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Nevada’s judging problems: It would help if judges appear to watch fights they’re scoring

By Zach Arnold | December 2, 2013

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Monday’s Nevada State Athletic Commission meeting was interesting, to say the least. A local BJJ trainer appeared for open comment and pleaded for more transparency from the judges when it comes to scoring fights. The trainer stated that Nevada needs more MMA-focused judges rather than using boxing judges and also encouraged the half-point scoring system. When prodded about the issue of transparency, the man said that nobody is sure which judges apply what kind of weight behind certain scoring criteria other than the fact that it seems takedowns and top position rather than transitions & submission attempts always get weighted more heavily.

Which then led us to the officials selection for the upcoming Anderson Silva/Chris Weidman II fight. Herb Dean will be the referee. The judges booked: Junichiro Kamijo, Chris Lee, and Patricia Morse Jarman.

After hearing the comments made by the trainer and the officials booked for Silva/Weidman II, one thought popped into my head regarding the current crop of judges Nevada is using.

I care if you know the difference between using the 10-point must system or PRIDE rules. I care if you are giving television monitors to judges to watch for fights or not. I care if you are using boxing judges with limited knowledge of MMA to score fights.

But you know what I really care about the most? Judges that actually watch the fights in the cage or ring that are happening right in front of their face. Because if you aren’t watching the action in front of you, heaven knows what you are watching on the other side of the cage. If you aren’t watching what you are scoring, then what is the point of your existence and the existence of the fight happening in the first place?

Give me fan scoring from the iJudgeFights App any day of the week.

I get it. Maybe a really cynical person could say that promoters don’t mind bad judges because it encourages fighters to go for a finish rather than leave their fate in the hands of the judges. Fine. But what’s the point of a commission’s existence and its credibility if the people they assign to score fights aren’t watching what’s taking place in front of them?

I bring this up because I received several messages Saturday night during the marathon Fox Sports 1 broadcast of the UFC event from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. During the broadcast, there were several shots of more than one judge who appeared to be… unfocused… while fights were happening in the cage. Perhaps these judges were watching television monitors because they couldn’t see what was going on. Here’s the problem: there were way too camera shots of people staring down and not watching action that was taking place right in front of their face. You don’t need a monitor to see what is going on when it’s right in front of your unobstructed view.

One judge, in particular, caught a lot of attention. On television, she was the judge cage side who had the Dodge Ram logo on the canvas in front of her. There were several screen shots I got of this particular judge not looking directly at the fighters while the action was happening in front of her.

Click on image to see enlarged version

Click on image to see enlarged version

And here are some screen captures from another fight…

Click on image to see enlarged version

Click on image to see enlarged version

Click on image to see enlarged version

Click on image to see enlarged version

I understand that the show was extremely long and drawn out. It’s hard to keep focus with so much dead time. The problem is that you have plenty of break time to be focused on anything but judging. When the fight starts, keeping focus should be priority #1. In this situation, I don’t know if the judge was looking at a monitor or if the judge simply wasn’t paying attention. What I am suggesting is that it looked awful on television and that regulators from other states were noticing what was going on.

It’s one thing to deal with a lack of knowledge. It’s a second thing to deal with different scoring systems. But if judges aren’t actively watching fight action that is happening in front of their eyes? Then that’s a whole different ball game.

Exit remark: Pat Lundvall of NSAC noted that Josh Barnett would have to undergo an educational course with Dr. Tim Trainor about PED usage. Tim Trainor, the same guy who Keith Kizer leans on for anabolic steroid (testosterone) passes to fighters in Nevada. Also curious is that Francisco Aguilar is now Chairman and not Bill Brady, who came from the Governor’s office. If Bill Brady is the one getting demoted for the sins of Keith Kizer and his political backers (UFC, Sig Rogich), why even bother having public hearings at this point?

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 25 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

25 Responses to “Nevada’s judging problems: It would help if judges appear to watch fights they’re scoring”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Purely based on statistical probability….

    The percentage of UFC fans who are over 50, black, and female…. has to be less then .05% of their fanbase. And yet from that shallow pool of that demographic, they found a qualified judge? Statistically speaking, the chances of this occurring are slim to none.

