If you are a casual fan, move along. If you are a hardcore fan, this one's for you.
When the average UFC fan is upset about officiating, they blame the promotion - "WHY did DANA hire that ref AGAIN??!?" A majority of casual fans do not understand that, like professional boxing, mixed martial arts is regulated at the state level, as mandated by a Federal law. The refs, the judges, the inspectors, the rules, all those are government appointees.
Managing editor at Rebellion Media Jim Genia was invited by Nick Lembo, counsel for the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB), to shadow their in-house seminar for the judges, referees and inspectors who will be working UFC 169 in Newark on February 1.
The NJSACB is the gold standard for Regulation of our sport, and Genia takes you inside their work.
Some of the faces would have been recognizable to MMA fans, such as referees “Big” Dan Miragliotta and Keith Peterson, Invicta FC fighter Munah Holland (she’s also an inspector with the commission) and maybe commissioner Aaron Davis.
Lembo began the seminar with a breakdown of what the judges needed to know.
The Unified Rules are clear on a lot, but judging in and of itself is such an inherently subjective endeavor that often the official decision is one that clashes with popular opinion. Lembo touched on a few points, such as the notion of effective offense (“Don’t get confused by a fighter’s activity – activity is not effective aggressiveness.”) and scoring (“A 10-7 probably means the referee should have stopped the fight,” and Lembo cited the first round of Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard I, where Edgar took a hellacious beating.)
Lembo dismissed the judges and turned his attention to the referees.
Did you know that there’s an five-minute time limit on a doctor assessing whether or not a fighter can continue after a foul? Did you know that referees conduct individual rules meetings with each fighter they assigned to (at smaller shows, rules meetings are done en masse)? It was illuminating hearing all the finer points of the rules – points you’d never know existed from watching an event from home or even from the first row.
Lembo called Dr. Sherry Wulkan to the front, and she took over, laying out for both the referees and inspectors some of things they should look for, as well as what the physicians would be scrutinizing. Did you know that the cut men – who are employed by the promotion, not the commission – are allowed into the cage only at the discretion of the doctors?
The NJSACB inspectors were up next.
Lembo went down a litany of talking points, each one focusing on a different aspect of the chronology of a fight show. He even reminded them to bring scissors, as all gloves have to be cut off the fighters after their fights to inspect the hands for damage. (This is a requirement of the UFC’s insurance coverage, and another gem that will likely be an MMA trivia question in years to come.)
The seminar was underway at 1:30pm, and by 5pm, the homestretch was in sight, with everyone gathered around to watch a demonstration in proper hand-wrapping technique.
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