If you've been an MMA fan for more than a week, you probably already hate MMA judging and think it's a bane on the industry. For as long as men have written numbers on pieces of paper, someone has told fighters "don't leave it in the hands of the judges." A single phrase that stands as a monument to the idea that one of the fundamental underpinnings of this sports is broken. Or, at the very least, it often seems that way.
Because sports governing bodies (and in turn, sports themselves) are often somewhat stodgy and allergic to change, there's been a lot of resistance to ideas that might improve the way fights are judges. Judging in boxing has been understood as garbage for decades, there's no reason that MMA should shuck itself of a proud tradition. However, that seems to be what the state of New Jersey is aiming to do with their latest experiment.
The NJSAC shared, via press release, that on October 31st, for Cage Fury Fighting Championship 52 at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, three additional judges will be brought in for each fight and sequestered in "soundproof isolated rooms" where they'll watch muted video feeds of the fights. Both their scorecards and the traditional ringside judges scorecards will be brought to officials, although the cageside judges will still be the determining factor when the scores are read.
Larry Hazzard, the NJSACB commissioner, along with general counsel Nick Lembo, released the following statement along with the announced plans:
"This agency has been pleased with both the quality of judging and our judging roster in this state, but we recently have wondered about the effects of blocked views, limited angles, sight distance and to a small degree, crowd noise."
"Technological advances and skilled camera technicians can now offer the viewing fan base a closer, clearer and more precise visual of the action at hand as compared to what the judge sees cage side. It is noteworthy that the promotional executives and event broadcasters sitting cage side frequently view a table monitor as much or more than they view the live action itself."
Hopefully they get some interesting data out of the experiment and find ways to integrate more new ideas into the current system. I'm not sure that MMA judging is quite as bad as it's made out to be by fans, media members, and even fighters, but it certainly has room for improvement and it's refreshing to see an athletic commission taking steps to figure out what they can do about it.