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Fox Sports: "Zach Arnold's Fight Opinion site is one of the best spots on the Web for thought-provoking MMA pieces."

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Why do we allow MMA promoters to hire referees/judges when it’s illegal to do in boxing?

By Zach Arnold | April 21, 2011

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That is the question that friend to the site Rob Maysey of the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association asked us the other day in response to the uproar over comments judge Chuck Wolfe made in regards to his scoring of the Joe Warren/Marcos Galvao fight.

On his Tuesday radio show, Jordan Breen addressed the topic in this manner.

“In regards to it, I don’t see that much of an issue. Obviously, one of the things that we like to say about Mixed Martial Arts that makes the sport, you know, clean or… pure or, more civil, than many spectators and naysayers choose to believe is that the Government helps regulate this sport and that the refs & judges & these people are not decided on by promoters, there’s no favoritism involved and, so forth. So, that’s nice. But the fact is, there’s still massive chunks of the world that MMA existing there is vital and there’s no way around the fact that referees are going to get paid to be there. Unless, I mean, simply it’s not a conscience-able stance to say that unless MMA is regulated, it shouldn’t exist because every Brazilian fighter you know is about to go down the tubes then. There’s no, I shouldn’t say there’s no regulation in Europe, I mean there’s regulation, you know, in Sweden for instance, but if you ever want to see another British fighter again, sayonara. Eastern Europe? Done. Brazil? Brown broad. Perish the thought. Japan? You’re never going to see a Japanese fighter ever again, not until the Japanese Boxing Commission gets on board. These things are not happening, so it’s ridiculous to act as though that all refs and all judges should be appointed by an athletic commission by virtue of the fact that most MMA at this point in time still isn’t regulated. So, then it becomes a question of, well, if you’re not regulating Mixed Martial Arts, who’s appropriate to use as an official? And regardless whether or not you have to pay them, surely the best people to use as officials are good, experienced referees and judges. On top of that, as John McCarthy pointed out in his treatise that he posted on The Underground, he’s often being paid in many situations because he’s being put on a poster and his image and his presence helps to sell and market the event. And if that’s the case, he deserves to be compensated for his likeness and whatever intangible presence he brings, whatever infusion of interest he brings to the table. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

In other words, he views the situation through the prism of realpolitik.

“The question that really informs the whole discussion, though, is how are we supposed to feel when these refs or judges are brought in another jurisdiction, paid to perform by a promotion, what is their responsibility? Do they have any responsibility to the promotion to, you know, favor a certain guy or can we ever put in a situation where because they’re being paid by a promotion that referees will be inclined to act a certain way? Well, I can’t speak for every referee or every judge, I can’t, but if you’re the kind of person that feels like you want the promotional poster boy to win because that promotion happened to pay you, you’re probably not a good person, you’re not that rational and you’re not doing a good service for Mixed Martial Arts and you probably shouldn’t refereeing, that’s about as straightforward and simple as I can make that. On top of that, there’s simply no realistic, better alternative, which I think is the most important thing to consider. If there was a better thing to do than to have a promoter pay John McCarthy $2,000 to fly and do their event or pay Herb Dean to come to their resort or casino that they’re having a card in South Africa or Costa Rica or the tip of Argentina, have him show up and all-expenses-paid hang out and do your thing and ref some fights Saturday night. Now, is there a better alternative to that? Not really, not at this point in time. There are so few well-trained judges and referees all around the world that if you want to have a legitimate world-class event you’re better having a ref or a judge or judges who are aware of these things so bringing them in is relatively important to begin with. But on top of that, the options that are available to you locally, regionally are probably not as good.”

Do you find the current process of promoters (in non-commission areas) hiring officials & referees to be an acceptable or unacceptable practice?

