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CSAC Executive Director Andy Foster says ‘timidity foul’ must be used more by referees

Foster also weighed in on open scoring.

Andy Foster is the executive director of the California State Athletic Commission
Andy Foster is the executive director of the California State Athletic Commission
Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

California State Athletic Commission Executive Director Andy Foster is not in favor of open scoring in combat sports — he has his reasons — but he seems supportive of referees exhorting action during fights by employing the timidity rule.

Foster, speaking on The MMA Hour, said one reason he is personally against open scoring in MMA is that, “If a fighter knows that they’re up, they’re going to fight defensive, they’re going to fight to win. So if they’re up two rounds, a lot of times they’ll coast that last round. And it’s not me saying it, I can show you videos of it happening, especially in boxing.”

Foster, who was a professional (9-2) and amateur MMA fighter (7-0) before moving to the regulatory side of combat sports in 2008, said he would be willing to give open scoring a try. He added that moving to open scoring would also require the referees, and not just the judges, to become more involved in the fight. In fact, Foster, said he believes referees should be more proactive in moving fights along through a rule that is already on the books.

“I think there’s ways to solve all this (questions about open scoring) but it’s not just the judging that has to be influenced by this, if we go to open scoring, the referees have to be involved in the discussion also,” said Foster. “There has to be more use of the timidity foul. We have to keep the action going if somebody does decide to coast, and that is a departure from where we’re at now, because how many times in the UFC or Bellator have you seen a timidity foul issued in the last 10 years?”

In PRIDE, referees employed a card system for inactivity. If they deemed a fighter was stalling, the referee could issue that fighter a yellow card, which, while not affecting the scoring, would result in a 10 percent reduction in pay. The Unified Rules of MMA do not go that far when it comes to timidity, but there is a rule on the books referees can use when a fighter is stalling.

Timidity (avoiding contact, or consistently dropping the mouthpiece, or taking an injury: Timidity is defined as any fighter who purposely avoids contact with his opponent, or runs away from the action of the fight. Timidity can also be called by the referee for any attempt by a fighter to receive time by falsely claiming a foul, injury, or purposely dropping or spitting out their mouthpiece or other action designed to stall or delay the action of the fight.

“I’m open to trying,” Foster said of open scoring. “If it will improve the sport, I’m open to trying anything. I’m not [in favor of it], but I could maybe be persuaded to try it if it turned out to be a good thing, especially with the amateur program. But you mentioned something that I think gets to the heart of this issue, the yellow card — I think in the United States we call that the timidity foul, in some respects. I think that foul is not used enough. I think we need to be implementing that foul. I think if you’re going to criticize judges, there needs to be this idea that the referee gives the judges something to score. If a wrestler is going to use essentially offensive defense, the wet blanket effect, to keep a fighter from being able to fight for five minutes, that’s a hard round to score based on our criteria that’s based on damage…”