UFC President Dana White yet again dusted off his catchphrase of 'Don't Leave It In The Hands Of The Judges' last night at the UFC 150 post fight press conference, when champion Benson Henderson defended his lightweight title against Frankie Edgar with a controversial decision win. Judge Tony Weeks gave the fight 49-46 to Edgar, in line with a lot of MMA media outlets who were also scoring the fight, but the two other judges Dave Hagen and Mark Van Tine gave the fight to Henderson 48-47.
The trouble is, White's catchphrase while seemingly pithy has always been meaningless and absent of worth in regards to addressing and remedying the issue. White came the closest to being called on it last night when Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports asked him for specifics in what he expects fighters to do (transcription by me):
Kevin Iole: Question Dana, in a fight like this where you have two guys that are so evenly matched, in so small things, when you make the comment about you know 'Don't leave it in the hand of the judges', are you saying that you want the guy to take risks that maybe aren't there, you know because they seem to be so close that like 'What could they have done differently that they didn't do?'
Dana: No clue, it's up to them, you know what I mean? I'm always the guy everyone is looking at when the fight's over, it's not up to me man. All my work is done the minute these guys step up in there. It's all them then. I'm the one that gets all the heat, all the back and forth from both camps and all the people, but it's in their hands when they go in there, no matter what the answer is. I don't know what the answer is, when guys are this evenly matched, but it's true, you just don't want to be the guy up here saying 'I thought I won it', either way, whether it happens on either side.
Dana White diverts from the question, refusing to give his opinion one way or the other on how he thought the fight went, let alone how the judging issue needs to be tackled, which to this point seems wholly uncharacteristic of perhaps the most outspoken president in sports. What doesn't seem to be lessening is the use of this useless catchphrase.
Continue reading after the jump
Kevin Iole in his post event article at Yahoo sums up the thoughts of mine and many others succinctly:
The problem for White, fans and fighter camps who bemoan such decisions, is that it is likely to become a bigger issue, not smaller, as time goes on. When two evenly matched, technically skilled fighters are paired, close bouts are going to result and fights that are difficult to score are going to happen more frequently.
As MMA matures as a sport, there will be more technically proficient fighters and they'll produce quality, but even harder to score matches.
Even match ups with two highly skilled fighters are going to result in more stalemates, making their fight more difficult to judge. This isn't a startlingly new revelation, it's existed in Boxing for decades. Fighters should be able to trust the wisdom and experience of those appointed officials to make the right call more often than not.
Leaving it in the hands of the judges is a non-factor, finding judges who can do their job competently and consistently is. If there's anything that could commercially screw up this sport by killing off the audience, it's the situation of judges being left unchecked, and Dana White's current neutrality is the sort of indifference that can help speed up the decline.
The more vocal White is, the more the media will pick up on and report it, and the more we name and shame judges and expose their failings, the more pressure will be put onto Athletic Commissions to be more pro-active in finding better officials. Because if they don't, they run the risk of turning away the business and economic impact a big event like the UFC or big time boxing can generate in their state, and that sort of issue should lead to the commission higher ups losing their jobs.
Maybe White is resigned to the fact he has no sway over the Athletic Commissions, maybe he's trying to walk the fine line between protecting his business while not burning bridges with the people that by law, he has to work with to continue UFC's -- and MMA with it -- legitimacy and acceptance.
If White's no longer willing to say anything, it's even more important for writers, reporters and journalists to continue making noise about it and demanding accountability.