MMA: Should The Officiating Be Changed?

James ButtersCorrespondent IMay 22, 2008

Sometimes the fight gets stopped too early; sometimes people don’t understand why it continues. Either way, Mixed Martial Arts has never had a death in its history.

With all the violence and brutality, MMA is actually much safer than many people perceive it to be, because of the officiating.

When a fighter is at a disadvantage, he has a number of options.  He can find a way to escape his position, he can admit defeat with a tap, or he can wait for the referee to decide when he cannot fight. 

Luckily, with the majority of mixed martial arts referees, the official will call the fight off the onslaught of strikes, the arm wrenching submission, or the air resistant choke before the fighter gets really hurt.

So with this style, many fighters have been spared their lives, with the price of a loss.  Although this seems like a very smart idea, how is it different from boxing? 

Well, in boxing, each time a fighter gets knocked down; his opponent must back off and let him receive an eight-count to let him recuperate.  This increases dramatically the amount of damage many fighters receive. Even “the Greatest” Muhammad Ali, is now suffering from Parkinson’s disease because his brain was punched so much.

Mixed Martial Arts fighters at least have the option of taking opponents down, to make sure that he does suffer from Ali’s situation in his later years.  This makes MMA fighters receive less damage. 

In addition to the wrestling option, each time the referee determines a fighter cannot defend himself, the fight is called, Now, one fighter doesn’t have to continue to take unnecessary damage, and they are safe. 

With the added versatility of ground combat, the referees has decisions to make, which makes his job much more difficult than any other official.

1. Are the fighters advancing and keeping the fight interesting?

2. Is any fighter in danger of getting hurt?

These questions cause the majority of criticism from many ordinary fans.

If the referee stops the fight too early, the fighter and the crowd beg for more action.

If the referee stands the fighters up, then many Jiu Jitsu based fighters complain that they could not execute their fight tactics.

If the referee lets the fighters stay on the ground, then many fans complain the fight of being boring.

So no matter what the referee does, he invites criticism.  So, does the prospect of seeing more exciting fights or giving Jiu Jitsu fighters the chance to utilize their strengths outweigh the possibility of more injuries?

Big John McCarthy (one of the greatest MMA officials ever) has commented saying that, he tells a fighter to “get out of there” before he ends the fight.  When Chuck was defeated by Rampage, he immediately stood up and protested his defeat.  From what the fans saw, people questioned why the fight was stopped.  Chuck was fine, right?

Some people complain that if it the fight continued just five more seconds then Chuck, or anybody in that position, would have gotten out of it.  No matter which way you look at it, sometimes the officiating in MMA is difficult.  Yes, a fight could be stopped prematurely; however, would you rather it be stopped after it is too late?

In my humble opinion, the sport of mixed martial arts has come a long way from the days where people like John McCain called the sport “human cockfighting.”  The basic principle remains that the safety of the fighter is key. 

The sport is still maturing, and the majority of fans have still yet to realize the sophistication of the symphony of moves that each fighter executes while trying to destroy his opponent.

While it may seem like a fighter is fine, every second of “Ground and Pound” could end a fighter’s career or worse. Each punch delivered from the mount is quadrupled the force of someone standing, don’t believe me, watch fight science. 

So while the majority of fans are still catching up to the knowledge of MMA referees, fighters are safe.  This is why Mixed Martial Arts has some of the best officiating in the worl of sports.  Fortunately for the fans, Chuck lived to fight another day.