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Joe Rogan wonders if underdog fighters sway MMA judges’ score cards by “outperforming expectations”

By Zach Arnold | April 29, 2010

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I wanted to highlight some of the comments Joe Rogan made in a recent interview for Sports Illustrated with Josh Gross. In the first article on the interview, Joe talked a bit about some of the issues that are plaguing Anderson Silva and wondered if Silva is suffering from stamina problems in longer fights.

For this article, we will focus on comments that Joe made about MMA judging and how there are a lot of bad judges currently being used by the various athletic commissions. There are some obvious questions raised here: Why is MMA judging so bad right now? What fixes should be made to improve the quality of judging?

However, Joe threw a third question out there that deals with the human element. Because a lot of people bet on MMA fights and UFC management is from the casino world, are MMA judges influenced a lot by the “expectations game” when you have certain fighters who come in as massive underdogs and all of a sudden hang around in a high-profile fight? In other words, shouldn’t the champion get the edge due to the axiom of “to be the man, you have to beat the man?” Has the axiom been flipped upside-down now so that judges give the benefit of the doubt to the underdog instead of to the champion?

In the interview with Josh, Joe discussed this axiom in relation to the UFC 112 Lightweight title fight between Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn.

“The problem with these fights sometime is when you see a guy like Frankie Edgar, who everyone expects to lose in spectacular fashion, I mean he’s fighting the greatest Lightweight in the history of the sport, you know BJ comes off this destruction of Diego Sanchez and I think a lot of people went into that fight thinking that Edgar was going to get creamed and when you see him doing well, just doing well I think you’re surprised that he’s doing well and people think he’s doing better than he is because they’re surprised that he’s doing well. I think they were close rounds and I think, I can kind of see an argument if you were watching it at home or if you watching it live even that maybe Edgar won some of the close rounds and it was like enough to win a 1-pt decision, but when I watched it at home and reviewed it and you know went over it a couple of times, I didn’t think so. I thought that Penn had the cleaner shots. I thought Frankie was definitely busier, Frankie moved better, you know he definitely pushed the pace, and he definitely won the last round. But all the other rounds, I think the way I looked at it I think I looked at it like 3-2 for BJ, I think three rounds to two but it could have been 4-to-1 for BJ as well, but you know a lot of them were really close, they were really close. You could see an argument for Frankie making BJ fight his fight and Frankie you know moving around a lot, slipping a lot of punches and making BJ work but I think BJ landed cleaner shots.”

Throughout his interview with Josh, Joe mentioned that when he got back home from Abu Dhabi that he re-watched all the fights from the PPV on TV and he was able to glean more information that he missed by being at ringside and not watching a monitor full-time. Of course, MMA judges don’t have monitors that they can look at and it doesn’t appear that many athletic commission are interested in giving television monitors to the judges to use.

“I think one of the really important things we need are monitors. I think that judges really need monitors, you know, there are certain positions where the judges are in where they can’t see you know what’s going on. It happens all the time with us, too, like where a cameraman will be in front of me or the referee will be in front of me and I can’t see what’s happening so I have to look at the monitors. And if I didn’t have those monitors and I had to judge the fact just based on what I saw, you know, there’s going to be some stuff I miss and I think the judges do miss things. When I brought that up to Keith Kizer, he said ‘Well, that’s why there’s three judges,’ which I thought was one of the most retarded answers I’ve ever heard in my life. Like, that’s why there’s three judges so one guy can fuck it up and the other two can get it right? That doesn’t even make any sense. Like, how about giving them some monitors, why not just give them monitors? Give them monitors just like we have monitors.”

Bringing in Marc Ratner into the Zuffa fold was a brilliant move on Zuffa’s part. Of course, Marc largely dealt with the boxing world and many of the people he dealt with from his earlier days are still around on the athletic commissions. Rogan says that having “boxing people” at MMA events is a big problem.

“We have a huge problem with the boxing people, we have a huge problem with some of these people who have no martial arts experience whatsoever or people who have no grappling experience. There’s a bunch of people who’ve never been kicked to the legs who go around saying stupid things like leg kicks don’t win fights or leg kicks don’t stop fights and these guys are actually judges for Mixed Martial Arts events and that’s a ridiculous statement and this is coming from someone who is a professional judge, you know who’s judged some huge events, you know gigantic championship fights. We definitely have a problem and the real problem is also for Mixed Martial Arts fans, there’s a lot really intelligent people that are huge Mixed Martial Arts fans that would love those jobs and would do a much better job at it, you know we have like this you know these people that are just kind of like grandfathered in that you know have been with the sport for too long, they’ve been involved in for some of have been involved in boxing and others have been involved in other you know karate and stuff like that and they have come of kind into the sport you know early on, stuck there, and it’s a real problem. It’s difficult to get rid of them.”

