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Texas judge responds to Joe Rogan, UFC 277 commentary team with explainer on score for Don’Tale Mayes

UFC 277: Mayes v Abdelwahab Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

In a video described as a “clap back” to UFC 277 commentators Joe Rogan, Jon Anik and Daniel Cormier, Texas MMA judge Seth Fuller explained the reasoning behind his score for Don’Tale Mayes and the fallout he received from being in the minority on a split decision.

During the broadcast, Rogan told Anik and Cormier “that guy needs a talking to....we need to check to see what he’s been on” when informed of Fuller’s dissenting 29-28 score for Mayes, in contrast to two judges who gave 29-28 scores to newcomer Hamdy Abdelwahab on the prelims of this past month’s pay-per-view.

Fuller said Rogan’s words resulted in immediate backlash from UFC fans – one of whom called him a f***tard in a text he shared – and damaged his reputation with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, which oversaw the event at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

“Joe Rogan you’re still my hero. ... But I have to face that, and everybody I know has to face that, and this is the important part, the commission has to hear that,” Fuller said in his YouTube video. “Now the commission goes, hey, this is why we shouldn’t have put this guy on the main UFC. ... And that’s to me, a bunch of BS, because if I’m doing it wrong, then cite me for doing it wrong. But if you’re pretending that I’m not experienced, or I was careless, or I didn’t think, and do my absolute best, and I don’t care about these fighters and care that the result is the correct result according to the rules that they agreed to, you’re just plain wrong.”

Fuller, who said he is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and has refereed and judged fights for 10 years, wrestled on camera with the idea of releasing the video, a highly unusual course of action for a licensed MMA judge and, according to Fuller, one that might backfire. He conceded that judges are widely discouraged from talking to the media about their scores.

“When I don’t think something’s right, I’m a little bit of a rebel, so I just don’t listen to it,” he said. “Hopefully this doesn’t cost me my future judging career.”

In a statement released to MMA Fighting, TDLR spokesperson Jeff Copas wrote: “TDLR asks all judges to refrain from commenting publicly on scoring, and they are instructed to refer all questions to our public information officer, Tela Mange. All judges are made aware of this policy and we expect them to act accordingly.”

Recently, attendees of judging and referee seminars sanctioned by the Association of Boxing Commissions have been asked to sign a code of conduct that, among other things, bars negative public comments toward officials and wagering on fights. Fuller admitted to betting on the Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm bout at UFC 193 but said he stopped because his bookie didn’t pay his winnings.

“Maybe it’s just my ego causing me to do this whole thing,” he said. “It’s probably a bad idea. I probably can’t win here. But I think it will bring education. It could bring understanding.”

In the 28-plus minute video, Fuller attempted to explain step by step his rationale behind the score, arguing Mayes pulled ahead of Abdelwahab in the final seconds of the third round with a two-punch combination that he said knocked the sweat off the UFC newcomer. Until that point, he said, the heavyweights were virtually even, with Abdelwahab earning credit for his striking in top control earlier in the round and Mayes earning credit for several kicks to his opponent’s legs, body and head.

A final clash of punches as the two traded with short time still didn’t break the tie, Fuller said. But with Mayes’ combination, he said he chose to weigh that slight striking advantage because it was the most important scoring aspect of the round over lesser criteria such as cage control, which he said Abdelwahab would have won had the striking been equal.

“If I had it in my head as even, then I would go to control, and there’s no doubt in my brain, Abdelwahab would win,” Fuller said. “However, that’s not what I’ve been told, that’s not what I’ve been trained, and that’s not what the unified MMA rules state, and therefore not the rules that these two men agreed to, and it would be unfair to do anything else.”

Fuller said he could have “played it safe” by awarding Abdelwahab the round for his takedown and top control. But he said he abided by the current MMA criteria, which he opined that he was far more experienced on than the UFC commentary team gave him credit for.

“Two other judges obviously disagree, and I have no problem with that,” he said. “But I just wanted to show you, I’m not an idiot, I’m not bad at scoring, I don’t not know what I’m looking at. I do know what I’m looking at, and in fact, I would say I know the rules that I just said to you better than the announcers, because the announcers just went through the course that I went through 12 years ago, and their scores were all over the place.”

Several UFC commentators recently completed a seminar with current MMA judges on the scoring criteria. In recent weeks, they have frequently pointed out many of the concepts Fuller explained on the relative value of techniques when deciding the winner of a round.

Fuller, meanwhile, blasted a story that emerged in the media prior to the event that Texas-based judges “with limited experience” were not given main card assignments. He said it wasn’t experience, but because “they didn’t trust us to do it.”

“I wasn’t trusted to do the main card of the UFC despite my lengthy experience and dedication to this sport,” he said. “And that’s OK. I’m not mad at all. ... This sort of thing, these sort of articles, gets to the commission and it goes toward my reputation and it goes toward whether they are going to use me again in the future. But the reputation is a huge one. This is my first time in the UFC, and now I have a reputation of being a bad judge. Millions of people heard those comments. So this is why I’m responding.”

Rogan was not immediately available for comment on Fuller’s video, which can be seen below.

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