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Random Ranting: How to fix the judging and rule making process in MMA

I don’t think the result of the Forrest Griffin vs. Quinton Jackson fight is cause to condemn the current judging system that currently exists in mixed martial arts. Not everyone is going to see the fight the same way. As I said before, I can live with the decision that was rendered and don’t have a problem with people who believe Griffin won the fight.

I scored the fight on my own, as it happened. After a round took place, I jotted a score down. I added it up and Jackson came out the winner. My wife sat right next to me and watched the fight on the same television. She thought Griffin won the fight and expressed mild surprise when I told her I thought Jackson should be declared the winner. To each their own.

But there have been times this year where I have had major issues with how some fights have been scored. And I do believe that overall there are some major flaws with judging and some things that need to happen in order to fix them:

1) Keep the 10-point must system. People say it stinks, and I’m not suggesting the 10-point must system is perfect, but I think it’s the best way to score a fight. People that bash it rarely come up with a better system. The two alternative scoring systems I’ve heard recommended are a true points system or scoring as one round, such as the way they did it in PRIDE.

Well, you’ll never be able to use a true points system because MMA is a mixture of multiple martial arts cultures. If you award more points for an uppercut than a attempted gogoplata, then you’re going to have the jiu-jitsu community claiming that MMA is biased towards the boxing community. And is a true points system even feasible? Fights move really fast sometimes. What if a judge doesn’t have time to write everything down? What if while he’s jotting points down for a takedown he misses a triangle attempt from the bottom? And if we used a true points system where every aspect of a fight was assigned a numerical value, we’d have basketball scores for MMA fights.

And if you like how PRIDE scored fights as a whole and not broken down by rounds but also don’t believe the right judges are in place, then your belief system here is flawed. By fragmenting the scoring of a fight, you force judges to pay closer attention and take more into account. If you score a fight as one big round, an incompetent judge may ignore 13 minutes of a fight and render a decision based on the final two.

So keep the 10-point must, but come out with a more defined criteria about how fights should be scored and be sure to expound on the priority level of each criterion. Is cage control more important than “effective striking”? And just what is effective striking anyway?

Also, commissions need to stop adding their own unwritten rules. That’s a reference to several industry insiders telling me that certain commissions discourage their judges behind the scenes from scoring a fight a draw. I’ve been told that by multiple people and it angers me to no end. If a fight is a tie, it’s a tie, no matter how much the fans hate it.

If ties are such an evil, then for major fights they should have a fourth judge whose scoring will be introduced if a fight is a draw on the scorecards of the three judges of record.

2) If a fight is being televised, make it mandatory for the promotion on record to provide television monitors for the judges. It really wasn’t a factor Saturday night, but in some cases, a judge is unable to really see a fight if it goes to the ground with the backs of the fighters facing him. In some instances, I have seen some judges revert to looking to a big screen, just as many fans do when a fight goes to the ground. Why make them strain their necks or run the risk of them watching the telecast of the fight from an awkward angle? Put a TV screen in front of them. And not those old school box monitors they use for the UFC telecasts, get them some nice HD monitors to look at.

3) Create an independent oversight committee to review and analyze the performance of the judges. As of now, the same people in charge of overseeing the judges are the same people that appointed them. In a lot of cases, you have to have an existing relationship of some kind with a commissioner in order to be appointed as a judge. Because a judge is a very political process. It’s even more political once one becomes a judge.

A commissioner may not want to remove a judge from the rotation because he or she might be a friend who goes way back, or, the commission member might be making himself look bad by removing an official that he was responsible for appointing. A GM only fires a manager in baseball when he believes the performance of the manager could ultimately cost him his job as well. A commissioner isn’t on the hot seat like that.

By having an independent board evaluate the performance of every judge following a major event, you take it out of a commissioner’s hands.

4) Consider Dana White’s idea to expand the number of rounds in fights – If a standard high-level pro MMA bout was five rounds and title fights were seven rounds, you’d see fewer fight outcomes winding up at the discretion of judges. By extending rounds you would place a heavy emphasis on stamina (almost too much), but the role of the judge and the subjective nature of scoring of fight would greatly decrease. I would have love to have seen a sixth and possibly a seventh round this past Saturday. I’d like to see some experimentation with seven round title fights.
5) Create a separate application process to be a judge for MMA. Unless I am wrong, I believe that if you’re a boxing judge, you can be assigned to judge MMA if a commissioner thinks you’re qualified. Just because one is a boxing judge doesn’t mean one can’t understand the multi-layered nuances of MMA. However, just because one is a boxing judge, it doesn’t mean one is qualified to judge other combat sports.

Just because I have a license to drive a car, it doesn’t mean I should be granted a license to drive a tractor trailer. If I want to drive a truck, I have to go through a new battery of training and an entirely different testing procedure. I feel the same should apply to MMA, if it already isn’t the case. Some might say that boxing judges already have to go through a separate application process to judge MMA, but I’m not talking about a situation where someone fills out a piece of paper and it gets rubber stamped by the person that hired them to do boxing. If a thorough testing and evaluating system isn’t in place for MMA, it’s time to implement one. A few classes and some seminars aren’t enough training.

I know a lot of commission members read this site and if I am off base here about the requirements to judge MMA, let me know and I will get the whole story out there.

On another note, I just wanted to say I agree with New Jersey Athletic Control Board counsel Nick Lembo’s recommendation that the ABC change its name. The fact that a group is making alterations to the unified rules of MMA when MMA is excluded from their name speaks volumes. I think that’s the root of a lot of problems for MMA, in that it’s mashed in with boxing and treated like a step child. MMA needs things that it can call its own, such as its own commissions and its own judges. Most states don’t allow referees to work both boxing and MMA, yet there’s no problem allowing judges to work both.

I realize the money isn’t there in the budgets for a lot of states, but the sport of MMA really needs its own commissions instead of relying on the old boxing guard to decide what’s best for it. I find that in some, not all, just some, that there is an extreme bias against MMA within some commissions. MMA is a big enough sport that it deserves it’s own MMA commissioner in every commission state. And if money is the issue, then separate the boxing and MMA revenue streams. In most states, there are a lot more MMA shows going on than boxing shows. MMA is the bread winner and in most cases is paying for itself and could support the infrastructure that is needed. The problem is, the income MMA generates is applied to the other sports that the state regulates. No more free rides. Boxing should have to pay for itself and shouldn’t be allowed to ride on MMA’s coattails with MMA still being treated like the second class citizen.

The executive director within each athletic commission should appoint an MMA czar that reports directly to them. But have the MMA czar be someone with a tried and true MMA background and allow them to make the majority of the rulings pertaining to MMA. If you have true MMA commissioners then you can have the Association of Mixed Martial Arts Commissioners meet once a year and just discuss rule changes for the sport of MMA.

A lot of pure boxing people see MMA as nothing more than a burden. Nick Lembo wasn’t happy with the process employed to make major changes to the sport of MMA and chances are it was because you had a bunch of boxing people that had no passion for MMA that wanted to power through everything so they could get to the airport and try to schedule an earlier flight home. Lembo is very passionate about MMA, as our other major commission members in other states. But in a lot of cases, that’s not the case.

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