To say that Dana White and the Ultimate Fighting Championship have gone through a tough couple of weeks would be quite the understatement.
Injury-riddled cards and fan opposition to “weak” events have stood out in headlines for the largest mixed martial arts promotion in the world. However, one of the most interesting stories of the last few weeks featured a move that Dana White made at UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Le. Snatching a judge from his post early in the night may have seemed like the right move to make at the time.
The UFC's admonishment of White was the right move to make but in the end will be an empty gesture.
The situation began early in the card with two controversial victories. Milana Dudieva and Royston Wee walked out of the Octagon after winning two split decisions over their opponents. Much of the MMA community who commented on social media outlets such as Twitter felt the decisions went to the wrong fighters. During the post-fight press conference, White confirmed that he stepped in to remove a judge from his position for the night.
“Did you ask me sir, if it was true, that a judge was removed?” White said during the post fight press conference via Sherdog. “Yes, he was. He was involved in the first fight and the second fight. I told the guys to go let him grab some beer and some popcorn and go sit down and start watching some fights, not judging them.”
When the UFC travels to locales that do not have an athletic commission, they take the reins of regulating themselves in those situations. This means that they have the power to appoint judges to fights in these foreign events. Howard Hughes was the judge who was removed from his position by Dana White. According to MMA Decisions, a website that chronicles judging decisions in the sport, he provided two 29-28 scorecards in favor of Dudieva and Wee.
Hughes has frequently traveled with the UFC to judge foreign cards. This is the first time the UFC has acted in such a manner when it comes to managing the judges at their events.
MMA judging is one of the most controversial topics in the sport today. Still, the UFC did not condone White's actions. In an official statement the organization admonished their president for his actions.
Pursuant to UFC's protocol, neither White nor any other UFC executive possesses such authority. Nevertheless, protocol was breached and Hughes did not work further bouts on Saturday night...Both White and the UFC apologize to Mr. Hughes for calling his professional judgment into question. Hughes has judged more than 25 UFC fight cards and the UFC looks forward to him working on its events again in the future.
This is an effective statement from the promotion as a whole; however, true action has not been taken against White. There have not been any reports of official fines or sanctions being posed against one of the most well-known personalities in the sport. Dana should not expect to face such repercussions either, because he took a stance on one of the most controversial topics in the sport today.
Questionable judging has occurred multiple times within the sport and is now considered an expected occurrence at every event. White taking a stance against what he may have considered bad decision making might win him some new fans but still should not have happened.
Perception in combat sports is a reality that must be acknowledged. Bad decisions will often render complaints about fixed fights or other sinister actions within MMA. The fact that Dana White, who is a representative of the UFC, removed a judge because he delivered rulings that may not have been acceptable by the promotion creates a very questionable and slippery slope.
While it may not have been his intention, the perception may now be that the organization will remove judges who are unable to live up to their standards. With all the other issues posing the UFC at that time, this is a view that the organization cannot afford.
Yet that does not mean they will take action against one of the most important figures in the history of the sport.
Questionable judging will not leave the sport of mixed martial arts. Boxing has been a professional sport for centuries and to this day there are controversial decisions rendered at almost every event. Unfortunately for boxing, many fans question the validity of the results, and that same sentiment begins to creep into MMA.
Dana White's actions were not meant to present this idea but the damage has been done. The UFC's response was swift but could have been more forceful in a situation that can develop to be a real hindrance for the promotion.