Should Judges Be Held Accountable for Bad Decisions?

March 15, 2012
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Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 40
Judging in MMA has come under fire on numerous occasions from fighters, fans, managers and of course promoters.

UFC President Dana White has taken judging in MMA to task on more than one occasion, and on several occasions have paid out win bonuses based on their personal belief that a fighter got the short straw on the decision.

Such was the case at UFC 144 when Takeya Mizugaki lost a controversial decision to Chris Cariaso that most everyone outside of the judges sitting cage side believed he won. The UFC in turn paid Mizugaki his win money because they believed that he deserved the victory despite the loss being handed to him by the judges.

“I was just surprised. I thought I definitely won that fight so till this day I don’t know how judges’ scoring ended up in that way,” Mizugaki told from Japan.

“There was no big turn around in that fight like, for example, a knock down, but I believe, for anyone with the firm understanding of MMA it was just obvious who won that fight. Yet all three judges scored the other way so maybe there is a problem with in terms how the commission elect judges? I believe the commission could have chosen judges with more understanding about the sport of MMA.”

The judges in Japan were actually selected by the UFC because that particular country doesn’t have an athletic commission, but regardless of the selection process, judging has often been considered uneven and lackluster for more than just the event last month in Japan.

Mizugaki’s manager, Shu Hirata, points out one of the less obvious problems with judging in MMA. The promoters like the UFC often times pay out win bonuses because they believe fighters have been wronged by decisions, and that’s extra money out of pocket because they are now paying both fighters their full purse.

“Not only this time but in the many other occasions Zuffa has paid a win bonus to a loser of the fight because they thought judges made a mistake,” Hirata told “This means, Zuffa has been financially penalized every time judges made wrong decisions because they have been paying extra win bonuses.

“Fighter takes a ” L” on his / her record. Therefore, a fighter is penalized as well.”

Hirata, who manages several top fighters in the UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator, believes that the judges in MMA should be held accountable the same way the fighters are when they now have a permanent loss on their record, regardless of the bonuses paid by the promotion.

He believes that judges should live by the same set of rules as fighters who are penalized by bad decisions, and in this particular case he absolutely believes Mizugaki’s win was stolen from him.

“Judges are never ever penalized for their mistakes. All they have to say is, “I believe in my judging. But judges are human too and that means no one is perfect. People do make mistakes it’s not even natural for judges to be always 100% right. They are not gods after all, right?” said Hirata.

“If we consider “Octagon control”, “takedowns” and also, if we implement the theory of “If more than 50% of the round was spent on the mat then the fighter who controlled the ground war generally wins the round”, then yes I would have to say Takeya was robbed.”

Over the years, Hirata had to deal with some very questionable situations with judging in Japan when there was no commission and the promotions simply ran things however they saw fit. He admits the UFC running things made it a lot smoother, but they can’t tell judges how to score.

The judges simply need to be educated better, or Hirata says something needs to change.

“I think Zuffa’s decision of running MMA show in Japan under the commission rules is totally great. This was never done here in Japan and everything was executed very smoothly. In fact I didn’t have to deal with any “unknown people” or “not so pleasant individual” in the backstage and dressing rooms, which is very revolutionary in the Japanese MMA standard. I would have to say that UFC 144 show was the “healthiest” MMA event I’ve ever experienced in Japan. And I believe people from UK commission were running the show and they all did excellent job,” said Hirata.

“But for judging, maybe we can try something new? I mean, this is not the first time many fans, promoters, and fighters didn’t agree with the judges right? Well, then maybe the way to fix this is to try something new. Why not bring in one judge from Europe one judge from State and one judge from Asia? Or simply take votes from fans and people in the industry to decide best judges and use top ten ranked judges when UFC does the show at the country where there is no athletic commission? And if this works then that means Zuffa has set the precedent and maybe that can be presented to the athletic commission back in the States?”

Hirata’s hope is that judging debacles like this one can be avoided because when the scores go the wrong way, it seems to affect everyone except the judges in question.

“I am sure UFC will continue to expand, and in the future, they will do more shows at the countries where there is no such an organization or even a concept called athletic commission. Therefore, I sincerely hope Zuffa would use these situations as an advantage to take initiative in setting and creating better rules and regulations. As a sport of MMA evolves everything around the sport should evolve too,” Hirata explained.

Mizugaki admits he was very happy the UFC did what they did for him, and also the fact that Dana White stood up for the decision when speaking after the fights as well.

“I am just so grateful of UFC’s reaction in regards to this matter. They made all decision quickly, so it was just fantastic,” said Mizugaki.

“At the post fight press conference, Dana even stated that “things needs to be righted” and I would like to believe in his word and just concentrate on becoming UFC champion.

