Somehow, after listening to Joe Rogan's rant on MMA judging last week, I have come to the conclusion that while he's right about many things, he's also quite wrong. Specifically when it comes to assigning blame over the current state of MMA judging.
Over the past few days, Rogan has argued that the Nevada State Athletic Commission and its head hauncho, Keith Kizer, are to blame for most of the problems in judging. Kizer, counters by saying that if there is a responsible authority to call upon, look no further than toward UFC vice president Marc Ratner, who is responsible for assigning officials often when the UFC is outside of NSAC jurisdiction.
In this argument, Rogan's argument is more convincing in my opinion.
Rogan responded to Kizer in writing recently, saying, "To bring judges that aren't appointed and approved by the NSAC would open up a whole new can of worms. The question would also come up as to who appoints those other judges? What is the UFC's relationship with them?"
On the other hand, while Kizer may want to divert some attention to Marc Ratner for using NSAC officials even outside of jurisdiction, I have my own reasons for questioning Ratner's position.
Marc Ratner vs. The 10-10
While Dana White may say that the UFC does not control the judging in MMA, that's not entirely the case.
The UFC's vice president, Ratner has control over many of the officiating assignments for UFC bouts. His opinions and choices matter when it comes to MMA officiating, and when he makes a bad decision, that decision reverberates across the breadth of MMA judging.
The most notable example of Ratner's influence has to do with the use of 10-10 round scoring in MMA.
While there are good reasons to avoid scoring a round 10-10 in boxing whenever possible, the usefulness of 10-10 round scoring in MMA cannot be overstated, especially in light of decisions like the one involving Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida,
It seems like a large number of fans and MMA media people scored at least one of the first two rounds an even 10-10, yet none of the official scores included a single 10-10 round.
In this area, officiating lags far behind the evolving discourse in MMA that now sees 10-10 round scoring as an extremely valuable tool.
Encouraging judges to score 10-10 rounds where applicable could be a huge improvement in MMA judging.
Among the decisions it could have altered that I can recall are Machida vs. Shogun I, Spencer Fisher vs. Caol Uno, Jake Shields vs. Yushin Okami, among many others.
Unfortunately, Marc Ratner seems violently opposed to scoring anything but the most perfectly even round a 10-10, and would much rather have judges err by taking the wrong side rather than by scoring a round 10-10.
Accordingly, he's been known to chew out judges who score 10-10 rounds, as he did a judge in Vancouver last year who had the boldness to score two 10-10 rounds over the course of the evening.
Of course, the UFC has a reason for not liking 10-10 rounds, as they open up the door for more draws, which are inconvenient for an organization trying to create some sort of heirarchy. But when it's the case that "either fighter could have earned the victory," it could be the case that neither really did, and in the end, the UFC ends up sacrificing accuracy for marketability when they force the judges to pick a winner.
Aside from Ratner, there is one other man within the UFC who also may be holding back MMA judging, if in a possibly less direct way.
Dana White vs. The Decision
In a strange way, Dana White's attitude to MMA judging may in fact be hurting the sport.
More than any other saying that he's known for, White is known for saying "don't leave it in the hands of the judges."
A part of that phrase might be a simple friendly caution to fighters warning them of the current terrible state of MMA judging.
On the other hand, White has other motivations for saying this.
If there is anything that White doesn't like, it's a boring fight.
White hates it when a fighter fights in a cautious way in an attempt to earn a decision. It isn't marketable, and it doesn't make fans want to buy more Pay-Per-Views.
White makes most of his money off the aggressive meat-headed style of fighting where fighters throw caution to the wind, and one fighter ends up knocked out or submitted.
Therefore, it only makes business sense for him to encourage fighters to fight for the finish when that may not be the most effective way to win the fight.
Bad judging actually empowers White to keep up that rhetoric, which punishes fighters not for fighting ineffectively, but for not being exciting.
Last weekend Joe Rogan said, "You should be able to leave it in the hands of the judges. You should be able to just fight."
I couldn't agree more, though Rogan hasn't always voiced this kind of opinion.
Fighters should be able to leave it in the hands of the judges, regardless of the current state of MMA judging.
Last weekend, Dana White seemed to recognize this, at least for a moment, when he awarded Nam Phan his win bonus despite the official decision.
In the future, it would be nice to see him continue that trend, rather than blaming the fighters, when there is a least one target more worthy of criticism and correction: the specific judges like Tony Weeks who consistently make bad decisions, as was the case in the decision between Nam Phan and Leonard Garcia.