Here’s the prime example of a market where it’s the Wild West for promoting shows and the promoters call the shots with officials. DREAM has their 5/29 event at Saitama Super Arena for whatever charity project they are pushing that I’m not sure a lot of people are buying into. Tony at Sherdog has a round-up of Wednesday’s presser to announce the fights. Here is the line-up for their Bantamweight tournament:

Topics: DREAM, Japan, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 47 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

47 Responses to “Why do we allow MMA promoters to hire referees/judges when it’s illegal to do in boxing?”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Lately, I haven’t seen any big issues with the top 10 or so refs in the sport except for Rothenthals horrible stoppage in the Hieron fight a month ago.

    If we start to see some really fishy stoppages or standups then it could be an issue. Until then, not an issue really.

    • IceMuncher says:

      I think MMA is less corrupt than boxing, simply because the MMA landscape is set up in such a way that corruption doesn’t pay well enough to be worth it.

      I’d bet those top 10 refs aren’t going to jeopardize their careers by taking a few grand to do some shady stuff for some rinky-dinky promotion. There’d have to be some real money involved, and outside of Zuffa I can’t see any promotion with the resources to do something like that. Are you going to bribe a guy like Big John $50k when your headliner is making a fraction of that?

      As for Zuffa, it is in their best interest to stay as far away from all that as possible. There’s little to nothing to gain by it, but they risk losing almost everything.

    • RossenSearchTeam says:

      “Lately, I haven’t seen any big issues with the top 10 or so refs in the sport…”

      I haven’t noticed so many problems recently in general, except usually outside of the experienced areas like LV.

      UFC’s insistance on pushing into wierd foriegn areas just for pokemon cards, like ca, has lead to some bummers.

      The sport is doing well, let ca and other buttholes come to you.

      Let them prove that they deserve it, and then let them partake in the profits.

      Dont force it on them so that they can whipe poo all over it.

      We’re past that now.

  2. Steve4192 says:

    I have no problem with promotions hiring refs in places where the sport is not regulated, since there is no other viable alternative. But I do have a bit of a problem with them turning down commission approved refs and opting to bring in guys on their payroll instead. That just open up all kinds of shady doors that don’t need to be opened.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      The NBA, NFL, MLB, & NHL all hire their own officials. Seems to have worked out good for them. And there are a lot more judgment calls that those officials deal with that can change the course of the game.

      There is a huge benefit for the UFC to not pay off refs. There is little upside.

      • The NHL, NFL, MLB, and NHL are all leagues made up of teams, each one of which is operated by a different ownership group. MMA promoters are not leagues.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          You missed the point.

          All of those leagues have all the athletes signed under contract. While ratings might be up or down a little based on who wins, the leagues are 100% of the time in a win/win situation.

          It’s the same with the UFC. They have the contracts for both fighters in every fight. So there is little reason to fix a fight.

          Which is why boxing fails so badly and is filled with corruption. When you have different promoters wanting their fighters to win, it opens it up for tons of illegal activity…. Which does happen.

        • The leagues are just that. Leagues made up of differing owners. Every MMA organization is made up by one owner or ownership organization. This is a statement that goes beyond the UFC and to literally everyone in the whole sport. That wooshing sound? Point going over your head.

        • 45 huddle says:

          The league chooses the officials. So does the ufc or ac’s. Same thing.

          You don’t see the yankees or team jackson picking the officials.

        • Sports leagues and all MMA promotions are not the same thing. Try again.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          But they work the same here.

          The front office of MLB is about as likely to fix a game as the front office of the UFC. Which is basically zero.

          The one’s more likely to tr and fix are the teams/camps…. And they have 2 things working against them.

          1) They don’t hire the officials.

          2) They have somebody to answer to in either MLB or UFC.

          The function the SAME WAY in creating barrier to prevent corruption.

        • They do not work the same. At all. The business structure from which this hiring takes place and the way the pool is formed are completely different, no matter how much you argue it isn’t. We’ve been down this road before where you clearly don’t understand what a “league” is.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          The checks and balances to prevent corruption are structured very much the same. Which is the topic we are on right now.

          One powerful entity with a reputation and TV contracts to uphold…. With all of the athletes under one umbrella….

