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CSAC’s Andy Foster Stands Behind Choice of Judges for Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez

Posted on by Ken Pishna

Benson Henderson vs Gilbert Melendez-478x270Typically in the mixed martial arts world the uproar around judging is targeted at the incompetence of judges.

Following UFC on Fox 7 on Saturday night, however, there was a spotlight shining on the possible impropriety regarding judge Wade Vierra’s assignment to the Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez UFC lightweight title fight.

Vierra owns and operates a martial arts school that is affiliated with one of Melendez’s coaches, Cesar Gracie.

California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Andy Foster on Monday – admitting to the appearance of conflict of interest on the surface – defended his decision to assign Vierra to score the fight

“I think I’ve got good judges and I’m comfortable with them,” Foster told MMAWeekly.com, pointing out that all of his judges, including Vierra, have extensive knowledge in grappling and striking, including real world experience in training and competition.

That, he said, is part of the problem California and many other states have experienced, hiring judges that don’t have the depth of knowledge needed to understand the sport that they are charged with scoring.

“I’m trying to be part of the solution not part of the problem,” Foster continued. “You have to have experience in the striking and you have to have experience in the grappling; that way you get a balanced approach.”

It’s been a rough road for mixed martial arts, often falling under the regulation of athletic commissions experienced in the oversight of boxing, but with little experience in MMA.

“Lets be very clear, the days of using a bunch of boxing judges to ref MMA here in the state of California is over,” Foster declared. “I think that’s been part of the problem for a long time. This state had boxing judges judging mixed martial arts. It’s my opinion that we should keep the two sports kind of separate.”

In order to achieve that goal, he explained that there is going to have to be the utilization of people like Vierra, who have the expertise, but may have crossed paths with some of the people they are charged with overseeing.

Foster said his judges are aware that they should let him know if there is any conflict of interest that should see them removed from assignments. Vierra did that prior to UFC on Fox 7.

Vierra has a relationship with Nate Diaz, who also fought on Saturday’ fight card in San Jose, Calif. He let Foster know that he didn’t think it was appropriate that he score his fight, thus he was removed from consideration.

Vierra doesn’t have the same sort of relationship with Melendez, other than a shared association with Cesar Gracie. They don’t train together or have a friendship like Vierra has with Diaz.

There are risks to the approach, but Foster believes it’s unavoidable if MMA is going to see improvements in judging.

“I think we’ve been wrestling with this subject for a while and really the way that you get better is you take people that have trained and this sport is just too damn small,” explained Foster. “Everybody has trained with the same people at some point.

“We rely on their integrity. Are you going to score it right for me or not? These guys I pick have competed themselves. Maybe not mixed martial arts, but certainly in grappling tournaments and striking competitions. They’re depth of knowledge is pretty good.

“You’re going to see more of this from this commission, not less. We want to get the score right for these fighters. I think we got the score right (for Henderson vs. Melendez).”

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  • Sir_Roy

    I think it’s a smart change. Hopefully with experienced MMA judges, we’ll see less emphasis on the almighty take downs (for example) that lead to absolutely nothing, no real work on the ground, no submission attempts or significant ground and pound, and yet can win someone a fight that they are losing on their feet.

    • bajafox

      I’d rather see someone working off their backs win than someone just laying on them. I hope the changes make for better decisions, although we all still hate decisions…

      • Sir_Roy

        Depends on the fight, not whether or not its gone to decision IMHO. Some of the most enjoyable fights I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch have been 3 & 5 round decision battles.

        • bajafox

          Definitely, but at the end of the day we’re all looking for a finish. Unless you’re a GSP fan, you already know what to expect.

          • Sir_Roy

            Actually, I am a GSP fan thanks. And what I expect is complete and utter domination on the feet and on the ground. So far, rarely disappointed as Georges does just that (admittedly, he has a few boring fights like the most recent Diaz fiasco).

            His lack of finishes I accredit more to the quality of his competition than anything else. Because, really, how many folks have finished Diaz, Shields (before getting caught once in I don’t know how many fights) & Condit? Right then.

