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MMA’s Judging System: Busted and Baseless?


“There’s a very few good judges, surrounded by a bunch of incompetent morons who know nothing about the sport.” – Joe Rogan

Rogan, along with a vast majority of the MMA community, seems to be on to something. Judges in MMA are so ridiculously bad at their jobs, that fighters who fight with even a little bit of flair are scared to death to go to a decision. This isn’t a new trend either.

Pham vs Garcia back in 2010 caused an outrage in the MMA community-followed by apathy. Here lies the problem. Its all bureaucracy, and no fixing. Even the UFC themselves sit back with a shrug like “Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges, guys.” It’s very obvious something needs to be done.

Cecil Peoples

So here is the problem. Every reputable combat sport in the world has judges qualified to analyze a match in its duration, score it, and declare a winner based on who competed the best and achieved whatever the goal of that sport dictates. The UFC acquires its judges from the athletic commission, who’s MMA learning process is a career threatening joke to every mixed martial artists’ expense. They take karate, boxing, kickboxing, and all other sorts of judges, put them through something like a 2 week MMA workshop, and pop them out the other end like “Don’t trip, you can totally judge Machida vs Shogun!” Then guys like Keith Kizer, the only person who can do anything to help, sits back and talks about his judges like they’ve got glimmering halos. Of course, the addition of judges like Ricardo Almeida and Bill Mahood can help, but they can’t ref everything.

Leg Bruise
“Leg kicks don’t finish fights. . .”

Unfortunately, there is no immediate solution to the bad judge epidemic. We can hope that eventually this problem can sort itself out and not be such a glaring hole in the sport we all love and cherish. But I would not put my money on it. Raising awareness, and encouraging more fighters and trainers with MMA experience  to take on a judging position is the only short term advice I can give. Hopefully there will come a day when lighting up your opponent for 4 and a half minutes and getting taken down for 30 seconds won’t lose you a round. I don’t see it, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

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Adam Brennan
Coming from a family of fighters, and growing up on the jiujitsu mats of half a dozen MMA schools in Orange County and Los Angeles, Adam Brennan is a well informed member of the rapidly growing Mixed Martial Art community. As a competitor in the sport, he is very opinionated and vocal about both the flaws surrounding it and it's positive impacts on the martial arts community. Adam's love for the sport drives him to advocate solutions to issues and promote the successes. Dreaming of a career as a fighter, Adam spends his days as working two jobs and training hard every night at Kings MMA in Huntington Beach. Being a huge advocate of better athlete pay and a fighter union, he will stop at nothing to do his part to help bring the sport to the next level.