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Big John McCarthy talks about needed changes to MMA officiating

By Zach Arnold | October 5, 2010

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You are in Canada (Alberta) putting on some certification courses. Tell us what you’re doing/up to.

“I’m up here to put on a judging certification course for the Edmonton course and also other commissions that are within the area that have some people coming out to it to try to give some insight into what the judges should be looking for, you know, the different types of things that fighters are doing and trying to get things more… kind of just, you know, honed into what the judges should be looking for so we have the right decisions if it comes down to a decision for the fights, the right decisions are coming forward so the right fighter gets the win like he should and it doesn’t effect them in a bad way.”

What do you think judges are missing? After every major MMA events, there are complaints.

“Well, I think it’s… I don’t even want to say two-fold, there’s many levels to it. Part of it is, you know, back a long time ago the current… the judging standards for MMA now are the same ones that Jeff Blatnick and I put in place before UFC 22. Well, the sport’s evolved a lot and even back then when we put that in, we had put certain things that they had to take out because it was a lot of political pressure against the sport at the time and the owner of it, one of the things we had was damage, the amount of damage one fighter does to another was an important aspect of it and he absolutely took it out, he said I can’t do that, we have enough problems, do you want me to in writing to say that what the things judges are looking for damage? So, there’s things that need to come about. There needs to be a change, even the criteria we have right now effective striking, effective grappling, aggressiveness, and then ring or cage control. That’s the elements the judges are supposed to look at and grade the fighters and base his opinion on those elements and there’s some things that need to be changed. Damage is one of those things. But it can’t be just damage and a lot of times when we talk about damage, people get the idea of well a way guy is lumped up or something like that. Well, that means striking and there has to be also the damage of what submissions do because with MMA there’s so many elements to it. We don’t want to be telling the fighter how they have to fight. That would wreck the sport and it’s wrong and it’s what a lot of judges are actually kinda doing by the way they’re judging the fights now, they’re not giving credit to certain things. They’re giving a lot of credits for takedowns when the takedown doesn’t lead to anything or they’re giving credit to a guy who’s punching but is actually having to defend most of the time to a guy who’s doing submission, so the big thing is we need to hone things in and make it to where the fighters know exactly what they need to do in the fight and the judges know exactly what the fighters should be doing and so when those fighters are going about that fight and they’re trying for submissions, they’re getting credit for it. When they’re doing good strikes and doing damage with the strikes, well then they’re getting credit for it. They’re not just getting credit because they’re in position of being on top or someone or something like that which happens sometimes in our sport.”

The ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions) has agreed to look into the half-point scoring system proposed by Nelson “Doc” Hamilton. What are your thoughts on the half-point system?

“Well, there’s many elements to the half-point, I’ve been talking about half-points now for the last three years. Doc went and he took it and he brought levels to it and I don’t know if the ABC is going to take a look at it, they have a committee that’s looking at the half-point scoring system right now and I’m sure that they’re going to look at all the elements. They may not bring all those elements that Doc has brought out, he’s got four elements to he calls his scoring system for Mixed Martial Arts Specific Scoring since the 10-point must system really came from boxing. But, you know, in his change of the criteria, like I’m talking about, he has a thing where bringing damage is a big part of it. The half-point bringing that in so someone can give a half point and he also has the referee doing things inside to call catches or near submissions so judges who might not see exactly what’s going on have an idea that, ah, that’s a close submission, and then he also has a table judge who scores not the fight but scores the techniques that occur in the fight as far as positioning and things like that so if it becomes a draw based upon the judges’ scorecards, it would go to the table judge and the person who had the better positioning and techniques throughout the fight, they’ll get the fight. Do I think the ABC’s going to take all those in? Probably not but just the fact of the half-point itself is important especially when you get into three round fights. The big problem with the 10-point must and the 9-points that we have, most judges don’t want to give an 8 point round to somebody and a fighter can do something, they can work very hard and they can deserve it but the judge will kind of be reserved in giving it because he doesn’t want to take away what he thinks is the other person’s ability to even come back and win this fight if I give that 8 point round in the very first round, well I’m basically taking away this other fighter’s chance of winning which is not the way they should look at it. You should judge the round for the guy, if he the guy deserves an 8 he gets the 8, if he deserves a 9 he gets a 9, if he deserves a 10 he gets a 10 but that half-point system it’ll help with a lot of fights because there’s one where you’ll have rounds that are very, very close and you’ve got to 10 to the winner and you’ve got to give 9 to the loser when really a 9.5 would kind of characterize the round more for what it was, it was a close round and then you got the one where it’s clear it’s 10 and 9 and the guy actually got beat pretty good in the round but if you have two of those rounds on the cards the way it is now, it’s going to look like a 10-9, 10-9 and in reality when you have an even fight after the second round so the half-point system I think will help with people understanding some of the other scoring that’s going to go on, it’s going to give judges another opportunity to especially give a little bit more credit to those close rounds than they can give now.”

You were in Toronto conducting a similar course for the Ontario commission. How prepared is the Ontario Government to start conducting events next year?

“You know, I think… I’ve talked with Ken and Ken Hayashi came out to my course, came out two different days and he spokes to all the participants and he answered all their questions. I thought he did a really good job of kind of telling them exactly the way he’s going to do things, why he’s going to do them that way, and he talked about in the beginning this is a new sport for his commission and, you know, he wants the grass roots organizations to come in and start running smaller promotions and he wants to bring in guys to do that but he told all those guys there, he says you know you know the UFC wants to come to Toronto and if they do, I’m telling you right now, I will be importing more-experienced referees, more-experienced judges to do that assignment he goes because I’m not going to put you in that kind of pressure right off the bat, he says it’s wrong for the sport, it’s wrong for the fighters, it’s wrong for my commission. Over time we will work to get you to that position but I’m not going to just dump anybody into that. He’s looking at doing things the right way.”

How did it feel to officiate at the UFC event in San Diego on August 1st?

“You know, it was good. I got to see a lot of people that, you know, I hadn’t seen in a while. I got to talk with some people that I really cared about and spent a lot of time with them even after the fights were all over. It was a good experience, you know, the UFC is a great promotion and they do an incredible job of putting on great fights. Any time you get to work with top-level guys that’s… it’s… it’s what a referee can look forward to.”

Topics: Canada, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 4 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

4 Responses to “Big John McCarthy talks about needed changes to MMA officiating”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Half points would create more issues then they solve.

    I also think any judging changes should be done on smaller events first. They need to be monitored and evaluated before they are implemented on the larger stage (UFC & Strikeforce).

    Lastly, I have yet to see a better scoring system recommended so far. A lot of people say it needs a change… But they either give no concrete recommendations or their recommendations would turn MMA into point fighting.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I should also say that bringing back knees and implementing a much pro-active stalling system…. As in penalizing fighters for not engaging…. such as:

      Warning for 1st offense. 1 point deduction for 2nd offense. 1 point deduction for 3rd offense. 2 points for 4th deduction. And then really enforce it. For example just circling your opponent for a minute and not throwing a strike guarantees a warning.

      That would do much more to improving some of the issues in MMA then some of these judging “issues”.

  2. Steve4192 says:

    Half points are silly.

    The judges can’t even manage to get full points right. The idea that introducing fractions will make things better is just ridiculous. The real problem is the current pool of judges is awful. No tweaking of the scoring system is going to remedy that.

  3. […] John McCarthy talks to about the current problems with officiating in MMA. Fight Opinion has a full transcript. Read more about: "Big" John […]


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