and officials. Promoter, Dave O'Donnell has done so much for me. They really took a chance on me as I am the first female to have worked on Cage Rage." video

Note: John Maguire defeated Justin Edwards by unanimous decision at UFC 138. Jason Young lost by unanimous decision to Michihiro Omigawa at UFC 138. John Hathaway defeated Kris McCray by split decision at UFC Fight Night 24 in March of 2011. Oli Thompson doesn't have a fight listed on Sherdog with the UFC (yet).

How has your friendship with (female MMA referee) Kim Winslow impacted your work in the cage? Anything you'd like to say about having Kim as a mentor?

"Kim has been fantastic and given me lots of advice. I would love to meet her one day. It would be amazing to sit and chat with her face to face. I'd love to watch her work an event."

How did you end up being a celebrity body guard for Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame? Have you ever had to get physical with fans whilst body-guarding?

"I was contacted by the security company that looked after her and was asked to take her to Alton Towers with two friends. She was lovely to be with and luckily, I only had to protect her from over enthusiastic fans."

Any thoughts on women practicing (with some or all of) MMA as self defense?

"I deliver an anti-rape seminar for women at the University of Oxford. MMA is an important part of that as it offers the female a way of being able to use the male's weight and strength against himself as if it were a stand up contest. Of course, the male is going to be stronger. MMA gives you a lot of security - that it doesn't matter about the size of your attacker. If you can perform certain techniques correctly, it can really help you."

What are the plans for publishing your autobiography?

"The journalist starts in December. I would love to promote it (her book) in the USA as well. I would love to spend some time in America. I spent a lot of time as a child in Florida."

Anything else you'd like to add.

"A big thank you to Dave O'Donnell from UCMMA Cage Rage for giving me my big break into MMA. Thank you to my sponsors, Impact Fightwear, for their continuing support. And a big thank you to you guys in the States for taking an interest in me. It means a lot to be getting recognition from you as you are the leaders in MMA with the UFC coming from you. I would love to have more involvement with the States."

Source: interview with Danielle Curzon

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Cheryl Ragsdale started out boxing and has added kicks and BJJ so she can practice MMA. She trains with Keith Florian and UFC Fighter Kenny Florian at Florian Martial Arts - follow @thatgirlisfunny.

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Updated Thursday, Dec 1, 2011