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  • 11-27-2013, 10:29 AM
    CSAC Executive Officer open letter for change: 'Judging system used to score MMA requires evolution'

    There are times when reasonable people disagree over who won a particular fight. But there are, in Mixed Martial Arts, too many times when it is clear that who "won" the fight is different than what the score reflects.

    The judging system used to score Mixed Martial Arts needs to evolve into something better.

    The 10-9 system, developed and used in boxing, is not performing adequately in mixed martial arts. Why? The 10-9 must system used in boxing and MMA scores each round independently. Professional boxing is scheduled in even increments of 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 (championship) rounds. Professional Mixed Martial Arts is scheduled in odd increments of 3 or 5 (championship) rounds.

    In addition, MMA rounds are 5 minutes in duration, where boxing is only 3 minutes. The less number of rounds and increased duration per round in mixed martial arts creates a situation where a judge is required to score an individual round taking into account significantly more information that yields a much heavier weighted effect on the overall result of the fight.

    For example, like we have recently seen, one competitor can win two rounds with a much larger margin, and the judges see the other competitor winning the other three rounds at a very close margin. The result is the winner on the scorecards is not the winner of the actual fight.

    Again, I ask why?

    A major reason is the lack of objectivity in scorning a 10-8 round in MMA. In boxing, 2 points are deducted (almost always) for a knockdown, and the judges in boxing are informed by the referee if the knockdown occurs. The boxing referee rules either a slip or knockdown, letting the judges know whether to deduct the 2 points.

    No such objective criterion exists in MMA (nor should there be).

    MMA is much more dynamic with literally geometrically increasing ways to "effectively strike" and "effectively grapple". This lack of an objective measure of a 10-8 round in mixed martial arts has contributed to the "incorrect" decisions in the sport and the hesitation of a judge to write down 10-8 as the score.

    Also troubling is the lack of an objective criteria for a 10-8 round creates an environment where it is possible that one judge scores a fight 10-8, the other two 10-9, and the end result on the final scorecard can create absurd or even bizarre results. The very nature of judging, if performed by trained and educated judges, is appropriately subjective, however, requiring judges to subjectively assess a 10-8 round based upon "effective striking" and "effective grappling" without a clear objective indicator like in boxing is unfair to the judge but more importantly it is unfair to the athlete being assessed.

    We can and must do better.

    There are probably hundreds of good ideas on how to fix this, and I don’t claim to have a monopoly on them, but one thought might be that the 10-9 system is still used, but it is not the "official" determinator of who won the fight. The judge could score each round independently using the 10-9 system just as the unified rules of mixed martial arts requires, however, at the end of the fight the official judges score card would not be numerical, but rather a question "Who won the fight?"

    This final official scorecard would allow the judges to take the entire fight into consideration and, with trained and educated judges, should create the correct result at a higher percentage than is currently realized. Using the 10-9 system in an unofficial capacity would allow regulators and members of the media to continually monitor the judges selected to ensure that these judges are competent and scoring "correctly" using the numerical 10-9 system.

    This system would be a merger between the pre regulation past of scoring the entire fight in totality and the commission regulated present of using a boxing system to score mixed martial arts. Mixed Martial Artists train very hard, make many sacrifices, and take risks to their personal health and safety when competeing.

    It is disturbing when a fighter who clearly has performed better than his opponent loses because of a flawed scoring system. It is essential that state athletic commissions select the MOST qualified officials available and provide a system of scoring that produces the correct result.

    Without selecting the most qualified officials available, officials who have an almost expert knowledge of striking and grappling arts, any scoring system will fail. I am publicly requesting that the Association of Boxing Commission’s mixed martial arts judging committee call a public meeting so we can begin dialogue about making sensible changes to the judging system used to score mixed martial arts.

    This meeting should include all the stakeholders – regulators, promoters, athletes, media, and members of the public. The market is demanding improvements, and if we don’t produce them, the sport will suffer. They want to know "Who won the fight?"

    And we need to be able to tell them.

    -- Andy Foster
    Executive Officer California State Athletic Commission (CSAC)
  • 11-20-2013, 05:12 PM
    Commissioner: NSAC aims to train, bring in more judges and referees
    The Nevada State Athletic Commission is holding a training session for its officials today in Las Vegas. The commission’s chair wants to double the number of learning opportunities available to them.

