MMA judge Joe Soliz drew the ire of many fans on the night of UFC 247 because of his officiating. What caught the attention of many was the 49-46 scorecard he gave in favor of Jon Jones in the main event against Dominick Reyes.
Soliz was also at the judges’ table during the preliminary fight between James Krause and Trevin Giles. The latter won via split decision, which Soliz gave a 29-28 tally to. Pundits criticized that scorecard, as Soliz gave Giles the first round, despite Krause having his back for majority of the round.
But what makes it more controversial is that the aforementioned official apparently had ties with Giles.
In an interview with TSN, Soliz himself admitted that he trained for years under Eric Williams, Giles’ cornerman that night.
“Under Eric Williams of Elite MMA, I received my black belt in 2008,” Soliz said. “I left Elite in 2010, and received my first-, second-, and third-degree under Octavio Couto.
“I haven’t been in contact or associated with [Elite MMA] in over eight years,” he added.
Williams went on to corroborate Soliz’s statement in a separate interview.
“I’ve known Joe for years,” Williams said. “I haven’t talked to him in probably a year and a half or two years. The problem is it’s kind of a small world, so you get people crossing paths and I think that you’re going to have stuff like that happen. Whenever you can prevent it, I would.
“But again, I don’t worry about it. If you finish the fight, you don’t have to worry about those kinds of things. I really don’t concern myself with it.”
From their end, the Texas Combative Sports Program confirmed that Soliz denied having “direct or indirect financial interest” with any participant in the card, when asked about it in his licensing application form for UFC 247.
“When [a judge is] approached to be part of the event, they are supposed to tell the commission, ‘I can’t judge a particular bout because I know somebody,’ or if it’s something that there are a number of conflicts, then they need to tell the commission,” spokesperson Tela Mange said in a separate interview. “We have a number of judges that we can rely on.
“We get input from the UFC or any other promoter that we’re doing events with for people that they would prefer and we just go from there.”
John McCarthy, a referee and judge instructor for the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports, also considers the situation to be a conflict of interest.
“Most will never allow you to judge a fight when you have that sort of background with a cornerman or fighter,” McCarthy said.
Soliz officiated another controversial prelim fight between Andre Ewell and Jonathan Martinez. He and fellow judge Danny Dealejandro had Ewell winning 30-27 and 29-28, respectively. Third judge JJ Ferraro had Martinez winning with a 29-28 tally, resulting in a split decision verdict.