MMA Referee Rob Hinds Talks Eye Pokes, 10-10 Rounds, Communication and Focus
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Sean Wheelock was cageside Thursday night when a controversial decision by a referee might have cost fighter Akop Stepanyan a victory and a chance to advance in the Bellator featherweight tournament.
Stepanyan was warned about illegally grabbing the fence by referee George Allen, but he did it again anyway in the second round. Before the beginning of the third, Allen deducted a point from Stepanyan, who ended up losing a unanimous decision.
Wheelock, Bellator’s play-by-play man, was puzzled. Not because Allen had taken the point away – Stepanyan had done something illegal. The timing is what dumbfounded Wheelock.
“That’s procedurally bad to the point of being laugh-out-loud terrible,” Wheelock said.
Mistakes like that are what Wheelock and partner Rob Hinds are trying to eliminate in MMA. Since last year, the two have traveled the country teaching courses to prospective MMA referees and judges. On Saturday and Sunday, they’ll be at Tiger Martial Arts in Levittown, L.I., for their Association of Boxing Commissions-approved training seminars.
Hinds said he and Wheelock were approached by the Coalition to Legalize MMA in New York to hold the seminar with hopes to educate those in the state about the sport. New York State Athletic Commission commissioner Melvina Lathan and Michael Mazulli, the director of the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation, will be guest speakers.
“They need to see the safety side of things,” Hinds said of New York legislators. “If we can get the word out that this is a legitimate safe sport, it could help. I think it’s a silly thing that pro MMA is illegal in New York.”
The sport will be under review again in Albany this spring. Though the bill to legalize has passed through the state Senate the past two years, it has not even been voted on by the Assembly per Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker. The UFC is also suing the state in a First Amendment lawsuit.
As MMA grows, the quality of judging and refereeing has come under scrutiny. UFC president Dana White has been openly critical about both. Wheelock believes there is a greater issue with judging.
“I think judging overall is not very good,” Wheelock said. “My feeling for that is you have a lot of judges around the country working everything from the tiniest amateur shows to the biggest pro shows who do not like MMA. It’s counterintuitive. ... They come out of boxing. State comissions around the U.S. did not see the MMA wave. As more and more states legalize, they were put under the auspices of the athletic commissions, so you get these career boxing people or maybe kickboxing people who don’t like MMA – not just that they don’t understand it, they don’t like it. That to me is the biggest problem.”
During their sessions, Wheelock and Hinds lecture, have discussions, show demonstrations, review video and also give a final exam. Wheelock, along with being one of the voices of Bellator, is a veteran boxing referee and Hinds is a longtime judge, referee and ABC-certified trainer.
“The goal is to have consistency,” Hinds said. “The people that are judging and refereeing are playing by the same rules, assessing rounds the same way.”
This weekend will mark the first time one of their courses is open to all people in New York – from established judges and refs to pro fighters to regular fans. For more information, you can visit this link.
“Rob and I try to be inclusive,” Wheelock said. “If you like MMA, come. That’s the prerequisite.”
Judging, Wheelock says, speaks to integrity, while refereeing is all about the safety of fighters. Both are vital as MMA creeps closer and closer to the mainstream. That means equal treatment for companies like the UFC and Bellator down to underground amateur MMA events in New York, where the sport is still illegal on a professional level.
“Why should one of those fighters not get the same protection as the guy fighting for Bellator?” Wheelock said. “In those shows, there are referees who literally have no idea what they’re doing.”
Allen, who made the controversial call against Stepanyan, is a veteran and good official for the most part, Wheelock says. But perhaps he could have benefited from some extra classes.
“Lack of training,” Wheelock said. “That goes to the heart of what we’re talking about.”
ABC Approved MMA Officials' Training Coming to Levittown, NY February 16 & 17, 2013!
We are pleased to announce that Stephen Koepfer from the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York is hosting an Association of Boxing Commissions Approved MMA Judge & Referee Training on February 16 & 17, 2013 in Levittown, NY.
Please go to www.nymmatraining.com for more information and registration.
“Playing the Game”- Strategy taken to a new level
Veteran Referee, Judge & Officials’ Trainer Rob Hinds- February 2013
An interesting phenomenon has piqued debate, along with the interest and emotions of the MMA community!
