Recently, the MMA Press Room was invited to serve as a virtual shadow judge for the Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) 97 event by none other than the Kansas Athletic Commission themselves. While only serving in a ceremonial capacity at best, nonetheless the MMA Press Room is currently a de facto member of the Kansas Athletic Commission who has been invited to give an assessment on the LFA 97 event following approximately 28-years of experience in watching the sport of mixed martial arts grow since it's infancy. With no equals in combat sports reporting, the MMA Press Room stands alone as perhaps the worlds leading expert in mixed martial arts and corruption in sport. In doing our due diligence in preparation for this weekends LFA 97 event, we began to do our homework by looking back on the promotions last show of 2020 at the LFA 96 event in Park City, Kansas.
“After each round the judges will turn in their score for the round,” explained ESPN MMA analyst Chael Sonnen in his January 8, 2020 YouTube video titled, “Open Scoring Sucks….” According to Sonnen, an original pioneer of the sport and a future UFC Hall of Famer, “Every single round they will write down who won, 10-9 must system. One guy must get a 10, one guy must get a 9. Yes, I realize there’s fine print and you can have an 8. You get my point,” explained Sonnen.
“They will turn that into the Executive Director, that will never be changed. Even if the judge wants to change it,” said Sonnen. “If the judge runs over to the Executive Director and says, ‘You know what? I re-thought that. I had that wrong. No!”
Interestingly, “the featured fight of the night on UFC Fight Pass” this past December between Regivaldo Carvalho (+160) and Mo Miller (-200) at LFA 96 recently saw the judge’s scorecards changed following the first round of the Kansas Athletic Commission sanctioned event. After a dominant first round by Miller that saw the former collegiate wrestler throw his opponent around like a ragdoll for the majority of the round, all three judges sitting cageside at the event rendered 10-9 unanimous scorecard rulings for the Stipe Miocic trained fighter. Later, announcer Ron Kruck would go on to correct the judges scorecards during the middle of second stanza of the fight. “Well, I just got an update from the commission,” said Kruck mid-fight. “They changed that first round to a 10-8 round."
With no reason to doubt the future UFC Hall of Famer Chael Sonnen, immediately my attention begins to turn to the advertising for MMAOddsBreaker.com during the LFA event and the feeling that I can’t quite shake that the true reason behind the judges scorecard revision was in fact to help cover the spread. With Miller coming into the fight as the betting favorite to win, anyone who may have put money down on a 10-8 betting line would have lost money upon the news of a 10-9 judges scorecard ruling. Whether this particular scenario has any merit or relevance to the conversation or not, the fact remains that something out of the ordinary occured with the judge’s scorecards that has since opened up the door for the suggestion of impropriety to have taken place. And when athletic commissions are traditionally charged with protecting the sanctity of sport, this is the pathway to corruption that most commissions would generally prefer to avoid stepping through under ordinary circumstances and conditions.
To put this into it's proper context and perspective for you, with there being three judges scoring the fight cageside at the event the fact all three judges from the Kansas Athletic Commission initially got their scorecards wrong is troubling to say the least. And exactly how did all three officials then come to the same conclusion that they all needed to revise their scorecards? Are they individuals, thinking individually or collectively? Complicating the matter even further, exactly what were the judges doing in the second-round while colluding with one another in the corner on how to best go about rectifying their collective mistake in the previous round?
I wonder what odds MMAOddsBreaker.com is running on all three judges making the same mistake and then individually, without input from the group collectively, deciding to then all change their scorecards simultaneously with the exact same 10-8 ruling? Doing the math in my head, I would have to think the odds of such an event occurring naturally are astronomical at best if not wholly improbable in reality.
So, either Legacy Fighting Alliance 96 beared witness to a mathematical improbability on December 4, 2020 at the Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas or something truly out of the ordinary occurred under the Kansas Athletic Commission's watch warranting further investigation and review. And considering it’s the MMA Press Room’s jaded perception of the combat sports landscape that is ultimately responsible for our invitation to virtually shadow judge the LFA 97 event in the first place; it’s incumbent upon us to make ourselves as useful as possible in explaining one of the many examples of potential impropiety in combat sports where the opportunity exists for the athletic commissions to make meaingful changes and improvements in how the system operates.
With the state athletic commissions being tasked with enforcing the rules, fining and/or even suspending athletes in some cases by holding the combatants to the highest possible standards in combat sports; the fact the commission leaves the door open to the suggestion of impropriety by failing to live up to the highest possible standards themselves highlights the necessity for additional analysis and perspective from outside, third party sources. As head turning decisions from athletic commissions increasingly become the norm in boxing and mixed martial arts, the need to fight against the perception of impropriety and corruption in combat sports has never been more clear. And without the experience, character and wherewithal necessary to recognize the irregularities and the ability put them into their proper context and place the unseemliness will no doubt continue to haunt the mixed marital arts landscape for years to come into the future.