    Or more realistically, the judge is not qualified to be a judge…. not because of her color or gender…. But because she probably just isn’t much of a fan.

  2. Jeff M. says:

    Want to know how to fix the scoring/judging problem in MMA? If no one finishes the fight, BOTH fighters automatically lose. It’ll be the equivalent of a No Contest, or just call it an “Indecision” (or whatever). Toss the judges altogether, it’ll save the commissions money from having to pay for their services, transport, and lodging, and use the extra cash for extra inspectors or drug testing. You’ll definitely weed out incompetence, shitty judging, and shitty fights.

    • Alan Conceicao says:

      Great idea. Then, when fighters merely try to survive rather than win, they can be rewarded with what will effectively be seen as a draw. Ask yourself; how did Royce do in the second Ken Shamrock fight? If you’ve never seen it, what would you think happened?

      • Jeff M. says:

        Haven’t seen that infamous Royce/Ken rematch in a long while. I think if Ken realized there was absolutely no time limit or would’ve been declared a mutual loser in the fight if he didn’t finish, he would’ve taken more chances b/c he would’ve known his gas tank would’ve emptied in a no time limit fight or would’ve lost if it went the distance. Ken would’ve not stalled like he did which would’ve giving Royce more openings to finish.

        It’s like in the old-school Gracie no-limit BJJ tournies from 10+ years ago. There was no points or time limits so the guys always went for the sub finish when they had the chance whether it was 5 min into the match or 5 seconds. And b/c of that those no-limit/no-point matches were actually shorter than the 5 to 10 min time limit matches in other IBJJF & GQ tournies and used to cut the wait times for the competitors, the divisions were still on schedule, they never went behind.

        After all, on the STREETS there are no points and no time limits anyways, yo! LOL. If a fighter knows he won’t get that W on their record or get the win bonus money if they don’t finish then they are more likely to go for the absolute finish when they have the chance which would make it more exciting for the fans and an overall better product. I do think there should be time limits in MMA, but the judging and point system under unified MMA rules has just too many holes in it.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          This isn’t a street fight.

          And on the streets they don’t have to break for commercials.

          In the world of TV, they have to. So things like rounds will stay too because of this.

        • edub says:

          So no, you didn’t watch the fight (or you did with a Gracie Gi and a Royce bobble head).

          Shamrock beat the shit out of him. Royce was the one who stalled with guard.

          And at that point in time of their careers if anybody was gassing, it was Royce.

    • Chuck says:


      Did you just recently read some books about 1910’s and 1920’s boxing or something? What you are implying is called a “no decision fight”. Meaning to win there had to be a KO/TKO or a disqualification. It was used for two reasons;

      1.) the titlist usually had that put into effect because what the champ says…goes. and;
      2.) to curb betting on fights. it was a purely American thing. A safe bet (to this day) is a decision over a KO/TKO or a sub.

      They are not a very good idea. Imagine if GSP or Ben Askren or Benson Henderson fought in no decision fights. GSP and Bendo would NEVER engage. Askren would double leg then just lay on top for the duration of the fight. I can make a safe assumption that many fighters don’t care nearly as much as the numbers on their win/loss records as you would think they would. How many fighters fighting in Japan took dives or whatnot? Plenty. Money talks. More so than numbers and names.

      • Jeff M. says:

        Haven’t read any books or literature lately, but still very interesting though. To a certain degree I pretty much agree with everything you said. But I do think it’d still in a champion’s best interest to win with a KO or sub w/o a judging/scoring system for two reasons:

        1) The integrity of a champion’s career as an athlete & competitor. It is not in the best interest to lay & pray for entire fights for a “non decision” outcome to retain their title and keep doing it over and over in title defenses. They will lose or never obtain respect from the community and industry. They will not get the “W”. A champion with 5+ title defenses in all non-finishes will hurt them more than help. They will not be taken seriously as a reigning champ by the fans, the sports media, and even by the promoter. In many ways we still kinda do that today with someone like GSP never finishing fights, and people still dispute his legitimacy & dominance after the Hendricks fight. They would not be considered a dominate champ if they had 5 “successful” title defenses but never even had an actual technical win on their record. Their championship legacy will greatly depend on being and staying a fighting champion. If GSP had won all those title fights via KO or sub and never went to a decision in any of them, would he be considered a more dominant champ than he is now? Would he be more respected as a champ than he is now? I think we all agree he would.