Fighters have been criticized and referees looked at closely in their assessments of what has been called “playing the game”. The term (game) is in reference to a fighter using a rule to their advantage.
In the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, there are two types of strikes that are allowed when both professional competitors are standing; but not allowed when one or both fighters are “grounded”. Kicks and/or knees to the head of a grounded opponent are not allowed at any time, in any position (within the Unified Rules). Please note that there are many International organizations that allow these techniques to be legal under a different set of rules.
Many have asked and continue to clarify… “What is the definition of a grounded fighter?”
By definition and explanation: A grounded fighter is when anything but the soles of their feet is touching the floor of the fighting area. To clarify further, if a fighter has a foot in the air and one of their hands on the floor, they are still considered grounded.
Do not confuse or compare this current definition with the old one (three points of contact).
This is where “playing the game” comes into strategy. Whether it’s a knee, back side, hand or even finger on the floor, leg striking to the head of the grounded opponent is illegal.
The rule comes into play in several situations. Fighters have become very aware of the rule, and are extremely savvy in using it to their advantage. Much to the dismay of the media and fans!
Whether you’re an avid or casual fan of the sport, it is now commonplace to see a fighter pinned up against the cage and put their hand down on the floor to avoid leg attacks to the head. Taking it a step further, they will also raise and lower their hand on and off the mat, trying to bait their opponent into causing a foul, which may be enforced by point deductions or disqualification.
Many referees are wise to this phenomenon and are being pro-active in their approach to dealing with the situation before it happens. Detailed rules meetings and discussions with the fighters before their bouts help clarify the rule and make a clear case of what is expected of them. Many referees tell the fighters that if they play the game, they are taking a risk (at the mercy of the referee’s call) and gambling on getting what they want out of the strategy.
Many people may (and do) look at this gamesmanship in a negative way.
Keep this in mind. The rules were created to set parameters. Coaches and athletes in all sports will ALWAYS push the limits of those parameters to gain any edge or advantage over their rivals.
That being said, “playing the game” is allowed.
Like it or not…
Michael Stets Darce Side Radio: MMA Referee and Judge Rob Hinds
(download at www.blogtalkradio.com/darcesideradio)
This weeks guest is MMA referee and judge Rob Hinds. Hinds has refereed over 4,200 fights, and judged over 750. He started combatconsulting.net, and set out to do what those close to the sport want more than anything--the improvement of the OFFICIATING!
Combat Consulting hosts ABC approved training seminars in refereeing and judging in MMA. Whether you are an aspiring official, currently an active one, a boxing ref/judge new to MMA, broadcaster/journalist, fighter or fan, these courses are for you all. In this ever evolving, improving, and growing sport, knowledge is power!
I had the honor and priviledge of taking both the referee and judge seminars in Kansas last August. They were both eye opening and thought provoking. The amount of information I learned that weekend was incredible. Hinds is a detailed and focused instructor, breaking down two full days worth of material very clear and concisely, as well as answering every question while keeping a quick and flowing pace. The criteria included class room study and video footage breakdowns on the do's and don'ts, proper protocol and procedures in modern MMA. Hinds also had pro fighters on hand for live situational study inside an actual MMA cage.
Since August, Combat Consulting has had several more seminars, and will be continuing to expand to more cities and states in the near future.
In the interview Hinds and myself discuss the success of Combat Consulting, the contoversial DQ of Alessio Sakara vs. Patrick Cote at UFC 154, and both the Lyman Good/Michael Tsarev and Andrey Koreshkov/Marius Zaromskis controversial finishes at Bellator 78.
10 things every MMA fan needs to know about judging
By Maggie Hendricks | Cagewriter – Mon, Nov 12, 2012 11:25 AM EST
There are hundreds of MMA fights around the country every weekend. Each fight needs qualified judges to score the action, but the growth of MMA means there aren't enough judges to go around.
