You Can Either Blame The Judges Or Become One; I Chose To Become One.

Jason SchielkeCorrespondent IMay 23, 2010

LONDON - FEBRUARY 10:  Marios Zaromskis lands a kick to the face of opponent Damien Riccio during the Cage Rage Championship 20 Born to fight event at Wembley Arena on February 10, 2007 in London, England. Cage Fighting also known as MMA Mixed Martial Arts is a mixed fighting style combat sport with a steadily growing international fan base. MMA is an evolving combat sport where competitors combine different disciplines that include jiu-jitsu, judo, karate, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and others to their strategic and tactical advantage in a competetive arena.  (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

It never fails…whenever there is a close decision in a MMA bout, there will be keyboard warriors who will gripe about the judging.  Granted, there have been some matches where the judging was just downright wrong, but in many cases a sound argument can be made for either fighter winning. 

However, this does not matter to the keyboard warrior; the fighter they thought won got robbed and the judges are stupid.  I have been guilty of this myself, but what does griping and moaning do?  It’s definitely not going to change the outcome of the fight and it’s just going to cause the keyboard warriors to get into a never ending urinating match (yes, I’m referring to the Sherdogers). 

So what can you do about decisions that don’t go the way you thought they should have gone?  You can either

  A) Call the judges stupid

  B) Whine endlessly

  C) Both A and B

  D) Accept the fact that judges see fights in different ways or

  E) Step up and work your way up to be one of those judges. 

I choose the last option.

Back in March, I got in contact with Chuck Wolfe, who is an official with the ISCF to see if he could give me a seminar to become an ISCF sanctioned judge.  In order to become a sanctioned judge with the ISCF, you have to attend a seminar held by an official who is certified to give one in the position you are seeking, and then you have to “shadow judge” an event. 

Basically, you fill out dummy scorecards and at the end of the event, the ISCF representative overseeing the event compares your scorecards with the scorecards of the sanctioned judges who actually judged the event and critiques your scoring. 

April 2nd ended up being the date that worked out best for me. We could do the seminar that afternoon, then I could go shadow judge an amateur event being held later that night.  Considering I would have to go to Kansas City to do everything, I was pretty happy that I wouldn’t have to take two trips up there.

So the morning of the 2nd, I picked up my kids, took them to my mom’s house and took off on my three hour trip to Chuck’s house in Kansas City.  I got to Chuck’s house around 3PM.  He took me to the basement of his house and showed me his gym.  I have to say I was pretty impressed.  He had everything you needed to train a fighter from heavybags, weight machines and even a sparring ring.  He had enough kickboxing and MMA memorabilia on his walls and in glass cases for me to write an entire column about. 

Our seminar was two hours long.  About an hour and 45 minutes of that time was spent talking about recent boxing and MMA bouts and him clarifying a few questions I had about unintentional fouls and 9-9 rounds.  The other 15 minutes was spent filling out paperwork and going over the ISCF rules.  I had studied these before I went up there, but there was one rule I missed:  knees to the head of a standing fighter are legal in all pro bouts and are legal in amateur bouts at the discression of the promoter and matchmaker.

Before I left, I changed into my uniform and met his son Chris and wife Paula who would both be working the event.  All three of them were incredibly nice people and I could tell  we would all get along great should we ever all work the same event, if I get the chance to work a future event. 

After stopping to grab a sandwich, I headed out to Whisky Tango’s, the facility where the event was being held.  After fighting rush hour traffic in Kansas City, I finally make it there.  From the outside, the place looked pretty nice, but I was afraid of messing up my new Nike Air Max’s in the huge mud puddle, A.K.A. Whisky Tango’s parking lot.  I got there about two hours before the event was scheduled to start and there were already at least 70-80 cars in the mud puddle, uh…I mean parking lot.  I had no idea an amateur event would be this popular.

I just wandered around the place for a little bit until Chuck got there.   Once I met up with him, he told me to follow him around.  He introduced me to the promoter of the event, the ringside doctors and some of the fighters that weren’t fighting on the card that night.  We then went to the fighters’ locker room where he helped his son Chris, who was in control of running the event, get all the paperwork for the fighters in order and dubbed me the “locker room inspector”.  Basically I went around telling people who tried to bring alcohol into the locker room to get out.  I got asked more times than I can remember “Who the hell are you?”  After I told them that I was the “official locker room inspector”, they were like “Oh, ok, I’m sorry, my bad.”  Hahahaha! This is already fun.

The event was getting ready to kick off, so I took my seat right in front of the cage.  I met the judge I would be shadowing, Bill, and we hit it off real quick once we started comparing tattoos.  I guess tattoos and MMA go hand-in-hand.  Then I looked at the fight card for the first time.  There were 10 MMA bouts, three kickboxing matches, and 2 grappling bouts.  I honestly had no idea I would be scoring any kickboxing or grappling matches, but I know enough about each of them to score them, so I was cool with it.

By this time, there were easily 800-1,000 people packed into the place.  I looked to my right and saw two Kansas City Chiefs’ players, and then I noticed that Rick Sutcliff was sitting at a table behind me.  However, my football team is the Chargers and my baseball team is the Cardinals, so needless to say I didn’t really care.

The fights themselves were, well, typical amateur fights.  I saw multiple “tricep stretch” submission attempts from the mount, a fighter tap to a forearm choke, a fight that looked like one of those backyard fights on Youtube and someone tapout for no reason.  Seriously, even Chuck, who was the referee for the event, wasn’t sure why he tapped until he asked the fighter.  Besides that, there were some very good fights.  However, there was one that got the crowd all up in arms.

To keep it simple, let’s just say there was fighter A against fighter B.  To me, it was very clear that fighter A won rounds one and two.  I also believed that fighter A took the third round.  Fighter A won a split decision with the scores of 30-27, 30-27, 28-29. 

The fans got so mad at the decision that a fight broke out in the crowd.  The fat guy won by knockout at 0:47 of the first round.

After the event, Chuck compared my scores to those of the official judges.  I was dead on with them on every round on every fight, with the exception of the aforementioned fight.  Chuck thought that I gave the decision to the right fighter, but he thought that it should have been scored 29-28.  He asked me why I scored it 30-27.  I explained to him that even though fighter B had the mount for the better part of the round, he did nothing with it.  In fact, he was seriously hurt and almost knocked out twice by the fighter he had mounted!  Chuck said he saw where I was coming from and could see how I could score the fight the way I did. 

Here I thought that taking speech and debate classes in high school would never benefit me later in life. 

He then went to the judge who scored the fight for fighter B and asked “What effin’ fight were you watching?”  I couldn’t help but to snicker.

So now we got down to business. I asked him how I did. He told me to make sure that I didn’t plan anything for May 8th because I’ll be working an event that night.

Also, if he has an opening, I’ll be working an event in the Kansas City area between now and then.

So there you have it.  I am now an ISCF sanctioned judge.  I have since gone through the process of becoming sanctioned by the ISKA and Kick International as well.  Granted judging an amateur event isn’t glamorous by any means, but I’ll be getting paid to watch MMA from the best seat in the house while I get experience needed to get licensed in Missouri to judge professional fights.


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