          Has 10 times more to lose by fixing athletic competitions….

          And in that way, the UFC and MLB are identical. You are talking various other parts of their structure that have nothing to do with preventing corruption.

          Compare that to boxing where there is no main organization with all the athletes under one roof. And corruption runs wild. Hmmmm… Coincidence? I think not.

          The proof is in the pudding….

        • nottheface says:

          There really is no comparison between the UFC and the major league sports of North America. For the UFC there is no upside in Shields beating their 2nd biggest draw and most popular fighter in Toronto. For the NBA, while the Lakers beating Oklahoma City would mean higher ratings and more money for the league there is a strong check-and-balance in place in the fact that Oklahoma City is a voting member of the NBA. They’re going to want a guarantee that they have a fair shot at winning. The same with the other 20 smaller market teams that make up the league and who all have equal voting rights to the big market teams.
          The UFC is the same as the NBA only if Jerry Buss owned all 30 teams.

    • RossenSearchTeam says:

      “I have no problem with promotions hiring refs in places where the sport is not regulated,…’

      What I’d like to see is wealthy citizens being able to hire their own judges and juries after busting regulation “unions”.

      This would be grand.

  3. Rob Maysey says:

    Agree with Alan–the comparison to MLB and the other actual sports leagues is not a good one. Those leagues are comprised of 30 plus owners, none of whom has any more sway than the others. With an MMA promotion, that is quite obviously not the case.

    Further, while you may believe that the practice is unlikely to occur at the level of the UFC, how about at the level of Rage In the Cage? Or Rumble in the Bayoo? I would not be nearly as confident that shenanigans are unlikely to occur. If the precedent has already been established that a promoter can pay individual referees directly, and not only pay them, but pay them in an undisclosed manner, what is to stop this from occurring?

    This practice which has now been made public, is in my opinion, just flat out bad policy.

    Would we allow a federal judge to be paid by an interested party to the suit? Seperate and aside from the salary earned by the judge and reported to the public? Of course not. It is not necessarily that we expect unethical conduct to occur, it is that the appearance of impropriety is enough to call into question the legitimacy and integrity of the proceeding.

    For every John McCarthy, who by all accounts is a role model, you have 8 others who do not meet his standard, and 1-2 others who may very well turn out to be rogues. The current system enables that situation to occur.

    In boxing, this practice is flat out illegal. Am I, and everyone else to believe, that despite the fact of great cross over from boxing to MMA, that MMA is somehow bestowed with some integrity that boxing’s counterparts don’t have?

    You can make the process as legitimate as possible–you can not control an individual.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      The MLB comparison works because both the UFC and MLB have all of the athletes under contract so whoever wins might effect ratings or buyrates somewhat but they still win because the have the winning athlete(s) still signed under contract.

      Which is different then in boxing where a promoter’s fighter might lose to another promoter’s fighter and he loses all of his mone value for the future. The boxing system BREEDS fixing and corruption b it’s very set-up. The UFC system does not. Another big win for no co-promotion.

      • This is, by far, the dumbest point you’ve ever made. If you really think the comparison works with MLB because “they both have all the athletes under contract” and that no promoter would have incentive to try and fix fights in MMA, you are a fool.

        • 45 huddle says:

          You are just being an idiot now.

          One league takes out a money incentive for fixing sporting competitions. MLB hires the umps and they don’t have the incentive to fix. There can be 100 team owners but they don’t have control over the umps.

          Its no different then then team jackson having no say on the refs. The ufc has little financial upside to fixing and they and the ac’s are the one who are picking the judges.

          There is a reason why overall officials corruption has been basically non existant in america where there are formats that the overall league has all of the athletes under one banner. And in the biggest sport where promoters have financial incentive to fix things it does happen. Which is boxing.

          The proof is in 50+ of american sports……

        • It takes no money incentive out. What takes out the money incentive is the business structure of the league. You keep making this about the UFC specifically in spite of that not being what the argument is about. You just don’t understand the argument or you can’t argue against it because of how obvious it is.

