UFC to test data gloves at UFC 219

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Every fight fan remembers the scene where Ivan Drago hits some Soviet smashometer and gets a monster readout. That will be happening at UFC 219, on a grand scale, although it will be invisible to the public. The Nevada State Athletic Commission has allowed the use of a proprietary hardware and software package that gathers vast amounts of data during a fight, analyses it, and then transmits it the fans, all in real time.

Sensors in the Octagon floor, in the gloves themselves, and corner and family monitoring generate 70 data streams. The gloves alone generate 12 stories about what is going on. When the effort is ready for the public, fans will be able to choose what data they want streamed.

Development of the new technology began in 2016, when UFC co-owner Ari Emanuel fostered a deal between consumer platform company HEED and data analytics company AGT International. The new system was demonstrated live last month at the AWS re:Invent 2017 tech conference, using fighters Edson Barboza and Mark Diakiese.

“Those insights are covering entire aspects of the fight between Diakiese and Barboza,” said HEED co-founder Mati Kochavi to Steven Marrocco for MMAjunkie. “They cover their passion, the power of the fight, the resiliency, the strategy. All of those things happen in the octagon.

“Shouldn’t we tell the story of sport that way? Shouldn’t sport be told in real time, with real data, with real information, and with real insights, and the real emotions? We are a company which is trying to revolutionize the way we’re going to (broadcast) sports and live events.”

The UFC believes use of the new technology can improve fighter safety and concussion protocols. The commissioners were ultimate swayed, but expressed concerns that the data could leak during a fight, and sway judges. During the trial run at UFC 219, data will be collected, but not made public.