One empty seat is leading to some consternation in the UFC.
UFC fighter Adriano Martins is calling for a no contest in his UFC 204 bout with Leonardo Santos, because judge Jeff Mullen was absent from his cageside seat in the first round and part of the second. Santos ended up winning the fight by split decision in Manchester, England.
Martins' manager Alex Davis told MMA Fighting's Guilherme Cruz that Mullen should have been in his correct seat throughout the fight and seemed to not be looking at the action when he was walking there very early in the second round. An angle of the video on UFC Fight Pass appears to back up Davis' point about Mullen not watching until getting to his chair about 20 seconds into the round.
"Jeff Mullen only takes his seat at around 20 seconds of the second round," Davis said. "And regardless of where he was in the first round, which was not where he should have been, Octagon-side eyes should be glued to the fight. In the second, it takes approximately 20 seconds for him to reach his seat, and as he is walking to his place, he does not look even once at the fight. That's enough time for a knockdown to occur and the guy to get back up."
Mullen and judge Paul Sutherland had Santos winning 29-28. Maciej Motylewski scored the bout 29-28 for Martins. The only differing round among the judges was the second — Mullen and Sutherland had it for Santos, while Motylewski had it for Martins.
In a statement, the UFC acknowledged that Mullen was not in his correct seat early in the fight, but observing from the first row of the commission seating area. Marc Ratner, the UFC's senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs, noticed Mullen was not in the right seat and asked him if he could adequately score the round despite that, per the statement. Mullen said he saw the whole round and he was able to score it properly.
The UFC regulates itself in certain foreign countries that don't have commissions, like England.
"In order to ensure that a similar incident does not occur in the future, UFC has reviewed its protocol for starting any and all bouts that occur in territories that do not have an applicable athletic commission or federation," the statement read.
When reached by e-mail, Mullen told MMA Fighting that there was a change in assignments and the bout order, which is why he was not in the cageside seat initially. Mullen said he watched and scored the entire first round and also observed the first few seconds of the second round while walking to the correct chair.
"I was walking to my chair and watching the whole time for the first few seconds," Mullen said. "I don't know how many seconds. Probably 5 to 10 (not really sure) but watching while walking."
Media scores for the bout, compiled on MMADecisions.com, were split. Some have it for Martins, some have it for Santos and others scored it a draw.
Santos, obviously, believes believes his win should stand. He said he had no idea Mullen was not in his seat for part of the fight.
"I did my job inside the cage and I think that's what counts to me," Santos said. "My victory was clear, you can see that even Adriano accepts the result. If they are trying to change the result out here, that's not up to me or even my job."
Martins' team, though, believes there's more than enough evidence for the judging to be called into question.
"I do not know why this happened, people make mistakes," Davis said. "But for whatever reason, fighters and camps are held to the highest standards by the regulators of this sport. These people must be held to the same standards. And this fight should be considered a no contest."