        • BTW, there was only one actual major league MMA promotion in Japan from 1997-2005. They hired all their own officials. They were also completely corrupt. How do explain that?

        • 45 Huddle says:

          No athletic commissions.

          Takada/Coleman would have never happened in Nevada. It couldn’t have.

          There are checks and balances in the UFC for this not to happen. Just like there are checks and balances in MLB or the NFL.

          Those checks and balances are not there for boxing.

          Which is why you don’t see corruption in the UFC or MLB but you do see it in boxing.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          I completely understand the issue. I just disagree with you 100% on the matter. And I’m bringing up valid point after valid point and making you look silly. Which is why you are swinging for the bleachers with some of your comments.

          No system is perfect. There is always room for corruption. But the UFC system has a checks and balances system to prevent it just like MLB or the NFL does. Which is why you are seeing a fair playing field in the UFC year after year…. while it’s sister sport boxing continues to be plagued by corruption.

          The results are proof….

        • All MMA does not happen in Nevada. All MMA does not happen in the UFC. Even if it did, there is no future guarantee that the UFC won’t change in terms of ethics. This is a dumb argument.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          And the reason why you don’t see it when the UFC goes international is because they pull from the same official and judges pool of the NSAC. So if there was something bad happening, those officials wouldn’t be able to do their job in Nevada anymore.

          Wow, look at all of those checks and balances.

          Follow the money…. There is no financial incentive long term for a sports business who has every athlete under contract to fix a competition. Could it happen at that level? Sure. But it is so unlikely with the current media and how things are run these days.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          So Alan…. Tell me…. If this corruption is so easy to happen…. Then why aren’t we seeing it in major American sports? So many opportunities in these leagues and it is just not happening…..

          The worst was a NBA ref who was taking side bets. But that was a bad ref. Not somebody who was being paid off by the teams or the league.

          Corruption just isn’t going to happen very much when one entity is a controlling body over the sport and has a firm grasp on it….

        • 45 Huddle says:

          And who cares about these other MMA leagues. They are the minors. Do you see anybody caring about umpiring in the minor leagues? Nope….

          It’s a learning ground until an athlete can make it to the majors.

        • So what you are saying is that so long as the UFC has shown no historical bias or corruption, the system should be open to corruption to everyone for the future. Understood. Glad to see you have the best interests of the sport in mind.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          It’s not open to corruption.

          The fans want a fair playing field. The cable networks want something legit. The advertisers don’t want to be associated with a fraud. The fighters want an even playing field. And the UFC has all the contracts for the athletes they are competing with.

          There is little to no room for corruption if you really examine it properly.

  4. Zheroen says:

    The melt-down of 45 Huddle and his impotent, futile attempts to compare UFC and MLB is totally hilarious.

    Please 45, keep “bringing up valid point after valid point”. After all, you already have so many people in this thread supporting your totally-flawed apples-to-oranges analogy!

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Thanks for adding something to the discussion.

      You can completely disagree with me. But at least I’m adding to the discussion. All you are doing is bashing another member without adding any MMA talk to a MMA blog. You are useless.

      • Zheroen says:

        Signal-to-noise ratio. All you are doing is going round-and-round with Alan over whether or not the UFC is similar to MLB, and ignoring the topic at hand.

        Your entire argument consists of “It’s the UFC, of course there wouldn’t be anything untoward.” You even use the NBA “overcoming” its referee-betting scandal as a point to support your argument, despite the fact that it is widely speculated that the NBA, desperate to avoid the negative publicity that a league-wide referee corruption scandal would cause, painted disgraced referee Tim Donaghy as a scapegoat to take the fall for a widespread problem in the sport.

        Here’s an excerpt from an interview from “Gaming the Game” author Sean Patrick Griffin (, who extensively-researched the scandal:

        Q: In your opinion, has the NBA done enough to ensure that gambling/fixing does not happen again?