            I like highlight reel finishes as much as the next bloke, but far prefer an exciting 15/25 minute back and forth war than an exciting first round finish. Folks are too jacked up about “finishing” a dude whereas the overall performance should count for far more regardless whether or not the fight goes to decision. To each their own.

          • bajafox

            That is just a straw man arguement, we all love good fights, whether they are finished, 15 mins or 25 mins. I’m sure I’ve ordered enough PPVs to pay the mortgage on Dana’s house, there have been awful PPVs and awesome PPVs, it’s the chance we take when we pony up our hard earned money.

            But facts are facts, it’s been half a decade since GSP has finished anyone and I don’t accredit that to the quality of opponents as much as I put the blame on his lack of heart to finish the opponents he’s faced. Even a true fan would acknowledge facts. When he fights, he doesn’t fight to win, he fights to protect his brand and his bank account.

          • Sir_Roy

            Oh gimme a break. A fighter doesn’t dominate his way through 8 title defenses by “not having any heart”.

            Did you even read what you wrote … “he doesn’t fight to win”??? C’mon man, think about what you write a little beforehand. Fighting to win does just that; it protects his bank account and his “brand”. He fights to win … obviously … because he keeps on winning at the highest possible level in what is arguably the most stacked division in the game right now. And he does a freaken amazing job at it.

            He doesn’t have the knockout power of a Hendricks or the striking precision of a Silva, and so finishing doesn’t come as easy for him. He takes the extremely well rounded tools he does have and makes of himself the most dominate welterweight champion in UFC history.

            Many of his fights are clinics, displaying a perfect marriage of stand-up, take downs and GnP showing EXACTLY how to win and to keep on winning.

          • R

            Boring! GSP is an athlete, not a fighter. He is a bad influence on other up and coming fighters. Jabs and takedowns for 25 minutes, no thanks. Even watching him slap Diaz around was boring. I used to like watching GSP, he was one of my favorites. Learning how to wrestle so well, combined with eating a hard over-hand right from Serra, turned him into a fighter that takes almost no risks. He is afraid of getting knocked out, and his wrestling is the best way to prevent that. He is still shell-shocked from that KO. Hopefully he can get over it and start fighting like he used to.

          • Sir_Roy

            Sorry, but you have to be a top tier athlete and a top tier fighter to get to the top and stay there. The two are mutually inclusive in this day and age. It really does go without saying.

            GSP wins the stand-up in every fight, and wins the ground game. Not taking ‘unnecessary’ risks is just plain smart. He paid his dues and has nothing to prove by playing to small minded MMA critic’s tune, sticking his chin out and swinging at the fences … but has everything to lose.

            His first fight back into the game right off injury won fight of the night – and deservedly so.

            Every ‘smart’ fighter worth his salt is concerned about having his lights turned off. His all round MMA game is the best way to prevent that actually – not just his wrestling. He’s spent a significant percentage of his last few fights in the stand-up.

            You’re making ingenuous blanket comments … but are most definitely entitled to your opinion.

          • Marcus Miles

            Sir Roy, i would agree with you 100%. He may not finish people by a knock out, but he beats the sh@t out of them everywhere. He had BJ finished in his own corner, he finished Serra, broke Kosh’s orbital and gone to wars that lasted 25 min. And to sat GSP HAS NO HEART IS JUST WRONG, no heart won’t bring you back from a sick leg kick that was flush by Condit, that was one of GSP’s performances. Iv have never seen GSP just lay on people. Ive seen him take people down and beat the brains out of them.

          • The_Commentator

            Can get a bad decision if you finish your opponent.
            I can’t stand bad judging.

  • http://twitter.com/Uncanny390 Timothy Malone

    This is one of the dangers that will also come from the calls for ex-fighters to start judging. Not to mention they often have biases towards specific styles. We need truly impartial judges.

    • falloniousWolf

      Which we could never get.

  • JOE SHINE

    Every thing about Cesar gracie smells funny