An MMA Judge on Monitors for MMA Judges

On Friday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission approved the use of monitors by judges for MMA bouts. While this may come as welcome news to some MMA fans, from my experience in talking to judges, the reaction may not be the same.

Recently at the UFC fan expo in Toronto I had the opportunity to chat with respected MMA judge Sal D’Amato, who had an interesting take on monitors for judges.

Rather than embracing the advent of monitors for judging purposes, D’Amato said he felt they were distracting, and that judges already had the best seat in the house from which to view a fight. Although he did mention that when fighters are across the cage from a particular judge with their backs turned it can be hard to assess the action, he maintained that the in-arena video screens (which show the same feed as the home broadcast) were more than sufficient.

This begs another question. If the equipment possessed by judges currently is sufficient to assess a fight, why is judging still by far the most controversial subject in MMA? Judges, like referees, have one of the most unenviable tasks in the sport… anyone can admit that. However, between the technologies now afforded to these officials, not to mention the nearly unlimited fight library available for viewing and training purposes, why do we still see fans holding their breath when the verdicts for clear cut fights like Mark Hominick/Leonard Garcia come in? How is it plausible that Joe Warren can defeat Marcos Galvao by unanimous decision in a fight that 100% of people I’ve talked to have scored 29-28 for Galvao?

Is it the tools that are available to judges that need to be revisited, or is it the judges, and the methods of training them which should have a second look taken? Personally, I agree with Sal’s general sentiment that judges have a view that is at least comparable, if not superior to that of the TV cameras and crews strewn about the ring or cage. Perhaps in the smaller promotions that don’t have the production quality and additional video screens that the UFC has, the monitors could be beneficial to judges, but I really see no significant benefit at the level of the sport we’re looking at and scrutinizing most highly.

That still leaves us with the same issue of how to improve judging in MMA, and to me the solution seems fairly clear. For too long, and to the present day, we’ve seen Boxing judges moonlighting as MMA judges. There needs to be a well-monitored certification process, and distinction made between judges of the two sports.

This is something which I disagree with Sal on. He feels that there is a clear distinction between MMA and Boxing judges already, but when I watch cards from both sports on consecutive weekends and see the sane names judging the fights, I’m forced to disagree.

Whatever the answer to the judging issues plaguing MMA over the past few years is, I can almost certainly guarantee that it is a fundamental issue (ex. training/background) rather than a technical issue like having monitors available to judges. A judge who will score a fight incorrectly will still do so if he sees the fight on a monitor rather than in front of his face. If that issue is not addressed by the athletic commissions, judging will continue to remain one of the biggest issues plaiting MMA, monitors or not.

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About bradtaschuk

An MMA enthusiast who also fancies himself a writer, I've been following the sport in depth since moving off to University in the fall of 2004 allowed me more free time than I knew what to do with. Quickly, an obsession with watching as much MMA as possible developed, which has continued to this day in the form of writing and editing articles for various MMA sites, and now to my own blog about my views on the sport.
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