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Texas commission ‘applauds passion everyone is exhibiting’ on UFC 247 judging controversies

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Texas regulators chalk up controversy over UFC 247 officials to “passion” and “differing opinions.”

In a prepared statement, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, which oversees the state’s combative sports division, defended against claims of incompetency at the pay-per-view event this past Saturday in Houston, indicating officials have the sport’s best interest at heart.

”As in all athletic events, athletes, teams, judges, fans and media representatives can – and often do – have differing opinions about what happened in a combative sports match,” read the statement, which was sent to MMA Fighting and MMA Junkie in response to a list of questions about officiating issues that emerged during and after the event. “TDLR applauds the passion everyone is exhibiting about this sport.”

The commission’s performance came into focus in the middle of the event. Longtime UFC commentator Joe Rogan said judge Joe Solis issued a “criminal” 30-27 score for Andre Ewell in a preliminary bout opposite Jonathan Martinez. Later in the night, he accused another Texas judge of not looking at a women’s flyweight bout between Lauren Murphy and Andrea Lee. After the event, Rogan blasted “incompetent judging” and called Solis’ 49-46 score for Jon Jones over Dominick Reyes “insane.” He and fellow UFC commentator Dominick Cru passionately called for judging reform.

The majority of MMA media scored the bout in Reyes’ favor by a tally of 48-47. Fighters angrily protested the decision on social media immediately afterward.

After the event, UFC President Dana White attributed the issues to Texas’ relative inexperience in hosting big events, though the commission regularly oversees major UFC events. Light heavyweight contender Reyes said he’d like to have a word with Solis and said he felt “disrespected” by the scores on display. He welcomed a rematch with Jones.

The TDLR did not specifically address questions about judges’ performance during the event, or its overall training for MMA officiating. The commission stated it works with promotions like the UFC during the process of selecting referees and judges.

”In selecting ringside officials, TDLR takes into consideration recommendations made by the promoter,” spokesperson Tela Mange wrote in the statement. “As with all events, TDLR works closely with promoters to ensure the quality and experience of referees and judges to protect the health and safety of the fighters.”

In response to a question about the judge accused of not watching the Murphy vs. Lee bout, spokesperson Mange wrote, “One of the advances that UFC has made in the past several years has been to provide small video monitors below the floor level of the octagon for each judge to more closely monitor matches.”

Asked whether the judge was, in fact, looking at the monitor, Mange implied that was the case, writing, “It’s my understanding that the judges use those monitors when they cannot clearly see what’s happening in the octagon.”