    Francisco Aguilar, who on Halloween took over for Bill Brady as NSAC chairman, said he’s spoken to NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer about holding training sessions on a quarterly rather than biannual basis.

    “We need to be consistent in what our philosophies are, and that philosophy needs to be communicated to these judges and these refs,” Aguilar told MMAjunkie.

    In the wake of UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre’s split decision over Johny Hendricks in the headliner of this past Saturday’s UFC 167, many MMA observers have wondered aloud whether the NSAC is employing the right people to judge fights. UFC President Dana White blasted the bout’s scoring at the post-event press conference and called for Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to fix the NSAC.

    “I think the outcry is, it was a very close fight, it could have gone one way or the other, but I think what occurred in the press conference added a little bit of fuel to the situation, as well,” Aguilar said.

    Still, the chairman said the NSAC needs to bring in additional officials to ensure the best candidates are at the commission’s disposal.

    “I think one place where we need to do a better job is expanding our roster of judges and refs, and looking more across the country to say who are the top performing judges and who are the top performing refs and start bringing them into the current pool we have of judges and refs,” Aguilar said.

    Kizer said additional training is “good news” and added the NSAC is currently evaluating officials that could be hired or rehired to work events. He estimated that one judge and referee each would be added to the roster in the near future, though he said Aguilar could bring additional candidates before the commission.

    UFC commentator Joe Rogan was more severe in his assessment of the NSAC’s judges, accusing them of receiving payoffs in exchange for scoring bouts in favor of a particular fighter.

    “That’s unfortunate, because I don’t think that’s the case at all,” Aguilar said. “I think the judges and refs we do have are honest people. They do a great job, and I think it only hurts the sport by him making those comments.”

    Aguilar said he reached out to Sandoval on the day after the event to give an update on the controversy. He also called White, who on Monday tamped down his rhetoric in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

    “I think we got to a good place,” Aguilar said. “[White] understands my concerns, I understand his concerns, and this is an ever-evolving process. We have to work together to make things stronger for everybody, and we can’t do it individually. In order to do it together, we have to have a working relationship where we have respect for each other.”

    Aguilar said he was bombarded with texts from friends both in favor of and opposed to the decision, and while he anticipated the public to be divided, he was surprised to see a strong backlash against the NSAC.

    Both Kizer and Aguilar believe the controversy centers around the bout’s close first round, on which two of three judges disagreed, and White’s fiery criticism of the commission. But, Aguilar added, the NSAC needs to apply the same due diligence and care to MMA as it does to boxing.

    “The UFC is a growing sport, it’s one of the fastest growing, and are we keeping pace with them to be able to provide the level of service that they expect,” he said.

    In the wake of a highly controversial scorecard at the Floyd Mayweather vs. Saul Alvarez fight, the commission moved to increase scrutiny on judges and referees in the selection process that takes place prior to big combat sports events.

    Along with widening the pool of MMA officials, Aguilar said that additional training and more transparency in the process of recruiting officials from the NSAC’s amateur events will put the commission on better footing in MMA.

    “It takes years to become a judge or a ref, but we need to start developing a proper pipeline, and looking at who we have in the amateurs and who can perform, and then get them in the proper process,” he said.

    In the coming weeks, Aguilar said he expects to narrow down a list of candidates, who will then be evaluated by the commission. He hopes to put new officials into play as soon as possible.

    “This is going to be a process that involves the whole commission, because the whole commission is going to have to ask their questions of Keith of these individuals, and they’re going to as a group decide at open meeting whom to grant licenses to,” he said.
    Kizer: Why Open Scoring is not ideal

    MMAJunkie's Ben Fowlkes spoke with the Nevada Athletic Commission's Executive Director Keith Kizer, who detailed two great reasons why Open Scoring is not optimal for the world's fastest growing sport. The first is the potential effect of open scoring on the judges.

    Imagine an important fight for a hometown fighter in front of a highly partisan crowd... after three rounds of a five-round title fight, the scores are announced and the judges have it unanimously for the visiting fighter.

    “First of all, you could have people throwing beer bottles and all that,” Kizer said. “Secondly, even if they don’t throw beer bottles, the judges – and I’ve talked to some of them about this – they’d be afraid. They’d be looking behind them during the next round. Then the rest of the fight after that, there’s the potential for the judges to be distracted.”

