Despite the rapid evolution of MMA as a sport and its practitioners as elite athletes, judging in MMA remains flawed at best and detrimental at worst. Much of the conversation following MMA events now revolves around judges’ mistakes rather than the fights themselves. One of the first rule-writers in MMA, refereeing-pioneer “Big” John McCarthy recently weighed in on the ever-increasing problems with judging in MMA during a recent conversation with MMACanada.
“The judging standards for MMA now are the same ones that Jeff Blatnick and I put in place before UFC 22,” McCarthy said. “Well, the sport’s evolved a lot and even back then when we put that in, we had put certain things that they had to take out because it was a lot of political pressure against the sport at the time and the owner of it, one of the things we had was damage.”
McCarthy revealed that by trying to combat the negative image of the sport, one of the most important aspects of MMA judging had been removed from judging criteria.
“The amount of damage one fighter does to another was an important aspect of it and he absolutely took it out, he said I can’t do that, we have enough problems, do you want me to in writing to say that what the things judges are looking for damage? So, there’s things that need to come about,” said McCarthy. “There needs to be a change… But it can’t be just damage, and a lot of times when we talk about damage, people get the idea of the way a guy is lumped up or something like that. Well, that means striking and there has to be also the damage of what submissions do, because with MMA there’s so many elements to it.”
McCarthy is correct in pointing out that judging in MMA is a nuanced thing and he is also correct in pointing out that appropriate changes must be made soon. One of the most repeated phrases in MMA is, “Don’t leave the fight in the hands of the judges,” due to many judges’ overwhelming propensity for incorrectly calling fights. Having McCarthy’s voice joining the call for MMA judging reform is huge, considering he is one of the most respected authorities on the subject. Hopefully, along with the fighters and the sport itself, MMA judging will soon embrace the evolutionary process.