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ABC to improve trainer certification, have 'bands' that rate MMA officials

The ABC will soon make improvements to how the trainers of MMA and boxing officials are certified as well as create new levels of officials.

Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Tuesday was a big day for the MMA community as the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) voted near unanimously to approve six rule changes dealing with the judging criteria, eye pokes, grounded fighters and more. In the session immediately afterwards, the focus turned to those who train MMA and boxing officials.

Veteran MMA official John McCarthy and current ABC president Mike Mazzulli spoke during the session and described how, under the current system, trainers submit their teaching criteria to the ABC for approval, but there is no standardization.

"We have to make sure everyone's doing the same stuff," said Mazzulli. The idea is that ABC-certified trainers should all use the same criteria. While their courses may not necessarily be taught the same, their criteria should at least be standardized.

McCarthy described seeing an ABC trainer's syllabus that was "just wrong." Mazzulli told the audience of combat sports regulators about receiving e-mails from ABC-certified trainers he wouldn't even recognize, telling him a new group of students just passed their course.

Another problem is a lack of criteria for how long training should be. "And so we have people being trained for a couple hours saying, ‘I'm ABC certified,'" McCarthy said. "And there are people being trained for eight hours."

Mazzulli says in the "near future" the ABC will hold a meeting to re-evaluate how trainers of officials become certified. "The ABC was formed to protect the combative sport athlete and training officials is an important aspect of the regulation," Mazzulli told Bloody Elbow.

When the process is changed, current trainers will not be grandfathered in. "Everybody that wants to be a trainer, you get to come, we're going to present a course for you, we're going to give you the course, and you're going to teach us the course," McCarthy said. "When they pass our criteria to be an instructor, they can go and do ABC-certified training for everyone, but it's all regulated under the ABC and they know what they have to do."

Another part of the plan is to create different "bands" or levels of officials. The number of levels is yet to be determined but an official's level could depend on various factors including how many fights they've worked, how long they've been an official, how many regional championship fights they've done, how many world championship fights they've done, and so on.

As an official gains more experience and does more advanced training, they can increase their level. "And that's good for the commissions," said McCarthy, "because then they can look up Paul Gift, see your name, see what rating you have, how many fights you've done, what training you've taken."

As McCarthy put it during his presentation, "We need to start making all of our people step up in how much time they're putting towards their craft."

Trainer certification will also be examined in boxing under the guidance of veteran official Duane Ford.

Paul is Bloody Elbow's business and analytics writer. Follow him at @MMAanalytics.

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