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MMA Officiating the Good the Bad and the Ugly


In the world of MMA sometimes the officiating is spot on, but sometimes it is severely lacking in accuracy. Pro MMA is at times unfortunately plagued with early stoppages and judging errors, some that have even decided wins going to the wrong fighter. To some this situation with the officials of MMA could even be described as an epidemic crossing state lines and even national borders.

This is a problem that goes to the very core of the sport, if pro-MMA can't sort out these bad referee and judging decisions the ramifications could spell disaster for the professional fighting industry. One such task that these officials are responsible for is ensuring the safety of any fighters that step into the octagon while holding to what is in the best interest of the sport. An early stoppage of the fight can lead to outrage and an unnecessarily imposed black mark on a fighter's record, as a late one can be devastatingly brutal, though the official gives a fighter every chance to come back against an opponent's vicious onslaught all fighters' well-being must always take priority. Perhaps less frequently incorrect scoring has also had an effect on the sport. While fans and critics may be quick to criticize the actions of officials these professionals face split second decisions and maintain the utmost focus and dedication to make those tough calls successfully. Sometimes these situations get out of the referee's control and we are faced with the awe and outrage of an illegal strike, or a bad call when one of these gets missed. It is up to the officials' discretion as to whether there was an illegal blow that requires a point's deduction.

Those watching UFC - The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale were witness to an alleged downward elbow to the face of Matt Hamill with the fight ending in loss by disqualification for Jones. Due to a bad reffing call the fight was stopped and Jones was disqualified for illegal strikes. Upon further review it was discovered that Jones had not committed the offense of illegal downward blows and was vindicated by fans and officials alike, but is still scared with an undeserved loss on his record. Judge and score any MMA bout fairly and with wisdom takes an experienced and devoted individual. To be a truly successful referee is no small task in the modern realm of competitive MMA.

What exactly makes a good referee? What must an individual do to officially score competitive MMA? Why are there so few quality and senior people in our pool of officiators? Well, it really isn't that hard to become a referee for MMA. You could pay one hundred and fifty dollars to take an online course that says it will prepare you for state certification by your state athletic commission. For all the time money and hard work that goes into each one of these fighters getting ready and prepared leading up to a fight there is a clear responsibility to have good solid officiating over the event. The question is who is going to undertake this challenge. To become a world class fighter a prospective competitor must train countless hours and devote countless funds to teachers, gyms, nutritionists and a bevy of other professionals. The travel expenses are also an important factor not only in attending the fight but attracting sponsors and other financial backing. The need is very apparent for reform in the officiating of MMA. Many fans believe that the UFC has mangled and twisted MMA horribly which is then compounded by the current judging reffing situation in competitive fighting. The job of refs is to make sure the fight is clean and fair, not to make sure it goes the way the promoter wants, "They've[the fighter] got to be the entertainer. I don't make the fight what everyone expects it to be. All we do is enforce the rules…period, and make sure it's a clean fight.” Steve Mazzagatti 1 "I don't make the rules. If you want to make a 15-second standup rule, then come up with a 15-second standup rule and I will stand them up in 15 seconds,” Mazzagatti said. "I can only go with what's given to me. I don't judge fighters by who they are and what they're known for.” Also Steve Mazzagatti 1 "You gotta understand, I don't work for Dana and we [referees] don't work for Dana,” Mazzagatti said. "I feel I'm a public servant for the fans and the fighters. I want to make sure the fighters have a good, clean, fair fight that they trained for and expect.” Also Steve Mazzagatti.

Possible solutions to this problem might be unionizing the officiating of pro MMA, providing better compensated officials that hold up to a higher standing of reffing. Also making the guidelines and requisites stricter for becoming a judge or referee might provide a higher quality official. Just like in any other sport instant replay needs to become a huge part of the way fights are called. The impact of a missed call or other official snafu could be huge on a fighter's record. To maintain a high standard must become the utmost goal of officiating in MMA to protect the integrity of the fighters and the sport as a whole. There must come about a change which leads to elimination of misjudgments and bad calls, we must increase the quantity and quality of dedicated judges and referees, and we must honor the hard work of each and every fighter by upholding a foundation of clean and fair officiating to ensure a long and prosperous future for the glory of all MMA.

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