Nevada commission director says there is no judging crisis

Elias Cepeda

The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) and its executive director Keith Kizer came under fire once again this past weekend after the UFC 167 main event in Las Vegas. UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre retained his title with a controversial split decision win over challenger Johny Hendricks.

“This is the thing that makes people not like fights," UFC president Dana White said after the event.

"I don’t even know what to say. I’m still so blown away by it. Georges knew he lost, his corner knew he lost. Hendricks knew he won, his corner knew he won...This commission is just despicably horrible.

"The Nevada State Athletic Commission has a lot of work to do – a lot of work to do - and it makes me sick. They better get to work, and they better figure out how to not destroy, not only the sport of boxing, but this sport, too.”

Kizer and the Nevada commission were also pilloried after one judge scored Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s lopsided win over Saul "Canelo" Alvarez a draw this past September. Despite the criticism, Kizer denies that there is a problem with scoring in the world's fight capital.

When asked Monday by Cagewriter if there is a judging crises in Nevada, the state chief flatly says, "No."

Furthermore, Kizer rejected the idea that St. Pierre's decision win should be considered controversial. "I understand the controversy in the Mayweather fight," he explained.

"But I don’t see controversy in the GSP/Hendricks decision. The media seems split on who won. The LA times scored it for GSP. All seemed to agree that Hendricks won rounds two and four and that St. Pierre won three and five. The first round could have gone either way."

This writer scored rounds 1-4 for Hendricks and round 5 going to St. Pierre.

Kizer understands that people will disagree with judges' decisions on any given fight. However, even if one disagrees with the UFC 167 main event decision, as Dana White did, Kizer says criticizing the commission for it doesn't make sense.

"Even if you disagreed with the scoring, how is that something to criticize the commission for," Kizer asks.

"Before the fight, both the St. Pierre and Hendricks camps were fine with the proposed judges... [Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and former NSAC executive director] Marc Ratner and Dana White have also told me that they believe Sal D'Mato and Tony Weeks (the two judges who scored the fight for St. Pierre with scores of 48-47) were two of the best judges, if not the best, in MMA. You can tell they feel that way by where the UFC has taken them."

When the UFC holds events abroad in places without athletic commissions, they often choose to hire officials themselves. Weeks and D'Mato have judged many UFC events all over the world and so Kizer says that Nevada was not out of line in any way by choosing them to judge the UFC 167 main event.

Kizer says that the training and evaluation for established judges like the ones who officiated over UFC 167 consists of both formal and informal elements.

"There's formal and informal things we do with officials," Kizer explains.

"The formal part for us are the seminars we put together for officials where we go over things like judging criteria but also things like rules of ethics. Don’t ask for autographs, don’t sneak people in, etc. We go over fight films and discuss many things. After events we informally talk with officials as well about the calls they made and decisions they gave, reasons for doing so and we discuss things."

Kizer feels that nothing was out of the ordinary with the UFC 167 main event scoring and that Nevada judges are doing a good job, overall. He also says that he hasn't received any warnings or pressure to change how things are done from other state officials this fall, in the wake of the Mayweather vs. Canelo scoring and UFC 167 scoring.

Dana White lobbed perhaps his worst criticism ever of the NSAC after UFC 167, insinuating that he will have to reconsider holding so many events in the UFC's home state and saying that the governor of Nevada should somehow get involved in correcting the vague problem he feels exists with the way the commission operates. The UFC brings a lot of money into the state with it's events and it isn't inconceivable that a veiled threat to not hold as many events as they always have in Nevada would get the attention of those in the state legislature and the governor himself.

"Nevada is a very scary place," White said to media after UFC 167.

"This is the worst commission on the planet. I am afraid to bring fights to Las Vegas. I never thought I’d say that. This is the city I live in. This is the city I love. This is the worst commission on the planet.”

Even after those comments from White and a public apology to the governor after the Mayweather/Canelo fight from one of the commissioners earlier this fall, Kizer says he isn't worried.

"I don’t think it's likely," Kizer said of the possibility that the UFC would decide to scale back its promotional efforts in Nevada.

"I don’t think its what [White] meant but in any case, we are a public agency and so we are happy to hear everyone's comments and input."

As it does periodically, the NSAC has set a public workshop for Monday, Dec. 2 at 9am to solicit comments from any interested people on matters related to unarmed combat sports like boxing and mixed martial arts. For more information on the meeting, view the full public notice here.

Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda