In an interview over at Bleacher Report, E. Spencer Kyte sat down with the legal counsel of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB) in Nick Lembo. Most fans have heard of Lembo as he's involved heavily with the mixed martial arts scene on the east coast, and he has been in the news recently as he responded to Sean Salmon's admission with a suspension from competing in the state, specifically on a September 11th card in Atlantic City.
The most interesting piece of this interview revolves around Lembo's ideas about how judges should be trained:
How do we improve judging in Mixed Martial Arts?
Start with training seminars for individuals with appropriate martial arts backgrounds. Then have them "shadow" judge at amateur events; have them judge hundreds of amateur fights over several years.
Then, have them start at a small show in the pros alongside two very experienced judges. Consistently review and assess their performances and review any controversial scores with them.
Interestingly enough, it sounds like this program is currently in place in New Jersey from some later questions, and Lembo also talked about sitting through "Big John" McCarthy's C.O.M.M.A.N.D. program presentation regarding courses for officials within MMA.
The key to this entire process working is the review process. "Shadow" judging is a good way to get those inexperienced judges the experience in watching MMA fights and knowing exactly what to look for in terms of the criteria. But Lembo still isn't hitting at the problem that I've been pushing for quite some time now.
The real problem here is how those "experienced" judges and the people reviewing these "shadow" judge scorecards are interpreting the judging criteria. Does Cecil Peoples (Cecil isn't actually licensed in NJ, it's just an example) fall under the "experienced" judge category? I certainly wouldn't want that type of explanation as to why my card isn't matching his card at the end of the evening.
While this is a well-put together program to give new judges the experience they need in order to judge fights effectively, I don't think it's the ultimate answer to better judging. I have a feeling that "experienced" judges aren't progressive in changing their tune when it comes to judging takedowns, fighters scoring off their backs, and giving points to submission attempts and escapes. The review process would need to teach judges the newer ways of thinking in regards to MMA such as the forementioned situations that can occur in the cage.
I'd be interested to find out what John McCarthy is teaching in his judging course at C.O.M.M.A.N.D. as I think it would be something that's truly beneficial for the future of judges if it used a philosophy that top control isn't the "Holy Grail" of a winning round. I'd also be interested to hear Lembo's comments regarding the review process and how they are teaching the future of MMA referees in accordance to the judging criteria.