First Joe Rogan, now Dana White.
Both of the UFC's big name non-combatants are obviously sick of watching so many fighters get the shaft from judges in Nevada. Both have come out in public recently to confirm the situation with poor scoring has nothing to do with the UFC and everything to do with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. For his part, White says his To Do List is already long enough:
"My job isn't to figure out the scoring, how to train refs and how to do all these other things," said White after a press conference for the upcoming UFC 124 show in Montreal. "That's why we're under the athletic commissions. That's what these guys do. Believe me, I have enough jobs already. They need to figure out how to fix it."
Dana's comments followed Keith Keizer, the NSAC Director, responding to Rogan's tirade by pointing out how many Nevada officials the UFC takes with it overseas, where they often get to pick their own judges:
“They always say that ‘the UFC has nothing to do with judging.’ Well guess what, they’ve got a big fight coming up in Canada called Koscheck vs. Georges St. Pierre - the UFC and Marc Ratner are flying Tony Weeks up there as a judge. C’mon, Joe. How about some honesty? They’ve taken 90% of our officials with them overseas, as they should. That’s not a knock on Dana [White] and Marc [Ratner]; they know what they’re doing.”
Kizer argues that some judges do get their decisions wrong, but it's not right to vilify them over it. He made an analogy to baseball and compared a particular judge's record of scoring fights to a batting average in that sport. He later added, “It’s like that one umpire who ruined that perfect game in baseball. You can’t be more wrong than that. But you ask the players and they think that, other than that, he’s one of the best umpires in the sport. He’s a top-5 umpire. You can’t screw up much worse than that, but you don’t get rid of him either.”
Still, Kizer did agree with Rogan's "clean house" comments and said some judges just don't get it and need to be relieved, which he says he's done before:
"He [Rogan] may think some of the judges aren't as good as I do, and that's fine. There's nothing wrong with him thinking that," Kizer said. "But I've gotten rid of several judges during my tenure, and every judge has to keep doing well if they want to stay a judge, so I don't disagree with cleaning house of officials that aren't worthy of it, and I've done so."
White still doesn't accept that the status quo is going to keep working and seems genuinely frustrated that the NSAC doesn't want to take the initiative to make the judging landscape any better.
"This is a real sport that continues to grow, that has millions of millions of fans, creates tons of revenue for all these different states," White said. "Get in there. Figure this thing out. Get to work. Start training some referees. Start doing some judging courses."
White added his suggestion that former MMA practitioners be recruited to be judges, eliminating the issue of certain judges crossing over from boxing and not understanding the various scoring differences.
In the end, the UFC itself should not have to be injecting itself into this controversy, but patterns don't lie and history will certainly repeat itself if improvements are not made soon. Kizer's defense is weak. It's more denial than substance, and he offers more excuses than solutions. Worst of all he admits he personally scored the Phan vs. Garcia fight that gave rise to the issue for Phan by a margin of 30-27.
Though the extra financial boost provided by the UFC organization through the "Fight of the Night" bonus might alleviate the issue in some ways for Phan, it doesn't change the L on his record that shouldn't be there.
"I can go back and pay the guy and say, 'I think you won the fight, you're going to get paid,' " White explained. "We do that all the time. ... The thing that means more to me and is more important to me is their legacy."
White makes some good points, and Rogan was right to put the issue out there in the first place, but until Kizer takes some real action nothing will change. A little responsibility goes a long way. Instead, Kizer seemed to take more offense with the manner of complaining than he did with the suggestion of the actual problem at hand:
"You get people who love to overreact. Obviously there are people who want to feel superior than others, trash others," said Kizer. "Maybe they are full of some self-hate, some self-pity… maybe that’s Rogan’s piece as well. There are ways to criticize professionally, ethically, effectively and legitimately. But then there are ways where you are just trying to make yourself look better.”
As long as Kizer's unwilling to accept any NSAC culpability for the problems with scoring and insists on calling them anomalies from otherwise great judges, there won't be any need is his eyes for any sweeping moves to make scoring more fair and accurate. The time for talk on this issue is running out, and the time for acting on the concerns raised is right now. If Kizer thinks fans, executives, and media professionals are upset now and not being nice enough about their criticism to generate a positive response, he's going to be truly livid when the backlash comes after the next hatchet job scoring fiasco.