    There’s also the potential for the judges to be influenced by hearing one another’s scores, Kizer said. If you’re a judge who scored the first four rounds for one fighter while your colleagues have it more evenly split, “There’s going to be some pressure on you to feel like you should give the fifth round to the other guy.”

    The second is the potential effect of open scoring on a fighter. Playing it safe when you are comfortably ahead is not so much the problem. But unlike say Tennis where if you hurt your ankle you are out, in MMA, if sufficient rounds have passed, if you get injured due to an accidental clash, it goes to the judges score cards.

    Say, for example, a champion is battering the challenger for the first three rounds of a title fight. Then in the fourth he runs out of gas, fades in the face of an onslaught from his opponent, and barely survives the round. Heading into the final round, we hear the scores announced. It’s 39-37 for the champion. At the start of the fifth, there’s an accidental clash of heads or an inadvertent eye poke. The champ says his vision is blurry. He can’t continue. Even if the judges score that incomplete round for the challenger, the champ still wins a technical decision. Now what are fans supposed to think?

    “Either he’s telling the truth, but, you know, you and I won’t believe him,” Kizer said. “Or he isn’t telling the truth, and he managed to keep the belt because he knew he was ahead on the scorecards.”

    That potential for abuse, along with the potential for judges to be distracted, might make open scoring a situation where “the cure would be worse than the disease,” according to Kizer.
  • 11-18-2013, 11:37 AM
    Quote Originally Posted by Spoon View Post
    Meh. Didn't they do it at the beginning of the year, or the end of last year too? I don't recall any changes, maybe the rule allowing refs discretion on whether a fighter is technically a "downed" opponent or not?
    Not in effect yet. Would have had ramifications for several fights last night.
  • 11-18-2013, 11:10 AM
    Quote Originally Posted by Spoon View Post
    Meh. Didn't they do it at the beginning of the year, or the end of last year too? I don't recall any changes, maybe the rule allowing refs discretion on whether a fighter is technically a "downed" opponent or not?
    Didnt they relax the rules on marijuana testing too?
  • 11-18-2013, 10:56 AM
    Meh. Didn't they do it at the beginning of the year, or the end of last year too? I don't recall any changes, maybe the rule allowing refs discretion on whether a fighter is technically a "downed" opponent or not?
  • 11-18-2013, 09:03 AM

    NSAC announces Dec. 2 workshop to solicit input on regulation changes

    NSAC officials recently announced they will conduct a workshop to “solicit comments on proposed regulation” as it pertains to chapter 467 of the Nevada Administrative Code – the section of the Silver State’s law that oversees unarmed combat, including MMA and boxing.

    The meeting takes place Monday, Dec. 2 at 9 a.m. PT local time at the Grant Sawyer State Office Building, located at 555 East Washington Ave., Suite 4500, in Las Vegas.

    “The purpose of the workshop is to solicit comments from interested persons on any matter related to contests or exhibitions of unarmed combat, or any other matter within the jurisdiction of the Nevada Athletic Commission,” an official release announcing the meeting stated.

    As one of the leading commissions in the country, the NSAC has long been looked at as one of the strongest governing bodies in combat sports. However, the organization has recently endured criticism for referee performances, its handling of performance-enhancing drugs in combat sports and – perhaps most notoriously – the quality of judging decisions rendered.

    That last issue was on full display at this past weekend’s UFC 167 event, where UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre was awarded a split-decision win over challenger Johny Hendricks.

    While most cageside observers believe the fight hinged on the opening round, every major media outlet tracked by scored the fight for Hendricks. Judges Sal D’Amato and Tony Weeks gave St-Pierre rounds 1, 3 and 5 and Hendricks 2 and 4. Judge Glenn Trowbridge awarded Hendricks rounds 1, 2 and 4 while awarding St-Pierre 3 and 5.

    UFC boss White said he scored the fight for the challenger four rounds to one and lambasted the commission at the evening’s post-event press conference.

    “The governor needs to step in and fix the incompetence that is happening in the state of Nevada that used to be the best commission in the world,” White said. “It’s absolutely, 100 percent incompetence, and it needs to stop.”

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