Over the weekend, I sat in on an MMA judging clinic by Association of Boxing Commissions-certified trainer Robert Hinds of Combat Consulting. (The ABC is the group that oversees the state commissions that administer MMA across the United States.) The clinic gives prospective judges to be a place to start their judging career, and several state commissions require certification from an event like the one I attended. Whether you want to be a judge or not, every MMA fan should know something about how winners and losers are chosen when fights go to decisions. Here is what you need to know:
1. Judges look at result of the move, not the move itself. It's not about the takedown. It's about what happens from the takedown. It's not about the punch. It's about if the punch lands, and if it has an impact.
2. Judges are not fans. If they are scoring as fans, they should be fired. Judges have to be dispassionate and objective in every fight they judge. If they are a fan of one fighter or another, they need to reconsider their job.
3. Media, fans and promoters have no business comparing their score cards to those of judges. When I'm covering fights, I'm watching the fights, taking notes, tweeting and answering emails, text messages and instant messages. When fans watch the fights, they watch the fights, order beers, talk with friends, and check out the waitress who just delivered another plate of wings. When a promoter watches the fights, he or she is watching the fights, keeping an eye on the broadcast, dealing with inevitable problems on every fight card, and talking with fans and staff.
When a good judge is watching a fight, he or she is watching the fight. That's it. He or she has been trained on how to focus on the fight and see what has affected the round. Every bit of their brain power is focused on the fight. I've never had a judge tell me how to cover a story. I shouldn't try to do their job, and neither should you.
4. Positioning matters. With three judges around the cage, each one will not see the same thing. Sometimes a judge will not see a punch because only a fighter's back is visible. While monitors help in this situation, they're not everywhere yet and they are not a cure all. The judge is then limited to the view decided by the director of the show. If you're wondering what fight a judge watched, realize that it may not be the exact same one you saw on television.
5. Judges score rounds, not fights. When a round ends, the judge should score it and forget it. What happened in round one should not affect what score a judge gives in round three. In fact, Hinds recommended the use of individual score cards for each round so that judges are not influenced by their previous score.
6. 10-10 rounds are rare. Hinds described 10-10 rounds as a "unicorn." In a five-minute round or even a three-minute round, something should happen that will give one fighter the edge over another. An observant judge should be able to catch it.
10-8 rounds have a specific definition: complete domination and significant impact for the entire round. If you don't see both, it's not a 10-8.
7. Judges can do nothing but judge. If a foul is not called by a ref, the judge cannot deduct a point. If a fighter's corner is giving the fighter terrible advice, the judge cannot give the fighter the benefit of the doubt. If the matchmaker came up with a terrible fight, the judge cannot take a round off and expect the knockout. The judge can judge the round. That's it.
8. What makes a bad judges is not the results they give, but their methods in judging and not using the criteria. Judges have a criteria and professional standards to follow. They need to carefully judge rounds, staying focused the entire time on using the criteria to call a winner in each round. If they are looking away, talking to someone, or eating or drinking during a round, that's a problem. If they can't say how the criteria applied to their judgment, that's a problem.
9. Not everyone can be a judge. During the clinic, we watched several fights to practice judging. Five minutes at a time, we practiced focusing on the fight and nothing else. It took me about a minute before my mind wandered. On Saturday night, we sat cageside for amateur fights so we could practice what we learned during the day. MMA's brutality is in your face from that distance. One man from the clinic confessed being so close to the action was emotional.
Judges have to be focused, and they cannot be squeamish. If you're not OK with listening to fighters get hit in the head, or hearing their bones crunch throughout their fights, or having blood and sweat fly onto your face, don't be a judge.
10. Judging ain't easy. Much like any profession, judges don't wake up one day and decide it's time to start judging UFC fights. Someone hoping to be a qualified judge has to practice by judging fights on television and judging sparring sessions at nearby gyms. They attend clinics and shadow judges in amateur fights before trying it themselves, then do the same routine before trying a professional fight.
With the growth of MMA from the amateurs on up the UFC, the sport needs good judges. If you think you can contribute to the sport in this way, contact your state commission.
Veteran Referee and Judge Rob Hinds Details Ways To Fix MMA Judging
Courtesy of Rob Tatum from The MMA Corner:
Without a doubt, there’s no subject in the sport of MMA that is as hotly-debated as judging. After nearly every event, controversy arises due to disagreements with scoring or officiating.
