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If there is hope, it lies with the UFC

Sherdog hits the nail on the head: we don’t need scoring reform in MMA, we need judging and reffing reform.

Just look at this past weekend’s TUF 9 finale card. Both Gleison Tibau and Edgar Garcia fell victim to the not altogether shocking ineptitude of supposedly professional judges. Throw in a rash of bad calls made by big-name referees and relative unknowns alike, and we’re at a crossroads where the UFC has to choose between letting this go on unabated or using its connections to the Nevada State Athletic Commission to fix this and fix it now. After all, having former NSAC Executive Director Marc Ratner working for the UFC should only help to effect change with the sanctioning bodies.

This is not a problem that will go away on its own. Consider that boxing remains the domain of flat-out biased judging despite multiple attempts at reform by boxers, promoters and even politicians. There will be those who go to the grave saying that the system is fine, that the occasional bad call boils down to basic human error and that a bad decision is the fault of the fighters for not finishing the fight.

Such statements ignore the responsibility of all involved to refine the system as best they can. When you’ve got multimillion-dollar contracts flying around and the sport’s still tenuous foothold in the American mainstream’s consciousness at stake, taking a hands-off approach to a broken system is just one of many ways the sport can send itself headfirst into a pile-up.

The problem is even when commissions try to make changes they often fuck them up. Remember last year when the Association of Boxing Commissions (hmm, see the first problem there?) tried to fuck with the Unified Rules without consulting several of the biggest promoters and commissions? It was a giant clusterfuck which led to a backtrack which left us in the same situation we’ve been in now for years and years.

The rulebook is starting to show it’s age, with eyepoke, greasing, and low blow rules being the most obvious areas that need improvement as soon as possible. As the level of skill in MMA improves we’re also seeing more evenly matched fighters edging each other out by very small margins in each round. That leads to a bigger chance for idiot judges to fuck up decisions. And there seems to be no accountability at all for referees, who can impose their personality on a match quite easily – just watch the most recent Strikeforce Challengers event for proof of that.

So we understand the problem, but what the fuck are we supposed to do about it? These athletic commissions are government entities and often poorly run ones at that. And since everything is done on a state by state basis, it’s a gigantic pain in the ass getting any kind of consistancy. But that’s what the UFC needs to fight for, and they need to fight for it as hard as they fought for sanctioning. Now back to the Sherdog article:

The UFC, being the only promotion with the stateside pull to get things done, needs to sit down with the sanctioning bodies and work out a rigorous certification program for both judges and referees.

Being a “nice guy” won’t cut it. Having some well-placed connections won’t cut it. Spending your weekends rolling on the mats won’t cut it. Becoming a licensed judge or referee needs to be a process that carries with it a resolute commitment to excellence.

Beyond that, a review system must be implemented to ensure that the referees who are licensed are kept fully accountable. In the current system, even the worst calls net only an apology and some public humiliation for whoever is responsible.

Keep the same criteria for judges, and the system will become a well-oiled machine capable of handling the split-second decision-making demanded of referees and the reasoned analysis judges must make within moments of the closing bell. This is the only option for staving off the gradual decline we’ve seen from the sport’s officials.

Dana White is always saying he looks to boxing as a blueprint for what NOT to do. Well, they didn’t do anything about bad reffing and judging. So maybe the UFC shouldn’t not do nothing about it. Wait … yeah, I think that’s right.