Judging in MMA has come under fire on numerous occasions from fighters, fans, managers and of course promoters.
UFC President Dana White has taken judging in MMA to task on more than one occasion, and on several occasions have paid out win bonuses based on their personal belief that a fighter got the short straw on the decision.
Such was the case at UFC 144 when Takeya Mizugaki lost a controversial decision to Chris Cariaso that most everyone outside of the judges sitting cage side believed he won. The UFC in turn paid Mizugaki his win money because they believed that he deserved the victory despite the loss being handed to him by the judges.
“I was just surprised. I thought I definitely won that fight so till this day I don’t know how judges’ scoring ended up in that way,” Mizugaki told MMAWeekly.com from Japan.
“There was no big turn around in that fight like, for example, a knock down, but I believe, for anyone with the firm understanding of MMA it was just obvious who won that fight. Yet all three judges scored the other way so maybe there is a problem with in terms how the commission elect judges? I believe the commission could have chosen judges with more understanding about the sport of MMA.”
The judges in Japan were actually selected by the UFC because that particular country doesn’t have an athletic commission, but regardless of the selection process, judging has often been considered uneven and lackluster for more than just the event last month in Japan.
Mizugaki’s manager, Shu Hirata, points out one of the less obvious problems with judging in MMA. The promoters like the UFC often times pay out win bonuses because they believe fighters have been wronged by decisions, and that’s extra money out of pocket because they are now paying both fighters their full purse.
“Not only this time but in the many other occasions Zuffa has paid a win bonus to a loser of the fight because they thought judges made a mistake,” Hirata told MMAWeekly.com. “This means, Zuffa has been financially penalized every time judges made wrong decisions because they have been paying extra win bonuses.
“Fighter takes a ” L” on his / her record. Therefore, a fighter is penalized as well.”
Hirata, who manages several top fighters in the UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator, believes that the judges in MMA should be held accountable the same way the fighters are when they now have a permanent loss on their record, regardless of the bonuses paid by the promotion.
He believes that judges should live by the same set of rules as fighters who are penalized by bad decisions, and in this particular case he absolutely believes Mizugaki’s win was stolen from him.
“Judges are never ever penalized for their mistakes. All they have to say is, “I believe in my judging. But judges are human too and that means no one is perfect. People do make mistakes it’s not even natural for judges to be always 100% right. They are not gods after all, right?” said Hirata.
“If we consider “Octagon control”, “takedowns” and also, if we implement the theory of “If more than 50% of the round was spent on the mat then the fighter who controlled the ground war generally wins the round”, then yes I would have to say Takeya was robbed.”
Over the years, Hirata had to deal with some very questionable situations with judging in Japan when there was no commission and the promotions simply ran things however they saw fit. He admits the UFC running things made it a lot smoother, but they can’t tell judges how to score.
The judges simply need to be educated better, or Hirata says something needs to change.
“I think Zuffa’s decision of running MMA show in Japan under the commission rules is totally great. This was never done here in Japan and everything was executed very smoothly. In fact I didn’t have to deal with any “unknown people” or “not so pleasant individual” in the backstage and dressing rooms, which is very revolutionary in the Japanese MMA standard. I would have to say that UFC 144 show was the “healthiest” MMA event I’ve ever experienced in Japan. And I believe people from UK commission were running the show and they all did excellent job,” said Hirata.
“But for judging, maybe we can try something new? I mean, this is not the first time many fans, promoters, and fighters didn’t agree with the judges right? Well, then maybe the way to fix this is to try something new. Why not bring in one judge from Europe one judge from State and one judge from Asia? Or simply take votes from fans and people in the industry to decide best judges and use top ten ranked judges when UFC does the show at the country where there is no athletic commission? And if this works then that means Zuffa has set the precedent and maybe that can be presented to the athletic commission back in the States?”
Hirata’s hope is that judging debacles like this one can be avoided because when the scores go the wrong way, it seems to affect everyone except the judges in question.
“I am sure UFC will continue to expand, and in the future, they will do more shows at the countries where there is no such an organization or even a concept called athletic commission. Therefore, I sincerely hope Zuffa would use these situations as an advantage to take initiative in setting and creating better rules and regulations. As a sport of MMA evolves everything around the sport should evolve too,” Hirata explained.
Mizugaki admits he was very happy the UFC did what they did for him, and also the fact that Dana White stood up for the decision when speaking after the fights as well.
“I am just so grateful of UFC’s reaction in regards to this matter. They made all decision quickly, so it was just fantastic,” said Mizugaki.
“At the post fight press conference, Dana even stated that “things needs to be righted” and I would like to believe in his word and just concentrate on becoming UFC champion.
As for Takeya Mizugaki now, he goes home with a win bonus, but still has a loss on his record, and a year or two years from now when someone looks at his record will they remember that the defeat to Chris Cariaso came under questionable ruling from the judges?
The likely answer is no and that’s ultimately what Mizugaki gets punished with regardless of payouts, bonuses or fans who believe he should have got the call right now.
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