The embarrassing state of MMA judging reared it’s ugly head once again Saturday night at the TUF finale in Las Vegas. In what will go down as one of the worst decisions in MMA history, Leonard Garcia was given a(nother) gift decision over Nam Phan, in a fight where Phan dominated most of each round and Garcia counted by throwing wild hay makers into the air.
It’s not the first time there will be a bad decision and certainly not the last. But if MMA and the UFC wants to continue their rise in popularity something needs to be done. No fan wants to watch an event where the outcome can often be determined by incompetent judging. See how many fans would tune into an NFL game if one team had 30 straight penalties against them. What if a ref in hockey kept calling goals back that were clearly in the net? Everyone would conclude the game is a farce and it would begin to crumble.
The same could happen in MMA.
Human error is part of sports. It’s what’s makes them interesting. But the humans errors committed in the MMA cage over the last year have been atrocious. The UFC has no control over the judges. Let’s make that clear. The judges are paid by and regulated by the state athletic commissions. But the UFC needs to put more pressure on the athletic commissions to have judges accountable. It’s gone too far. One suggestion is to have them complete an annual MMA skills test based on some fight videos. Or have them explain how they judged a certain fight a certain way. You could use the Garcia vs Phan fight to start. All of these things could improve the state of judging.
There is too much money involved for this incompetence to continue. The growth of MMA is reliant on these judges to be professional and get it right. Until that day, many fans will continue to see it as a second grade sport. And that unfortunately would be the worst decision of all.