        A: I don’t believe the NBA has done enough to make sure another referee betting scandal doesn’t occur. For example, Kenny White, the former CEO and lead oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the world’s largest oddsmaking company, researched betting trends involving Tim Donaghy and submitted a report to the NBA in the fall of 2007. Of this situation, White told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “They never called back to discuss it or anything.”

        Similarly, NBA officials repeatedly declined to entertain my requests for interviews and data during the research for the project. Even after Gaming the Game was published, they have not contacted me to go over my findings, etc., even though the book ends with some suggested research for the NBA. Combined with the serious flaws mentioned prior regarding the NBA’s scandal study, we are left to wonder how serious the league is in understanding what happened during the scandal from 2003-07 in the first place, let alone about instituting appropriate reforms.

        But yeah, let’s use that as a centerpiece of our argument that the UFC is completely immune to corruption. Good show.

        • edub says:

          Fuck David Stern. Amare Studamire plays in game 5 of the Western conference NBA Semifinals in 2007 and the Suns probably win the championship. Amare runs out to defend Steve Nash and get’s suspended for a game? Fuck David Stern.

          Yes I know this had nothing to do with anything.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    Jason Miller has been signed by the UFC.

    And so it begins….

  6. Zheroen says:

    It’s all about signal-to-noise ratio, brah.

    Definition of LEAGUE

    a : an association of nations or other political entities for a common purpose
    b (1) : an association of persons or groups united by common interests or goals (2) : a group of sports teams that regularly play one another
    c : an informal alliance
    : class, category

    All you and Alan are doing is going round and round, because you have proven time and time again that you are incapable of backing down from stance you have taken, even if even a cursory examination of your position fails to hold up under scrutiny.

    So, I suppose I owe you a profuse apology for interrupting your extremely-productive discussion with Mr. Conceicao, which was clearly leading up to a uniform conclusion of the topic at hand…which was is MLB vs. UFC, right? Not whether if it’s illegal for boxing to directly hire judges and promoters, it’s a-OK for MMA because the UFC is infallible and incapable of being corrupt. Because we’re talking about NEVADA, people – the world-renown home of anti-corruption and morals!

    • I stepped out of this because I forgot my rule of “If you are posting on FO, you aren’t doing something enriching.” You’re repeating the points I made earlier and he ignored. Just walk away.

      • Zach Arnold says:

        I stepped out of this because I forgot my rule of “If you are posting on FO, you aren’t doing something enriching.

        You stay classy. Maybe a permanent vacation would help you save time?

        • 45 Huddle says:

          I’m all for discussions… But Alan’s entire MO is not to add much and just rip down what others have said. That’s really what he has done for the majority of this discussion and many others.

          He’s not adding much of his own opinion. He just questions and then tears down other people’s opinions. There is always some room for that…. But without really adding to the discussion…. It get’s old fast….

          Back to staying classy…. lol

        • smoogy says:

          I read that as a dig on 45 Huddle’s domination of the comments with his asinine opinions more than a dig at FO itself.

        • edub says:

          You read what you wanted to hear then. Alan could’ve mentioned 45, but he didn’t. He made sure to mention the website name, and take a dig at the discussions that go on here in the process.

  7. Nepal says:

    Perhaps his contract had expired. Dana always said they could sign people if their contracts were finished.

  8. RossenSearchTeam says:

    “…is that the Government helps regulate this sport …”

    And thats what makes it inherently correct IMO.

    NY are socialists, and/or frothing racists.

    • Chuck says:


      • Chromium says:

        I get the impression that RossenSearchTeam is an experimental spam bot. There’ve been a lot popping up on CagePotato lately that seem to be able to interact a bit with the conversations, enough that they actually pass the Turing test for a few posts. It’s a little scary actually.

        Anyway, um, unless shady referee calls becomes a widespread phenomenon, I don’t see this as an issue. MMA judging is in much worse shape these days than MMA officiating.

        • Chuck says:

          I don’t think he is a spambot. I just think he is a moron posting such insane, nonsensical things. It would be scary if he is a spambot.


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