Except, of course, when a said judge makes an ass out of himself on the Internet and basically flips the proverbial bird to paying UFC customers.

“They’re like government jobs. It’s like trying to get fired from a Government position. It’s difficult, you got to really screw up, you’ve got to be involved in some sort of a scandal. It looks like they got rid of (Doug) Crosby, they got rid of him because of all the stuff he did on The Underground when he got on the (site) and start joking around about it and trolling. Thank God he’s not going to do any fights any more because of that.

“He’s a weird guy. I like Doug as a person, he’s a fun guy to talk to but he’s a very weird guy. I was really shocked by his score card because he’s usually one of the better judges. I mean, that was not indicative of a normal score card from him, usually I agree with him. He’s definitely [eccentric].”

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 20 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

20 Responses to “Joe Rogan wonders if underdog fighters sway MMA judges’ score cards by “outperforming expectations””

  1. EJ says:

    :In other words, shouldn’t the champion get the edge due to the axiom of “to be the man, you have to beat the man?.”

    No, that is an idiotic and flawed idea that has helped ruin boxing and led to some of the worst decisions ever.

    Simply put in a fight, there should be no bias either to the champion or the challenger whoever does the most under the rules is declared the winner leave that other bs to die with boxing.

    • Robert Poole says:

      I agree with EJ. Each round should be scored evenly as if neither guy has a title and as if the judge has never seen the fighters before. The only way to take the bias out of judging is to set up a criteria that removes them from being fans while they’re working I suppose.

      This isn’t pro wrestling where once you have the title there are different rules in place making it easier to retain the title.

      In the fight game there needs to be impartiality regardless of one’s position in the rankings.

  2. Si says:

    The things that Dana and Joe seem to be ranting about (judging, refs etc) are things that they could very well be testing and exercising on these foreign cards.

    Don’t they control things like drug testing and assigned judges? In which case, why not do things “right” in Europe, Abu Dhabi, and Australia to demonstrate why their ideas are better?

  3. Grape Knee High says:

    45, comment?

    Joe seems to be echoing my opinion that monitors give a different and better view of a fight, over watching at ringside with a frequently obscured view.

  4. mmalphadog says:

    Although I agree that it would be a good idea to provide judges with monitors, because anything you can do to help them make the right decision is good, I think that most of the fights outcomes are pretty accurate. I have only seen a couple that I felt were completely off and actually made me think “Corrupt!” The Frankie Edgar/BJ Penn fight was not one of them. I watch the fights for my website and take notes to update my “Recent fights” page. I felt that BJ easily won round one, edged out round two and Edgar won rounds three thru five. I admit that three was close and could have gone either way depending on your angle or maybe Penn bias, but, all in all, I felt the decision was a good one.

  5. Alan Conceicao says:

    Camera angles can easily obscure things that matter, every bit as much as sitting ringside. To me, having a guy watching the video is questionable because his ability to view the fight is being controlled by a nonimpartial third party.

    • Grape Knee High says:

      It is true that camera angles can also obscure. But we’re talking the lesser of two evils here.

      As far as a biased third party, I have trouble believing that Zuffa producers could determine the camera angles in real-time that would benefit their favored fighter, and on top of that implement that strategy effectively.

  6. A. Taveras says:

    I think fans just need to accept there will always be questionable decisions. Fights are subjective and judges will have biases, whether for certain fighters or certain styles. Also even if everything is above board judges are not immune to the politics of a situation. Even with rule changes and new faces, in ten years we will still be seeing strange decisions.

    Zach I hope you cover Gross’ comments of what he called the boxing-like narrative of the promotion. Zuffa now knows they can also successfully promote a particular bout like boxing promoters. I know there have been UFC cards named after the headline bout but this was a step beyond that … no branding at all.

  7. 45 Huddle says:

    The monitor option sounds decent but when you really think it through, it can have lots of negatives. You can’t tell the power of a strike on a monitor like you can live.

    What the UFC needs to concentrate on is two things….

    1) Working with the AC’s to get a better crop of educated judges into the bigger fights.

    2) Change up the cage. The think is practically unviewable to an audience. They need to find a way to decrease the thickness of the posts, find a better material for the cage that isn’t so hard on the eyes, and pla with the height of the octagon to see if it helps judges be able to view the ground action better.

    But let’s not put all the blame on the judges here. You have a guy like Penn put on a completely flat performance and allowed a lesser fighter to be mire active and keep it close. Or you have Zombie vs. Garcia that had ZERO technique and then they want judge to judge it based on it’s technical aspects.

    Overall, there aren’t many horrible decisions like there are in boxing where I have seen a few absolutely horrible corrupt decisions. Most of the time they are close decisions that can be judged very differently depending on how much importance a judge puts on wrestling or BJJ or boxing or kickboxing. There is no perfect solution to judging MMA. It will always have some problems.

