Joe Rogan Calls Out UFC Judges

Phototshop via Cagewriter

Last night after the unaccountably bad Leonard Garcia over Nam Phan split decision at The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale, UFC commentator Joe Rogan went off:

"I don't think the last fight was close and the decision went the wrong way. It's putting a tremendous amount of pressure on fighters not knowing what kind of officiating you're getting.

"It's gross. You should be able to leave it in the hands of the judges. You should be able to just fight.

"And we should point out, that is the situation because of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. It's got nothing to do with the UFC. People keep saying 'oh the UFC!' We have no say whatsoever. And (NSAC executive director) Keith Kizer has denied that there's an issue.

"I think (Kizer) needs to clean house. There's a few very good judges surrounded by a bunch of incompetent morons, who know nothing about the sport.

"They need to do something about that, because it's ruining MMA. It's making people think that this sport is corrupt. It has nothing to do with corruption. It's sheer and total incompetence."

Jason Probst at Sherdog wasn't quite as upset:

With two judges scoring the bout 29-28 for Garcia, the third scored it 30-27 for Phan. While it was a close fight, there was no clear reason for giving Phan the first round, where Garcia out-landed him 3-to-1 and dictated most of the action. The second round was clearly Phan's, and the third was pretty much a pick-‘em.
The big problem is that Nevada's history as a stalwart state for boxing and its assorted regulatory mechanisms has not translated into effective MMA judging. The refereeing is solid, as are the other elements required to run shows which are safe, well-administered and professional. However, the judges' criteria are clearly murky, and that only creates more problems.

While I don't think it was the controversial jobbing that the crowd thought it was, the divergent nature of the scorecards -- in a state like Nevada, no less -- only serves as further indication that MMA judges need to be looking for and scoring on the same uniform criteria.

Steve Cofield disagreed with Rogan even more strongly:

It's not ruining the sport. And unless the broadcasters at the event - and the thing same goes for guys like HBO's boxing voices Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman - harp on this judging incompetancy thing, most casual fans will let shaky decisions slide after a few days.
Everyone who's up in arms about this should speak with Marc Ratner. Ratner, a VP with the UFC, would probably chuckle at the assertion that there's a judging epidemic. He was in Kizer's position for years, essentially serving as the czar of boxing. He heard the same thing in the 70's, 80's and 90's in boxing.

It probably bothers him even more now with MMA as he tries to sell dummies like N.Y. assemblyman Bob Reilly on the notion that the sport is safe and legitimate. It makes it difficult when some of the biggest people around the sport undermine the effort by saying MMA is way short on qualified referees and judges.

I actually agree with Rogan. The judging in the Garcia fight was so utterly off the wall I don't see any way to justify it under the current scoring system. I also strongly disagree with the premise that Rogan's well-intentioned criticism of the NSAC judges hurts the sport in the eyes of regulators or makes it less legitimate. Rogan has truth on his side -- MMA IS way short on qualified referees and judges. 

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