UFC President Dana White is admitting culpability in a disconcerting situation which developed last weekend. And that’s a very good thing.
Dana on judging controversy: "I got a little crazy and I overstepped my bounds. I was wrong."
— Shaheen Al-Shatti (@shaunalshatti) August 26, 2014
If you haven’t heard: a cageside judge for UFC Fight Night 48 in Macau, Howard Hughes, was dismissed mid-show. Apparently, White was so frustrated by Hughes’ scoring of the night’s first two bouts that he sent Hughes off to watch the rest of the event as a spectator.
Since there’s no athletic commission to oversee MMA bouts in Macau, White and company essentially acted as governing body for their own event — flying their own officials, like Hughes, to handle duties like judging and refereeing.
The UFC admitted, however, they were overstepping their boundaries by replacing an official mid-event. A full statement from the promotion is here. Apologies were issued to Hughes and a promise was made that protocol will not be breached again.
Ben Fowkles of MMA Junkie spoke eloquently about the issue in a recent vlog: He hits the nail on the head. Promoters should not be involved in determining the outcome of a fight. A cageside official should be concerning him or herself 100% on the bout, not if upsetting a promoter will cost him his job.
Allowing this could lead down a “slippery slope,” as Fowlkes puts it. A promoter with an emotional (White admits he was having a “meltdown”) and financial stake in a bout may change rules, referee’s decisions, or whatever else comes to mind.
It just can’t be okay.
The situation reminds me of a conversation I had with an old promoter of MMA events. He was very concerned with the relationships between fighter management and fight promoters in the current MMA climate.
As he put it, “when you control the fighters, you control the results.”
As we saw over the weekend, that control can extend to officials — and kudos to the UFC for recognizing that the result could be disastrous for the sport.