        2) The business & financial aspect of one’s career. Basically, if you’re a dominant champ who finishes fights rather than stalling ’til the end to keep your belt, more people will want to see you fight and promoters will want to keep booking you. It’s about preserving and building equity in your marketability as a professional fighter. The fans will want & expect exciting fights from champs as they want decisive finishes, the promoters will pay more purse money and bonuses based on ratings, attendance gates, and PPV buys. Sponsors will be willing to endorse fighters that will draw numbers & money, and how would they draw? Finishing fights and giving the fans what they want and/or expect. Without a scoring/judging system, fans will most likely to see or expect a KO/sub b/c they know champions have every incentive to do so for both athletic/sporting and financial reasons. If you’re a boring shit champ who does the bare minimum to keep the title, the fans, numbers and money won’t come. If you’re a dominant champ who finishes and wins, the fans, numbers and money will come.

        I feel external gambling practices should never dictate or affect how a sport should be regulated or operated, I feel that should never happen. The sport should be the one to dictate how people gamble, not the other way around.

        If the fans know and realize what it takes for a challenger to beat and take the title away from the champ, fans won’t feel robbed out of 50-60 bucks b/c of a bad decision they don’t agree with which does negatively affect everyone involved in this sport and business, isn’t that what everyone is referring to in what “killed” boxing? Fans will know the objective and know what they should and should not expect. They know what they’re psychologically and emotionally investing in as a fan and spectator. With a sport with a lot of uncertainty in both in and out of the cage, I think it’s time we instill some. If you’re a reigning champ who continues to stall to keep your belt, you’re collaterally shitting on the fans, the title, the sport, the company, the advertisers, the sponsors, and ultimately shitting your own career.

        • Chuck says:

          “I feel external gambling practices should never dictate or affect how a sport should be regulated or operated, I feel that should never happen. The sport should be the one to dictate how people gamble, not the other way around.”

          It was lawmakers that instilled no decision fights. Lawmakers usually always try to get gambling curbed. Whether it is online sports betting or casinos. Hell, casinos usually aren’t allowed within city limits of some cities.

        • Jeff M. says:

          @Chuck: I understand totally and don\’t think the general honest idea to curb unethical/illegally gambling practices of or outside the sport was done with bad intentions, but I feel lawmakers shouldn\’t be the ones changing the sport to compensate for those external, unethical or illegal gambling practices. It\’s not their responsibility and shouldn\’t be. If lawmakers want to curb corruption and illegal gambling, their only jurisdiction should always be to enforce the laws that already exist outside the sport and regulate them whatever & however they please. So essentially they should just do their damn jobs. Spending too much time trying to lobby and change laws and rules of the game are a waste of time and tax money when they could/should be focusing on real social & economic agendas that serve more of the greater public. The rules of the sport should only be for the sake of the sport by those within that sport. Lawmakers should only have a hand in how a sport or game is regulated when it involves the safety and well-being of the athletes and fairness to everyone overall. Fairness in the actual game and fairness in the gaming industry are two mutually exclusive ideas. It\’s like if the gov\’t wanted to ban all beer and alcohol ads on all televised UFC shows (and specifically only on UFC/MMA shows and not NFL, NBA or MLB) b/c the nation has the highest alcoholism rate than it ever had (which is probably true in 2013) and feels it\’ll encourage drunken fist fights to the viewers, or they felt Porsche ads makes people want to buy a fast car and go joyriding, disobey speed limits & cause reckless endangerment on the road.

          I don\’t mind the gov\’t regulating gambling in general, not at all. The rules of the sport should be changed only by the athletes and the promoters or leagues b/c 99 times out of 100 they know what\’s best for the sport more than the bureaucracy as we\’ve seen many, many times in constant clusterfucks with the CSAC, NSAC and the Texas & New York state athletic commissions.

      • Diaz's cashed bowl says:

        askren doesn’t just lay on you, he geound and pounds and stopped his last two opponents

  3. SmackyBear says:

    When is the Chairperson elected for their term?

