In February, the Kansas Athletic Commission first broached the concept of open scoring for mixed martial arts. Instead of tallying scores after the fight, the proposal was to do it after every round to offer transparency and avoid controversial judging.
Invicta FC became the first promotion to implement this new method during its Invicta Phoenix Series 3 event in Kansas City early this month. Fighters in the card were so far satisfied, calling it a “step up for the MMA world.”
But not every competitor fully supports this innovative idea. UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, for one, says he understands its value, but remains skeptical because of how it can adversely affect a fighter’s mentality.
“For example, open score, first round is very close, and judges give for blue corner, and red corner doesn’t agree with this and not all fighters very strong mental,” Nurmagomedov said during the recent Dominance MMA media day (transcript by MMA Junkie). “Sometimes he can go with his corner or with judges like, ‘Hey, what are you talking about, guys? I beat this guy.’
“Like inside the fight, it can happen like maybe some fighters, first two rounds he lose, he can say, ‘OK, I’m out. I don’t want to fight no more.’ It’s like little bit dangerous, too.”
Fellow titleholder Kamaru Usman agrees with Khabib, adding that being left in the dark about the running tallies could actually benefit a fighter.
“That element of being in the dark and not knowing, like he (Nurmagomedov) mentioned,” Usman said. “Fighters might not be mentally as strong as others, so having that little bit of hope of not knowing what the score is, even if the fighter lost the first two rounds, just having that little bit of hope. ‘You know what, I can still win this and go out there and give it all in the third round.’
“How many fights have we seen where a guy finishes someone with a second left or 10 seconds left,” he added. “I think open scoring could potentially work, but also it could hurt that little bit of hope that fighters may have going into that last bit of the fight. And, plus, it takes away from the suspense.”
Khabib went on to suggest that judges should also be educated about the other facets of MMA.
“I think in MMA, we have a lot of judges from boxing, and they don’t understand MMA. But I think we a have a lot of veterans,” he said. “We have to teach them a little bit and put them like judges because a lot of guys don’t understand like wrestling, they don’t understand grappling, they don’t understand clinch.
“They know only like boxing, and that’s why I think we have to bring a lot of veterans and like MMA veterans … who understand MMA.”
Recent UFC cards were riddled with controversial judging. UFC 247 alone had three fights where officiating was questioned, including the headliner bout between light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Dominick Reyes.