    • When 45 says totally sensible things I wonder who he actually is, given how brilliant the trolling is. In part, I hope he is the same person who is mmalogic.

    • Grape Knee High says:

      Just to add one more thing. I’m not saying that judges should only use monitors. They should use all the tools available to them, including their ringside seat, which I agree has some advantages that a TV view doesn’t have. But they should have a monitor available to them and use it liberally as necessary.

      Now if the debate here is if you were forced to choose one and only one view, with the choice being between a ringside seat and the PPV feed, I don’t see any valid argument that a ringside seat offers, overall, a superior view for judging purposes. They both have pros and cons, but the PPV feed is infinitely more reliable and less obscured overall.

      • To me, this is the deal: Its more consistent with what we the fans see at home on TV. But should they be judging off what we see or from their vantage point at the event? I tend not to think so highly of monitors for that reason.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        My biggest worry is that the judges will have the intentions of watching the action live but end up watching over 50% of it from a monitor.

        The last Bellator event I was at…. When the action was out of my viewpoint (and I was 10 rows from cageside)…. I would have to watch the monitors. The problem is when the action gets back to where I can see it…. Many times I forgot to watch the live action again for a minute or so. I think it’s all too natural of a reaction.

        Plus, going from live to screen multiple times during a fight gives a distorted view of what is happening. They are two very different ways of viewing a fight…. And I think we would potentially get even more crazy decisions with them in there.

        I completely understand where Rogan is coming from…. And it really does make sense on a high level. But the devil is in the details….. And I’m not so sure it translates best to a real life application….

        • 45 Huddle says:

          One thing I think is a better option…. And I thought of this when I watched Bellator….

          Around the cage is a platform probably 2 to 3 feet wide all the way around. It’s basically the same for Strikeforce, UFC, and Bellator. I think for the judges, they need to have only about 8 inches of platform between them and the cage… Just enough for them to write on…. Literally put them right on the action.

          And then elevate them by 1 foot.

          Sounds like a small difference, but I think it would make a HUGE difference. It would cut out a few blindspots both on the sides and vertically. They would be able to see the ground action a lot better….

        • Grape Knee High says:

          I would assume everyone’s goal is for the judging to accurately as possible reflect the real events that occurred in a fight, and attribute these events correctly such that the declared winner is really the actual winner of the fight, as best as is possible. Therefore, why is it important that the judges judge from their sitting, obscured, inferior vantage point and that vantage point only?

          I’ve sat 10 rows from the cage and also way up in the rafters in Newark for UFC events. Both times I spent the majority of my time watching the monitors because trying to view the action through the cage sucked, plain and simple. The fact that you found yourself doing the same thing proves my point.

          I am perplexed that anyone would argue in favor of continued use a vastly inferior judging vantage point, well…just because. Because why, I’m not sure.

          Maybe these judges should be elevated above the cage, the way a tennis judge is. That I could agree with. 🙂

        • 45 Huddle says:

          I know you are joking about the judges being raised up like in Tennis… But it would be a much better solution then the monitors.

          It would look funky though….

        • I’m with 45. Give the guy the monitor and he’s not likely to end up watching the fight directly in front of him. Honestly, if we can’t trust that men sitting directly in front of the cage can’t see the fight properly, something is very, very wrong. I hate hearing about having 5 judges and crazy Shootoesque point systems for scoring. They screwed shit up too.

          Besides, I think people are too quick to assume that every bad decision that happens is purely that of incompetence. UWC had a terrible decision involving Chase Beebe a few months back people often cite. Of course, Chase Beebe had bounced on UWC before for DREAM on next to no notice, and there had been legal action involving the promoter of the fight and Beebe. Beebe comes in, fights the house fighter, and loses a terrible decision, and no one asks if the local promoter had any pull.

  8. edub says:

    Ok I’m pretty sure I am not the only one here, but does anyone else agree you can judge how hard a punch looks/how clean it lands on a monitor. I wasn’t live at the event and I could tell everything that Jung was throwing on Garcia actually landed cleaner than what Garcia threw.

  9. “I can kind of see an argument if you were watching it at home or if you watching it live even that maybe Edgar won some of the close rounds and it was like enough to win a 1-pt decision, but when I watched it at home and reviewed it and you know went over it a couple of times, I didn’t think so.”

    I totally disagree with Rogan here — all of the rounds were close other than the 5th which was clearly Edgar’s.

    I had it three rounds to two for Edgar — I gave Penn the first and third, but both were close (especially the third) and could have gone either way. The 50-45 score didn’t shock me a bit.

    Kizer may be an odd duck but he’s right, you can have five close rounds and end up with a lopsided score in a competitive bout.

    Why Penn didn’t once try to take it to the mat in the last round is beyond me.


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