If Dana White is the controversial heart of Mixed Martial Arts, manager Alex Davis is the sport's conscience. In what is now a continuing series for MMAJunkie, Davis turns his attention towards Regulation.
Mixed Martial Arts rests on regulation; Dana White cites it as a central reason for the past decades success. Regulation is at once the most central, the most thankless, and least understood aspect of the sport. To give a simple example of how little understood it is, the majority of fans assume that the UFC chooses refs (for confirmation that they don't, check with Joe Silva, Dana White, or Steve Mazzagatti :-)
Fighters aren't going to fight a perfect fight, and referees and other officials may not do a perfect job either. However, as Davis details, there is a line short of perfection that has to be met, and sometimes it is not.
I have been in situations where I taught referees what an armbar is, what the guard is, what mounted means.
I saw a young man get kicked in the groin so hard that he convulsed inside the octagon and started throwing up... But the officials simply brushed his shorts off, patted him on the back and said, "Go get 'em brother!"
Or how about the commissioner who directed the camps during a rules meeting that fighters should not be celebrating after a win?
And how about that prominent judge who once stated that "Leg kicks don't end fights"? I remember thinking I wanted to get him in front of Edson Barboza and let "Junior" just kind of nudge that judge with a glancing blow or two.
Don't get me wrong, I have also met many sincere professionals along the way who took the time to educate themselves, who have a true intent on the safety and regulation of the sport and who are working to improve the quality of MMA judging and officiating.
They have to exist, for sure. If not, things would be a complete mess. But what does need to happen – and urgently – is that true professional need to fill up all of these commission positions.
I can tell you, nothing is more irritating than being on the wrong side of a bad decision... There's nothing you can do about it. You are bound by the system to live with an error and its effects, because you cant buck the commission. And trust me when I tell you (and speaking from personal experience), you can't.
But that mentality has to change. We as fans and fighters pay these people to do a job, and just as in any other case, if they don't do it right, we should have the right to address it. We must all hold the commissions and their employees to the highest standards. When they meet then, we must go out of our way to show our appreciation for a job well done. But when they fail, no one should need to fear the repercussions of speaking out against obvious mistakes.
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