On Friday, January 15th, 2021 the MMA Press Room will be virtually shadow judging the Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) 97 event at the invitation and request of the Kansas Athletic Commission. The show will be held live starting at 9pm ET / 6 PT at the Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas and will be available for purchase at UFCFightPass.com where the event will be broadcasted online. A staunch advocate for combat sports reform, the MMA Press Room has led the way as perhaps the only combat sports news media outlet in the industry today to regularly report on the judging irregularities and corruption endemic to boxing and mixed martial arts. It is this indifferent attitude towards the combat sports entertainment industry elite and a willingness to speak up for the truth and sanctity of sport that is ultimately responsible for our invitation to virtually shadow judge this LFA event.
The chief catalyst for our participation with the Legacy Fighting Alliance 97 show being the MMA Press Room’s opposition to the newly established open scoring system currently being explored by the Kansas Athletic Commission as well as our reluctance to extend the benefit of the doubt to the major athletic commissions involved in combat sports when questions arise. According to the January 8, 2020 Chael Sonnen YouTube video titled, “Open Scoring Sucks…,” the future UFC Hall of Famer went on to elaborate on some of his own thoughts concerning the topic of open scoring in mixed martial arts from the perspective a true expert in the game with insight worth respecting and even yielding too when necessary.
“Oh, thank goodness,” exclaimed Sonnen. “So Dana came out and he said no to open scoring. Now, in all fairness that won’t totally be Dana’s call but that’s going to be influenced a lot by Dana. This is two years too late; we’ve been hearing about this open scoring. Guys, do you know how bad that would suck as a fan? Because a lot of you have been, ‘Yeah! Let’s do this open scoring. It’s more fair. It’s a better way and the fighters need to know. A lot of you have been behind that,” explained Sonnen.
“Guys, you’re asking for the wrong thing. It’s that old adage in life, ‘Careful what you ask for. Because you might just get it.’ You don’t want open scoring,” warned Sonnen. “You absolutely do not and let me explain to you so that you understand - we have open scoring right now in this regard. Okay, there’s a misconception that a fight is not being tallied or totaled until the end of the night, and therefor what happened in the previous rounds may be forgot at the end of the night and whoever came on hard in the final round is going to win the fight. That is not true,” explained the ESPN MMA analyst.
“When I say that there is open scoring, I mean, make sure that you understand this, I think a lot of us take this for granted because we know how it works. So we assume that the viewer might know how it works. But if you guys don’t see this and you haven’t been told - you wouldn’t know. So, let me just run through this real fast even if I’m condescending. But it’s important that you get this,” explained Sonnen.
“After each round the judges will turn in their score for the round. 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,” said Sonnen. “They will turn that in to the Executive Director. That will never be changed. Even if the judge wants to change it. If the judge runs over to the Executive Director and goes, ‘You know what, I re-thought that. I had that wrong. No! Excuse me," gestured Sonnen in apology.
“He will sign or at least initial and when that round ends that card is done. Cannot, will not, is not touched. So, I bring that to you because when you hear this open scoring, you think this was all being done at the end of the night and the judge is going to go off of his memory. And okay, 'Let me try to remember what happened here and happened here and turn in my final score.' That is not how it's done,” Sonnen. explained.
“It is done after each and every round that is handed in. Now the open scoring term has come from people that are saying - think of like a shot clock. A scoreboard. Think of a scoreboard in basketball, in baseball, in football. Where they post it right there, so after reach round you will know which fighter got the 10 and what fighter got the 9 based on all three,” explained Sonnen. “First off, that is going to be confusing, right? Because this isn’t Philadelphia vs. Los Angeles and there’s a score. You’re going to have three scores, per athlete, per round. So just the logistics and visual of it are going to get a little bit confusing,” reasoned Sonnen.
“There’s a way to condense that; that isn’t the argument. That isn’t the hill I want to die on with this argument. I’m just bringing this to you,” explained Sonnen. “Then you got to put some kind of a scoreboard in the arena. They don’t have them.”
“So now the UFC’s got to bring this in. From a production standpoint, that’s a pain in the ass,” continued Sonnen later. “That is also not the hill that I want to die on. I want to die on the hill that you’re going to ruin the anticipation of the fight. Yes, it can create controversy. Yes, there are bad calls. You want to find that out at the end of the night, trust me on that,” warned Sonnen. “You want to sit around that living room with your buddies and you want to have that two or three minutes as the announcer is getting everything together and he’s getting in there and Dana’s walking him with the belt. What side is he going to stand on? You want to get this together and start arguing and start having this fun few minutes of saying who you think won it and why,” explained Sonnen in touching on the culture, fun and anticipation of combat sports.
“You want to send a couple text messages to buddies. You want to get a back and forth and then see who’s right. Trust me when I tell you that. You do not want to see this in real time and know everything. You want to be guessing. And there’s certain nights that you want to be mad at the outcome and you don’t agree with it,” explained Sonnen.
“Everything will be done openly when it’s done. Those scorecards are turned in to a commission, who by the way is a government agency, who by the way has transparency. You can see exactly what judge by name, first and last, gave a 10 and gave a 9 to a guy in each round,” the original Team Quest member explained. “It is very open in that regard. You don’t want a shot clock up. You absolutely do not want, you just don’t. Trust me on this. It will make it boring; it will make it dull,” advised Sonnen.
With open scoring virtually being in affect already behind the scenes and within the Kansas Athletic Commission jurisdiction, it’s the fans that will ultimately lose out in the end with the proposed widespread implementation of an idea to change how judging is currently administered in combat sports that is akin to putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. The first place to start for meaningful change within the combat sports entertainment industry today is the athletic commissions themselves, who have an abysmal track record over the last several decades of protecting the sanctity of sport. The system is in need of a complete overhaul from the ground-up, because nothing is ever built from the top-down. A complete new foundation needs to be set in place and until then the controversies, irregularities and outright corruption endemic to combat sports will continue to persist.
Additionally, among the most notorious problems in the world of boxing and mixed martial arts judging today remains the systematic use and abuse of the 10-point must system; which is a poorly thought out system of scoring fights that should immediately be on the commissions radar in an effort to attempt to remedy the plague of judging irregularties in combat sports. With the epidemic of questionable judges decisions in boxing and mixed marital arts spanning the better part of a century now or longer in some cases; excuses and justifications for the plague of impropriety in combat sports fall on deaf ears to the sports elite who have beared witness to the corruption unfold in real time for many years now. Though to give credit where credit is due, the invitation of the MMA Press Room to virtually shadow judge the LFA 97 event is a meaningful step in the right direction for the commission to take as it looks to bring in experts to help rectify the situation. Tune in to Legacy Fighting Alliance 97 this Friday, January 15, 2021 live on UFCFightPass.com to catch all of the action.