No one would ever fancy Joe Rogan a shy guy. And he has never minced words on UFC broadcasts when it comes to questionable judging decisions in fights.
On Monday, Rogan, the UFC's color commentator for nearly 10 years, reiterated his stance that the mixed martial arts judging system needs an overhaul. And as he has done in the past, he put some of the blame for perhaps the biggest perceived problem in the sport on the shoulders of Keith Kizer, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
"I think very clearly, the people that we have in the position of choosing judges and deciding how the judges' criteria (and) the scoring criteria is set upon, they really don't want to do anything about it," Rogan told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. "We know the Nevada State Athletic Commission is very aware that people are upset about it, yet they do nothing. It's a political system, I think. Keith Kizer is a politician. If you step up and fire all these people that you've hired and had working for you for years, and you do make a big change, it opens you up for criticism."
Rogan said he believes part of the issue with MMA's judging problem stems from judges not knowing what they're looking for.
"What they basically have is a bunch of people who were boxing judges who really had no business even judging boxing," Rogan said. "Boxing is a little easier to figure out if you're not an athlete and not a competitor and not someone who really understands the game. It's a little easier to figure out because it's simply who hits who more. ... Obviously there's a little more to it than that, and that's what makes bad decisions in boxing. But in MMA, it's so much more complicated when you get takedowns and submission holds and what is worth more, a leg kick or a jab? Or what is worth more, a takedown or a knee or submission attempt from the bottom? Things get very squirrelly. It's very hard to figure out."
Critics of MMA judges have long said they believe those individuals should be made to go to attend classes on judging. Many fighters have said judges should also be trained in the sport.
Rogan, a taekwondo black belt and former champion who also regularly trains Brazilian jiu-jitsu with Eddie Bravo, agrees.
"I think, No. 1 – Ricardo Almeida said this recently and I absolutely agree – you should at least train to be a judge," Rogan said. "I don't think you can get away with judging professional mixed martial arts on the highest level without at least some sort of a martial arts background. You have to understand what's happening when the fight goes to the ground. You have to have been leg kicked before. You can't have judges around saying silly things like leg kicks don't end fights, which they obviously do. You have to have a real love for the game."
But barring that, Rogan also believes an improved judging pool could come simply from fans of the sport.
"I think seminars would help, but I think the most important thing is people that have passion and knowledge of the sport, people who would be watching the sport whether we worked here or not (should be judging)," Rogan said. "I think there's a lot of people out there that would make excellent judges. There's a lot of people out there that are real fans, and they're not seeking these people out. They're not having seminars where they're trying to actively recruit the most promising judging prospects. What they're doing is just keeping the same people they've had forever because like I said, if you admit there's a problem, if you fire people and admit there's an issue, then you admit there's an issue for a long time."
Another problem inherent in MMA, Rogan believes, is the 10-point must scoring system, the same system that has been used in boxing for years. Rogan said that scoring system could be overhauled – perhaps with the half-point system recently tested by MMA judge Nelson "Doc" Hamilton.
In that system, Mixed Martial Arts Specific Scoring (MMAS), close rounds would be scored 10-9.5. A more clearly defined winning round would be a 10-9. A dominant round or a round in which one fighter did clear damage to his opponent would be 10-8.5. And a round that sees a fighter deliver excessive dominance and damage would be a 10-8.
"I think we stole (the 10-9 system). We stole it, and we don't know how it works. We plugged it into MMA, and it's silly," Rogan said. "I think Nelson 'Doc' Hamilton has an excellent alternative. Nelson is pretty aware there are some issues with the scoring, and he took it on his own to try to create a superior system. I think it is superior. The half-point option makes it a slightly superior system, at least in my eyes."
But while Rogan believes the amount of future controversial decisions from judges could be curtailed with a scoring system change, as well as new judges who are more clearly attuned to the sport, he might not be holding his breath.
"I have friends who are judges and they've told me horror stories about people in the middle of huge fights that are televised on Spike TV or pay-per-view, and a judge looks over at him and goes, 'What's he doing?' They don't know. They literally have no idea," Rogan said. "That's ridiculous. That's something that some day, we're going to be laughing at. But right now we're not laughing because we've got a real problem. And those people, all those terrible scorecards that have been handed down over and over again by the same judges? They're still working. Every time I go to Nevada, I look over and they're still there.
"What do you have to do to get fired in Nevada? I don't know what you have to do to get fired from the Nevada State Athletic Commission, but I think you have to kill somebody. I don't think it's as simple as, just be bad at judging."
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