As for Takeya Mizugaki now, he goes home with a win bonus, but still has a loss on his record, and a year or two years from now when someone looks at his record will they remember that the defeat to Chris Cariaso came under questionable ruling from the judges?

The likely answer is no and that’s ultimately what Mizugaki gets punished with regardless of payouts, bonuses or fans who believe he should have got the call right now.

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  • insane187288

    no the judges are there for a reason. if you dont finish a fight then you deserve the outcome. judeges look at more than what a fan does. Dana said it best,prove your win and dont let it go to the judges. they are not fans and they are judges so why leave it to them instead of your skills taking over. if your not better then your opponent then you let other people decide your fate.

    • skiman

      Dana was sticking up for him you noob, read the article

  • Punishing judges because you dont like their decision is kind of a dangerous road to go down because its subjective, but every job in the world has accountability for performance and they cant be any different. After a controversial decision each judge should be required to file a report as to why they scored the fight the way they did. Then clarification can be made as to whether the criteria they used is right and whether the rules need to be made clearer.

  • How can you punish someone for making a decision based on what they thought? Who won a round is a matter of opinion. The issue is that the 10+ scoring system is made for boxing, not mma. Mma needs its own scoring system. I don’t know what the best scoring system for mma is. Even if I did I wouldn’t be posting it here. I’d be busy getting my idea patented.

    • skiman

      Watch the fight, then come back here

  • What they need more than anything is well informed, educated judges who know what they are looking at. They need to hold classes, seminars, professional development courses, sustainment training… for the current roster of judges and actively pursue veteran fighters to bring into the fold as judges or advisors as they retire.

    The commissions can’t just sit on their hands and assume things will get better over time. The last 10 or so years tells us that policy has already proven to be a failure

    • I don’t know if fighters as judges is good. I don’t want a retired Rampage Jackson marking takedowns as zero points. Plus they have allegiances to their old camps and things like that.

  • MikeMc1983

    I don’t know that we can consider the current system a “failure.” the thing is that most people agree with the majority of the decisions. They usually judge the fights right.
    Now we also have a lot of boarder line decisions. Ones in which they could honestly go either way. However, people lump these in with the “bad decisions” if they happen to go the way they don’t like.
    After all that, we’re actually left with very few “horriable decisions.”
    I agree that there’s really not a reason to have any bad ones, but the sheer number of fights will always allow for blunders.

    I’m not saying the system is great, but it’s not nearly as bad as some make it out to be. It needs minor tweaks, not a major overhaul.

    • skiman

      I watched this fight live, it was amazing that he lost the decision, just shocking. It wasn’t even a close fight

  • tony_simon

    Here are two suggestions that, when combined, would solve a majority of the “bad decisions” that we are seeing.
    1) Make judges post their scores at the end of every round. Besides being more fair to the fighters, it puts pressure on the judge to immediately react to the round they have seen.
    2) Revise the scoring system so that instead of a 10-point-must for a round (bad, even in boxing), there is a 10-pt-must for each of the four factors acknowledged to be judged. Three round fights would then have a potential 120 points to be awarded to a dominant fighter. It would be easier to pin down why a judge made a decision if they were forced to score (explain) each of the four factors on a per round basis.

  • bonkerstheclownmcpickle

    Yes, judges who blunder to the levels of Nick Ring vs Riki Fukuda, Bisping vs Hamill, Takeya Mizugaki vs Chris Cariaso — if you blunder that badly then you need to be dropped from the ranks of UFC-level judging entirely.

    I think we have the technology to offer a little more help for the judges. An instant tally of strikes landed, significant strikes, takedowns, submission attempts, reversals, etc. The judge should be intelligent enough to disregard the numbers when the numbers don’t tell the whole story — like when one fighter was knocked down and nearly finished late in the round. But if the judge is unsure who outpointed who, just give him the numbers. Might even put an end to notions of stealing a round by looking good for the last 10 seconds.

    I don’t like the 10 point must scoring system either. Rounds that end up being scored 10-9 vary from dominant to razor close. If you must keep the 10 point must system, open it up a LOT. 10-6 should be possible, 10-7 should not be uncommon and 10-8 should be a lot more common that it is now. But better to throw it out and create something better. Something that allows values to be assigned to things like knockdowns and takedowns.

  • smill0313

    The judges should have to obtain a certification specific to MMA and attend proper training classes. They should also have to turn in scores per round and maybe even try a half point system where rd winner gets 10 and rd loser still gets 9 or less but with the option to give 8.5, you might see some razor close decisions be opened up a little bit.

    Also, Bisping-Hamill should have been investigated. It seemed fairly blatant. It took place in the UK and bisbing won that fight about as much as gw won the presidency in ’00.

  • mmachoman

    John McCarthy trains referees. Judges need to go through the same kind of training. They need to understand the techniques utilized in the cage & be tested on their knowledge every few years.