Last night's UFC on Fox 7: Henderson vs. Melendez Lightweight title fight was as close as title fights get, ultimately coming down to a split decision with two judges giving Ben Henderson the nod and one lone judge scoring it for Gilbert Melendez. That judge was Wade Vierra.
It turns out Wade Vierra is a business associate of Melendez' coach Cesar Gracie. This news was first tweeted out by Julius Henderson:
The Judge who went against Ben is a Cesar Gracie affiliate student, how did he get picked to judge?— Julius Henderson (@Simply1Julius) April 21, 2013
Here's Vierra's Linked In profile which lists his employers as the CSAC and MMA Graciefighter:
MMA Decisions has round by round scores from each of the judges:
MMA.tv has some good analysis and commentary of the situation:
The mixed martial arts world is too small for there to be a wall between all judges and all fighters. People often train at a wide number of schools during a year, socialize at grappling events, and otherwise enjoy a wide real-life social network that inevitably includes figures subject to regulation. In a sport that is evolving as fast as this one, it is in fact highly useful, even necessary, to have judges on the mats as much as possible.
A look at the judge's score cards reveals how close the bout was, and that the judge who was most out of lockstep with the other two was not Vierra, but Cleary, who was alone in two rounds, to Vierra's one.
There is no suggestion that Vierra scored the fight in bad faith, but the appearance of impropriety has to be avoided by regulators. A Cesar Gracie brown belt should not be judging a Cesar Gracie brown belt in a world title bout.
It is standard practice for judges to bow out of bouts where ties are close, and Vierra should have done so here.
Zach Arnold has more:
If the various MMA web sites are going to pick up on this story, then at the very least it means that there will be a tempest in a teapot. Should Wade have been booked for the main event given this apparent conflict-of-interest? Probably not. Do I think Wade did a fair job with the way he scored the bout? Yeah, I do. I agreed with his assessment. However, the potential appearance of impropriety of anything related to a conflict-of-interest is something that California can't afford to have on a big stage. I'm not emotionally worked up about this situation to go all fire and brimstone, but I completely understand where Julius Henderson is coming from here.