On Saturday January 25 during the UFC on Fox 10 event, we were subjected to yet another highly controversial decision. Former UFC lightweight champion, Benson Henderson and former Strikeforce lightweight champion, Josh Thompson fought to a five round split decision. When the fight ended the crowd, and me, thought that Thompson did enough to get his hand raised. Unfortunately the judges saw it the other way, and when Bruce Buffer announced Henderson as the winner the arena flooded with boos. Even more shocking was that judge Sal D’Amato had the fight scored four rounds to one for Henderson. Even if you did see Henderson winning the fight there is no explanation him winning by such a large margin, especially when Thompson spend the majority of the first two rounds on Henderson’s back.
This hasn’t been the only fight in recent, or distant, memory where the judges have done their job so poorly. Poor judging is becoming a disturbing trend in the sport of MMA, and it is tarnishing its reputation, and is continuously disappointing the fans and the fighters. With Keith Keiser finally resigning from his post as director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the commission has an opportunity to fix the judging crisis. They should start making changing right away from top to bottom. Here are a few suggestions that could help clean up the judging in the sport.
Hire a former professional athlete as the director of the athletic commission- Have someone that actually knows a thing or two about competing in professional sports. Having someone who genuinely cares about the athletes, and knows what it is like being in their shoes. It would be even better to have a former fighter as the director, but I would more than happily settle for a former pro athlete
Have higher standards for judges- Judging is a very important job in MMA, and there needs to be a higher standard for hiring judges. I feel like judges need to have some sort of martial arts background, and some sort of knowledge of what is going on when the fight is on the ground. Judges need to have experience in both stand up and ground fighting martial arts.
Overturn bad decisions- I had high hopes for this one after hearing that the Jessica Eye- Sarah Kaufman fight had been overturned. It was a fight many thought Kaufman handily won. Many thought the commission had found the decision to be bad, and overturned it. It turned out that the fight was overturned due to a failed drug test by Eye.
Have serious consequences for bad judging- After the Thompson-Henderson fight I feel like Sal D’Amato should have to go through some sort of disciplinary action. So far there has been none, and this isn’t the first time he has made a bad call. The judges don’t seem to have any incentive to correctly score the fight. They are continually allowed to judge, even when there is public outrage over decisions. They need to take responsibility for their mistakes, but their bosses seldom give them any reason to do so.
These issues are major problems in the sport of mixed martial arts. Poor judging is ruining fighter’s careers, and the legitimacy of the sport. Something needs to be done quickly. Hopefully with the recent departure of Keith Kiser, we can see some real changes occur.