Make no mistake about it, there are clearly incompetent judges currently getting paid in this industry as evident in the rash of eyebrow raising decisions turned in the last few months at various MMA events. It’s clear judges need to be better educated on the various maneuvers that take place during a MMA fight. However, there are many judges that consistently get it right as well.
I had the pleasure of attending a local MMA event this past weekend, sitting cage side while providing the play by play commentary for this site. I intentionally sat right beside one of the judges to get his take on different aspects of the game, asked him how long he had been judging, etc.
The judge had been serving as an MMA official for about five years and seemed pretty knowledgeable about the day to day ongoings of the sport which impressed me. He also seemed knowledgeable about various grappling positions, but openly stated he did not not give much credit for take-downs that resulted in no offense or advancement of position.
After each round of the fights, we chatted about what took place and all of his explanations seemed rational. However, there was one fight in particular that was really close and when the fight was over we chatted about how we scored the fight.
I scored the fight for fighter A and he scored the fight for fighter B with a score of 29-28. The other two judges scored the bout 29-28 for for fighter A.
The majority of the round in question took place literally on the opposite side of the cage in which we were sitting at eye level with the floor, but much closer to the other two judges.
It was pretty difficult for the both of us to see what was landing cleanly while both fighters were clinched or standing toe to toe.
So when two judges score the fight one way and another judge gives an off the wall type of score, I think the distance the fight took place away from a judge could be a factor
After seeing this first hand, I could really see how a judge could be influenced by a fighter moving forward aggressively and swinging while not being able to see his opponent effectively countering with strikes, etc.
Typically, regional promotions use cages that are much smaller than the UFC Octagon. We are talking about a distance close to 30 feet away from the judges if a fight takes place on the opposite side of the cage as it did in this instance.
I could only imagine how difficult it would be to score a fight in this matter.
A lot of people have their own opinion about what the correct system would be. The PRIDE scoring system and the 10 point must system with half points seem to be the more popular alternatives that fans talk about lately.
However, I think the first thing that needs to take place is the basic education of MMA judges in general. You can implement whatever system you want, but it will not do any good unless the judges are competent about what’s taking place in the fight.
I think the second step is providing judges with monitors directly in front of them so they can actually see what’s taking place 30 feet across the cage. No judge should have to guess what’s happening on the opposite side of the cage, especially if the fight is taking place on the ground.
Judging is still subjective, so there will always be debates about how judges score fights, similar to the way fans and pundits debate fighter rankings.
However, implementing these two steps would go a long way in providing more consistency in regards to MMA judging. That’s all you can ask for.