MMA struggles with judging issues

There’s a problem with judging in mixed martial arts and everyone knows it.

MMA judging has long been criticized. To illustrate how little confidence there is in the assigned judges rendering a correct decision, it’s a common phrase within the industry to “not leave it in the hands of the judges.”

The fact that it is regularly uttered by nearly every fighter in the sport and of the president of the biggest mixed martial arts organization in the world, the UFC’s Dana White, is alarming and a testament to there being a problem with competent judging in MMA.

California recently implemented the use of individual video screens for ringside judges to allow them to gain a perspective of the action when it’s not within the judge’s line of view.

The change was present at the UFC on Versus 2 event on Aug. 1 in San Diego, but the Nevada Athletic Commission unplugged similar monitors at UFC 116 at the MGM Grand Arena on July 3.

“They unplugged them in Nevada,” White told “Nevada wouldn’t allow it. It’s a commission thing. We’ll do whatever the commission wants to do one way or the other.”

Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, confirmed, “There are no current plans to utilize them in Nevada, but it is something we have looked at before and I think that monitors for judges may be something to consider in the future. In fact, there is already a requirement in Nevada that there be big screens in the arena for both fans and judges if their view of the action is blocked.

“Of course, it is better to watch something in 3-D as opposed to 2-D, and it is better to watch something live than on a small TV,” he added in explaining Nevada’s reasoning behind not utilizing the individual monitors.

“But more important is that fact that it is better to have the judges collectively watching from three different angles than just one angle. So you certainly do not want the judges to over-utilize them.”

There are typically three judges per bout, with each judge being placed at a different location around the cage or ring, giving each a different view of the action in the cage. This is part of the reason that fans and other critics, watching from a single vantage point, are often left wondering, “what the heck was that judge watching?”

That said, White is committed to raise the bar for both judging and refereeing in mixed martial arts, but would like to expedite a raise in the standard.

“I’m never happy with bad officiating, period, whether it’s judging or reffing. I always do everything I can to try and make it better. It’s like your hands are tied. Listen, it’s frustrating,” said the UFC president.

Ultimately poor judging affects an athlete’s future, legacy, and market value.

“What I don’t like is that how hard these guys work and how much they put into it and how much if affects their lives and their livelihood if a guy makes a mistake,” said White. “I think we should do everything in our power.”

White calls for education.

“These guys should be going to school and they should be studying,” he stated. “These guys should be taking jiu-jitsu classes and learning every (expletive) submission there is, the setups, the attempts, the this and that.

“I want to figure out any way and work with the commissions on how to make it better,” said the UFC president.

“I don’t want to sit here and start bashing athletic commissions, but it’s what needs to be done.

“They’re affecting people’s lives. It drives me crazy.”

(Additional reporting by Damon Martin)

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