What is Wrong with MMA Judging?

“Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges”

That’s the words Dana White has echoed countless times on not leaving the fight in the hands of the judges and finishing fights before the final round hits triple zero. Those words are wise to follow but sometimes fights cannot be finished and it has to be put in the hands of the judges..

It seems after each fight card in whatever organization hosts MMA fights there is some controversy with the way judging is scored and who ultimately picks up the win. Many have blamed the judging of the sport for MMA not gaining more fans and being more of a mainstream media giant. Sure you can put the blame on judges that don’t feel they are doing their job but the reality is nothing is being done to increase the credibility of these individuals.
According the California Athletic Commission (just one example) there is a 2 day conference where individuals take a written and technique test as well as a practical application test. The individual needs to obtain at least a 90 percent on each test to be approved a gaining one step to becoming an MMA judge.

Then the individual needs to go 10 events and fill out dummy MMA scorecards for each fight. Then after the fights the interim judges will compares with the judges and see if there scores are comparable. After 10 events the lead official will either consider consideration to the CAMO (California Athletic Martial Arts Organization) or deny the application. If the individual fails any of the tests or the judging process they must retake all the courses and tests to possibly be considered a future MMA judge.

After 3 years of judging amateur MMA they must then call the California Athletic State Commission and then fill out an application. The application will be reviewed and a decision will be made whether the person fulfills the qualifications of a professional MMA judge.
So that is the simple rundown on what it takes to become an MMA judge which is a pretty lengthy process and could take many years before even being considered a professional. However, the research I have done does not state anything about constant refresher courses for the current judges. I’m sure there are courses that are offered but nothing stated that they are optional or mandatory. That is one flaw in the system.

With always changing sport of MMA the judges need to stay in check with those changes by going through refresher courses at least twice a year. It can bring up current video of current moves and possibly points being scored throughout the duration of the fight. This would make it easier on the officials during the stage of the fights to focus on new scoring methods and not hesitating or unsure on giving a point for that fighter.

Another focal point recently of MMA judging has been video monitors for the judges. This could have a better view point for the judges who can’t see on certain sides of the cage or potential blind spots of cage posts. Video monitors can also be a big advantage for the judges that can’t see the point of emphasis on a certain take-down or overall cage control. Video monitors will enhance their view and make giving points a lot easier.

MMA judging in itself seems to have been taken over by former boxing judges. Boxing at one time was a huge business (which still is) and many judges have transited over to MMA. The transfer over hasn’t been seamless do to that the some of the fights have been judged more on punches thrown than the technical aspects on the ground and in the guard. The problem for the Athletic Commission could be not enough people are coming forward with a mixed martial arts background wanting to be judges. It’s a frustrating situation not only for the commissions but for the MMA organizations as well.

Bringing in mixed martial art based judges would not only bring down the heat on the final scoring from fans and fighters but make scoring a little more reasonable if it does come down to the cards. Everybody can be a judge from their living room seat or from their arena chair but bringing in judges that have trained or been around the sport for many years makes the backlash that much more minimal.

This has been the talk of the MMA community the last few months and many think the owners of the organizations have say what judges are assigned to the events.  This is in all of the hands of the Athletic Commission of where the event is taking place. There are certain judges that many do not approve of but with the possibly of being short handed they have no choice to put those judges in place. So blaming owners of the MMA organization is wrong and probably are equally frustrated.

The final point is that the judges are not held accountable for the possible miscues that can occur during a fight score. Do the higher officials in the commission review each fight and compare do their own score cards to compare? I think there is a lack of miscommunication between the judges and higher officials on discussing why they scored a certain fight that way.

Nothing will be decided or changed in a few short months but hopefully it can get much better before it gets worse. Judging will always be looked at as sub-par and until there are changes brought throughout the commission it will constantly be insulted and abused. When the changes happen, then quite possibly the fights that don’t end inside the octagon and are in the hands of 3 individuals are judged correctly. Until then the fighters could go for broke and end the fights on their own, or make their fight quite possibly a coin flip on any given night.

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