UFC commentator Joe Rogan absolutely went off on the judges of Saturday's Leonard Garcia vs Nam Pham fight at The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale, calling them "incompetent morons" and making it very clear that the UFC doesn't control the judges.
In the aftermath, Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer spoke to MMAFA.com:
"They always say that ‘the UFC has nothing to do with judging.' Well guess what, they've got a big fight coming up in Canada called Koscheck vs. Georges St. Pierre - the UFC and Marc Ratner are flying Tony Weeks up there as a judge. C'mon, Joe. How about some honesty? They've taken 90% of our officials with them overseas, as they should. That's not a knock on Dana [White] and Marc [Ratner]; they know what they're doing."
"Yeah, I have a problem with how they scored the third round. Definitely. I mean, they're both very good judges which makes it all the more surprising."
"There have been judges that we've had here who we've sent packing. It didn't work out. Every judge needs to stay sharp, but everyone makes mistakes."
"A lot of people were saying that about the Rampage vs. Machida fight. Even Dana White said that. You get people who love to overreact. Obviously there are people who want to feel superior than others, trash others. Maybe they are full of some self-hate, some self-pity... maybe that's Rogan's piece as well."
"There are ways to criticize professionally, ethically, effectively and legitimately. But then there are ways where you are just trying to make yourself look better."
Kizer also brings up the baseball umpire who ruined the perfect game saying "you can't be more wrong than that" but that on the whole the ump is considered a top five referee by MLB players. He concludes that everyone will get a call wrong from time to time.
But the more interesting angle is the open squabbling between the UFC and their home-state commission.
Zuffa has deep ties to the NSAC. UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta was once a member of the commission. Zuffa VP Marc Ratner once held Kizer's Executive Director post. The UFC books more events in Nevada than in any other state by far (anyone want to run the numbers?) and brings beaucoup revenue to the struggling state.
Where this all gets really interesting is a potential second front of conflict between the promotion and the commission.
Zach Arnold paints an interesting scenario:
Under oath, Sonnen claimed that he talked with Nevada State Athletic Commission boss Keith Kizer about TRT. Kizer has told numerous media members after the hearing that he did no such thing.
Which leads us to the next step in this saga. Sonnen will have to re-apply for a fighter's license in Nevada because it expires on the 31st. Mr. Kizer will face a predicament. As Kevin Iole recently noted, the houses for big fighting events in Las Vegas are way down. Scary numbers for the casino shows. We know that UFC generates significant revenue for the local Vegas economy with their big events there. The rematch between Sonnen and Silva will draw big, big numbers if it's done in Las Vegas. Will Keith Kizer stand up to Chael Sonnen and help block Sonnen from getting licensed again or will the economics of the situation alter the outcome of the re-licensing hearing? After all, the Nevada commission did reject a license request for Antonio Margarito after he got caught with a plaster-like substance on his hand wraps in California. The difference between Margarito and Sonnen, however, is that Margarito is a reviled figure nationally and Sonnen has gained fan support since the Silva fight.
This all makes me wonder if there hasn't been some tension building between Zuffa and Kizer for some time or if the Commission is just a convenient scapegoat for bad judging. Clearly MMA judging needs to improve but I'd be surprised if that was the real issue driving this dispute.
Zuffa may feel that it's time to remind Kizer that in the land of the free and the home of the brave, money talks and bureaucrats are disposable if they start messing with the golden goose.
We all know that there's a big problem with judging in MMA, and we all know that Kizer is pretending that there's nothing wrong with having a bunch of people with no martial arts training and no understanding of the sport judging it on a professional level.
There's only one way for me to bring the maximum attention to this issue; and that's to voice my opinion on air during a live Television show where I know that millions of people are going to listen to it.
I understand that this upset him, but he's had plenty of time to correct all of these judging issues, and yet he denies there's a real problem and continues to employ people to judge important fights that are ignorant of many of the details of Mixed Martial Arts.
I also found it quite hilarious that he denies that the NSAC is 100% to blame for this judging situation and even brought up that we're taking NSAC appointed judges to Canada.
The NSAC for all it's flaws is the most important ruling body in combat sports. To bring judges that aren't appointed and approved by the NSAC would open up a whole new can of worms. The question would also come up as to who appoints those other judges? What is the UFC's relationship with them?
Kizer is a politician, and one of the biggest issues with him is that he's not willing to admit that he's not done the best job possible with the best intentions of the sport and it's participants in mind. This calculated denial of a problem is the reason why these same judges are turning in bad decisions over and over again. In order for him to correct the problem he's going to have to admit that he's been wrong in employing these people, and he's not willing to do that.
Mixed Martial Arts is a far more complicated sport than boxing, and in order for someone to be educated in the subtle details that are playing out in a fight they have to have some martial arts experience themselves. There are PLENTY of fans out there that would do a far better job than these people that he's got working for him that have been grandfathered in from the boxing community. To judge MMA on the highest level is a huge honor and responsibility, and should be bestowed upon people that appreciate that honor and appreciate and understand every single aspect of the sport. Anything less than that is an insult to these great athletes that are dedicating their lives to compete in the toughest sport in the world, and an insult to the fans that have to be disappointed with one terrible decision after the next.
Thankfully we live in a time where the fans have an option to get their opinions out there.
I've seen all the positive support online, and I urge you guys to keep it up. Please keep up the emails, and keep up the blog posts. The only way this thing is going to change is if the people in charge feel like they have to do something about it to keep their jobs intact.