Photo by Charles Penner via Sherdog
The fight between Kim Couture and Sheila Bird at Ax Combat in Calgary earlier this month ended in a shocking moment that ended up being the talk of the MMA world. Bird locked in a scissor choke that had Kim go unconscious for somewhere between five and ten seconds before the ref called a halt to the bout. Following review of the film many MMA fans and media members called for referee Len Koivisto to be disciplined.
So what is a commission (in this case Calgary) to do when a situation like this arises? Apparently nothing (via MMA Weekly):
"As standard practice, debriefing meetings are always held amongst commission members and officials following any supervised combative sports event held in Calgary. The committee discussed the call made by the official for the Couture vs. Bird bout. It was determined that a formal review would be conducted of the circumstances surrounding that call. After an in-depth investigation, the Calgary Combative Sports Commission members rendered a decision to support the official, Mr. Len Koivisto. No further action or investigations into the officiating of Mr. Koivisto will be required by the Commission. Mr. Koivisto has been involved in the combative sports industry for close to 40 years, the last 23 in various officiating capacities. He is a well respected boxing referee (nationally and internationally) and has officiated MMA (nationally) for several years in various jurisdictions in close to 400 matches without incident. He has always taken his ring official's duties very seriously and conducts himself with a great deal of professionalism."
Oh, it's okay everyone. Koivisto has been involved in combat sports for a long time. A call that clearly endangered the health of a fighter, even if a mistake, deserves no punishment because he takes his duties seriously. Using his reputation as a boxing referee does nothing to provide defense of his understanding of submissions, the area of his failing in this case.
Compare this to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board suspending three judges from Paul Williams vs. Erislandy Lara and forcing them to undergo training for scoring that seemed to their commissioners to be clearly incorrect. You can see the difference between a commission that holds its officials responsible for their actions and one that is simply going to go along with the status quo because that's just how it is done in combat sports.
I don't know Koivisto, maybe he has a flawless history as a referee. But if you're not evaluating and disciplining your judges and referees on a case-by-case basis, you're not doing it right.
Weak move, Calgary.