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Judging, Demystified

Judging, Demystified

The California State Athletic Commission extended an invitation to the media to shadow officials at last weekend’s Bellator 136 event, so MMAFighting’s Marc Raimondi sat alongside judge Mike Beltran to gain some insight into the whole “watching dude’s fight and pick a winner” thing. Granted, it’s not as cool of a story as when I sat with the legendary Jeff Blatnick back in 2011, but it’s a worthwhile piece of reporting.

Some choice bits of Marc’s story include:

There’s a reason why it’s called “judging.” There is some subjectivity to it. But it’s the judge’s job to know what to look for, be educated on the sport and understand how to score certain things. And there’s no time to mull it over. Your scorecard is collected immediately after the round is over. You have to be judging as the round goes.

“I hold them accountable,” [Andy] Foster said of his referees and judges. “This is not just going out and having fun on a Friday night. This is people’s careers.”

It’s not to be taken lightly and it’s not as easy as it looks. The fighters can venture into a part of the cage that’s difficult to see and, as a judge, if you miss one thing it could change your scorecard in a close round. Monitors help, but not every state allows them.

There are judging issues in MMA and you surely can list a handful of terrible decisions off the top of your head. McCarthy said somewhere between 3 to 5 percent of fights are scored incorrectly with the wrong fighter winning. He’d prefer it to be less than 1 percent.

But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this is easy or that we could all do a better job. I’d prefer to leave the judging to the judges, flaws and all. And the next time there’s a boneheaded decision, I’ll think to myself that under certain circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have done any better.

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