    I take it the timing for Brady losing the position is unusual?

  4. diaz's cashed bowl says:

    I seem to recall that the judges are told to watch the monitors so that they will all be looking at the same thing from same angles.
    But you know when you’re on the monitor yourself you have to look at yourself.

  5. 45 Huddle says:


    The problem is that nobody knows how to create a criteria for scoring. Everybody can complain about the 10 Point Must System, but I have yet to hear a suggestion that is better. Typically the suggestions turn it into a point fighting system or a judge the whole fight…. And both are much worse.

    So until that they can figure out a better criteria…. ADD SUDDEN DEATH. And I think it is simple. This would only be used in the UFC for RANKED FIGHTERS or MAIN EVENTS.

    And it is simple. Keep the core scoring the same. If at the end of the fight a judge has the two fighters within one point of each other (29-28 or 47-46 as example)…. There should be a check box where they can say the fight was close enough that there will be AN EXTRA ROUND.

    And during this extra round…. The scoring for the previous 3 to 5 rounds means nothing. It all comes down to the last round.

    Not only would it help with close fights…. It will add an extra layer of drama to the fights and make it that much more exciting!!

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Let me add two points to the above idea…

      1) It would take 2 judges to send it to sudden death.

      2) Fans complaining about fighters coming on strong at the end of the fight but still losing will be negated. If you can’t win the extra round, that is when it should matter the most anyways.

  6. Nevada Bob says:

    It seems everyone is missing the point. The judge is not watching the fight and that is what she is being paid for. The fighters, fans, and promoters have a right to competent judging, at least someone who will stay awake and watch the fight. If she gets assigned to another fight the Nevada Commission looses all credibility.

    • Diaz's cashed bowl says:

      While its true judges aren’t always watching the fight close enough, in defense of this judge, look at the 2 images again. Are both fighters fully visible from her position?
      Its just 2 moments in the same fight both during a clinch situation. First the big foam padded bar is in the way, can she see if punches are landing with marquarts(the pale fighter looks like him) free right hand? no.

      The second image the same fighters are right in front of her but there is a choke in which she cannot see unless she looks at the monitor.

      I have looked at the big screen plenty when attending a show in the second or third row for 3 reasons, #1 fighters are on the ground on the far side from me #2 when the fighters are clinched near one of those big posts, and #3 when there is a catch of any kind, no matter where i the cage its almost impossible to tell if its close from just one angle.
      You can’t blame her for anything really watching the monitor is a good way to see whats going on when your vision is obscured.

      • Diaz's cashed bowl says:

        edit- “the pale fighter is niinimaki fighting yahya.”
        …you might add a little more info in your articles zach, you know like what fight you’re talking about? just for the people who don’t watch these c grade marathons and just watch the main event.

  7. Nevada Bob says:

    I agree with Diaz’s in that if you (Zach) have more photos, and more information on the fight so we can watch it ourselves. it appear obvious to me that there are no monitor on the serface in front of her where she is looking.

    • Diaz's cashed bowl says:

      That surface is where the camera men and ring girls walk on, the monitors are right below it. Having watched the fight, there was a ton of grappling on the mat and a bunch of catches. There is no way to tell how deep they are unless you can look at some different camera angles.

      This kind of fight is much more complex(the high level grappling is why I watch) than the two fighters “standing and banging” which is what the ufc tries to promote.

    • Jeff M. says:

      Instead of more photos I want more video instead.

  8. Nevada Bob says:

    Diaz’s there is no hope for people like you. You must be a stuge for the NAC. There it is in living color showing she is not paying attention to the fight (there were no monitors where she is looking)yet you continue to make excuses.

  9. Diaz's cashed bowl says:

    I just tossed in a random ufc dvd and guess what the first fight there was a “fat white man” judge who looked down several times while the fighters were right in front of him grappling on the ground.

  10. Anna Dawson says:

    Great article. Thanks for writing it. It pretty much sums up my feelings on boxing scoring and the promotional ties and angles that often seem to give certain fighters an built in advantage when it comes to scoring. I didn’t even watch the fight, I’ve just seen similar things happen all the time.
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