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Judging Irregularities Plague UFC 247: The fix is in?

“You fix fights by buying judges. That’s, you know, one easy way to do it,” explains former Leon Spinks boxing manager Larry Farrell in the 2016 documentary “Dirty Games – The Dark Side of Sports.” Continuing, Farrell went on to explain that, “You fix fights to lose, in order to make, you know, betting coups. The way you fix fights varies greatly.” Farrell, who admits to having fixed hundreds of fights, is a master Jedi of the fight fixing world whose experience and insight into the world of corruption in combat sports is invaluable in understanding the world of prize fighting today.

While most mixed martial arts fans are aware UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones defeated the challenger Dominick Reyes by five-round unanimous decision at UFC 247 in Houston, Texas on ESPN+ Saturday night, what most fight fans do not realize is that according to the UFC 247 main event official scorecard the fight was actually ruled a Majority Draw. Let that sink in for a minute, an official document for the state of Texas lists the “Winner By” section of the UFC 247 main event between Jon Jones and Dominick Reyes as a Majority Draw, yet Jones was declared the winner by Unanimous Decision. And if you think that’s weird, wait until you look a little bit closer and it becomes apparent that the first two rounds were scored with a software program while the remaining three rounds were scored manually by hand with a black ink pen.

In attempting to get to the bottom of the matter, the MMAPressRoom.com reached out to the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration (TDLR) Combative Sports department both via email and phone. After a short, but patient attempt to reach an official for comment by waiting on hold, the convenient automated voice messaging system offered me the opportunity to leave my phone number and save my place in line until the next available agent became available. Sometime later, I received a call back from the TDLR, though Ms. William was not with the Combative Sports department and only offered to take my contact information down and forward the information to the appropriate parties.

On Tuesday, the TDLR Public Information Officer Tela Mange responded to our concerns regarding the UFC 247 main event scorecard irregularities via email, stating, “We had some computer issues Saturday night. The software program locked up at one point and was not calculating the scores correctly, so we had to add up the scores manually. Several people checked and re-checked the score totals to ensure that they were correct. Please let me know if you have any other questions.”

Deciding to take Mrs. Mange up on her offer, I decided to follow up on my original questions with the TDLR Public Information Officer. After an initial reply indicating Mrs. Mange had left for vacation until the following week, the next morning another email from the TDLR arrived in my inbox expanding on the previous conversation from the day before. According to the TDLR, “During the Reyes/Jones fight, the spreadsheet froze and TDLR staff were unable to continue adding to the electronic scorecard. We went on to Plan B, which was to print out the scoresheet as it existed and continue scoring by hand. The fight was scored as a tie at the time that the spreadsheet malfunctioned, and that is why it says majority tie at the bottom."

Continuing, "At the end of the fight, we added the scores and Jones was the winner. We simply did not cross through the wording that applied to the score through 2 rounds. The scores were added correctly, and that is what governs the outcome of the bout,” writes the TDLR Public Information Officer Tela Mange.

“The judges were involved in a number of controversial decisions at UFC 247 which has re-ignited the debate about how to score fights in MMA and whether or not the sport needs open scoring,” writes author Adam Martin in his February 11, 2020 BJPenn.com article titled, ”John McCarthy trashes UFC 247 judging: ‘It was bad’.” According to Martin, “Among the controversial decisions were the main event between UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Dominick Reyes, the women’s flyweight bout between Lauren Murphy and Andrea Lee, and a bantamweight bout on the preliminary card between Andre Ewell and Jonathan Martinez.” Not only have those fights drawn scrutiny, but how the first round of Krause vs. Giles was scored has also managed to capture its fair share of hullabaloo in the wake of a UFC 247 event steeped in controversy.

They say where there is smoke, there is fire, and if the numerous judging irregularities at UFC 247 are any indication, we’re going to need the fire department. Searching for more information, according to a February 10, 2020 BloodyElbow.com article titled, “Texas Commission stands behind UFC 247 judges, addresses Joe Rogan accusations,” author Shakiel Mahjouri quotes the TDLR as having stated that, “In selecting ringside officials, TDLR takes into consideration recommendations made by UFC. As with all events, TDLR works closely with UFC and other promoters to ensure the quality and experience of referees and judges to protect the health and safety of the fighters.”

“My kids are terrorizing me that the fix is in,” said UFC President Dana White in a February 09, 2020 Trent Reinsmith article for Forbes.com titled, “Dana White and Joe Rogan Unhappy with the UFC 247 Judging Results.” According to report, “The reality is, who gives a shit? We’re not judges. None of us are judges, the judges called the fight, and that’s that,” said White.

The surprisingly carefree attitude from the UFC president while feigning displeasure with the TDLR judges is a curious position to take considering the TDLR itself admits to working closely with the UFC in selecting the ringside officials, who according to BloodyElbow.com are in fact recommended to the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation by the UFC itself. So, while various pundits, MMA outlets and fighters alike are busy pointing the finger at the TDLR and pleading with the UFC not to return to Texas these various entities would be well advised to pull their blinders off and start taking a look at the bigger picture.

In what is nothing short of a case for Angela Lansbury or Perry Mason,  according to a February 10, 2020 Twitter social media post from TheAthleticMMA Senior Writer Shaheen Al-Shatti, the former MMAFighting.com Senior Editor writes, “Absolutely bizarre coincidence: Jones vs. Reyes and Jones vs. Gustafsson 1 were scored exactly the same. Like, EXACTLY. Everything from the final scores down to the individual rounds were scored the exact same. Wild.”

They say once is happenstance, twice is coincidence and three times is a full-blown conspiracy. Considering there are numerous judging irregularities plaguing the UFC 247 pay-per-view event on ESPN+, including the Murphy vs. Lee, Ewell vs. Martinez, Krause vs. Giles and Jones vs. Reyes fights, with a mysterious software program lockup plaguing the official main event scorecard there seems to be more than enough justification warrant the additional scrutiny this card has received.

With the UFC President Dana Whites own children terrorizing him that the fix is in, the events surrounding UFC 247 could not come at a worse time following the controversies surrounding the UFC 246 main event where its alleged Cowboy Cerrone was offered money by the UFC to take a dive against Conor McGregor. With a number of judging irregularities to surface at UFC 247, with the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation admitting that they work closely with the UFC in selecting the ringside officials based off recommendations provided to the TDLR by the UFC itself, perhaps there than initially meets the eye to the “Dirty Games – The Dark Side of Sports” interview with former boxing manager Larry Farrell who explained that, “You fix fights by buying judges. That’s, you know, one easy way to do it.”