Unfortunately, many of the underlying issues that cause these debates cannot be fixed overnight. Recently, The MMA Corner reached out to Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) certified trainer, referee and judge, Rob Hinds, to discuss a variety of topics, including the current state of officiating and what can be done to correct it.
“The sport has already evolved past most of the officials and a lot of the athletic commissions,” Hinds explained. “It’s time to at least catch up.”
Perhaps the biggest problem with the sport is a lack of consistency from fight to fight, and even round to round.
“Judges seem to be on a different page,” said Hinds. “Whether they’re up to speed on the current training, or they’ve been a judge for a long time, there’s just a lot of inconsistency. What’s being assessed per round, per judge seems to be quite different.”
This has never been more prevalent than recently, as a number of high-profile fights have generated widespread discord amongst fans, fighters and even the promoters.
Hinds in the judge's seat (Thomas Rozdzynski/Thrumyeye Photography)
“Being active, throwing more strikes, getting a takedown; none of these things are in the judging criteria,” stated Hinds. ” The biggest misconception about judging is what is supposed to be assessed, and in what order. People say ‘he stole that round at the end with a takedown’ — that doesn’t exist in judging.”
Elaborating further, Hinds detailed the importance of the prioritized criteria.
“It’s actually really simple; people are making this a lot more complicated than it really is,” Hinds declared. “Judges don’t judge fights, they judge rounds. It’s about looking at the right things, in the right order. Things like aggression and cage control are further down the list than effective striking and effective grappling.”
The inconsistencies in judging have led to many people criticizing the 10-point must system. Hinds, on the other hand, doesn’t believe that the system is contributing to the problems.
“People are confused about what the 10-point must system really is,” said Hinds. “It is only the numerical scoring of a round. Whatever system you have, 10- point must, 20-point must, half-point; it is only the scoring of a round. People say it’s a boxing system, but the criteria and rules are specific to MMA. That’s what the focus needs to be on, not the points per round. The judging criteria needs to be taught to all of the judges. The system itself is only saying who won and who lost.”
When asked about how to handle poor-performing judges, Hinds did admit one of the limitations in MMA judging.
“It’s subjective, but there definitely should be consequences,” proclaimed Hinds. “It’s not the numerical score; it’s the explanation of the score for those rounds. If they explain the score based on the judging criteria, there really is no right or wrong.”
Despite all of Hinds’ efforts to spread the up-to-date information about judging criteria, it ultimately is up to the athletic commissions to ensure that officials are properly trained.
“There’s not enough things in place to correct the issues,” declared Hinds. “The ABC is a great organization; however, they are just a recommending body. They’re role is to recommend rules and regulations. It’s up to each athletic commission to adopt them and enforce them. If every state does things differently, we’re never going to have consistency.”
Hinds believes that there are ways to resolve the majority of the current dilemmas. However, many of the athletic commissions do not have the resources — or the will — to face the issues head on.
Hinds (R) raises the arm of Sean Sherk following his victory at UFC 119 (Combat Consulting)
“Athletic commissions need to step up and require proper training for their officials, both old and new,” said Hinds. “You don’t want officials to develop those same habits that the sport has already evolved past. It’s really not the judges’ or the referees’ fault. A big problem is that people doing the training don’t always know what they’re doing. Several athletic commissions have told me that they do in-house training once a year, and it’s usually just someone who works for the commission that reads off a list of what’s expected.”
Another roadblock for increasing the quality of MMA officials is pay, or the lack thereof.
“Unless you do a major promotion, where they are willing to pay more money, officials get paid dirt and there’s no (pay) scale,” revealed Hinds. “You could be Herb Dean or Joe Blow — working your first event — you both get paid the same amount of money.”
Further hindering the development of a new crop of educated officials is the amount of time and devotion it takes to work through the ranks.
“These days, everyone wants a fast track to become an MMA official,” explained Hinds. “People don’t want to put the time in. They need training on what is really supposed to happen as an official, but many are trying to shortcut the process. People take my classes and they think that they’re ready to judge the UFC tomorrow. You don’t take one class in med school and get to go into surgery the next day.”
Many have speculated that the end-all solution to judging his former fighters stepping into the judge’s chair. However, that may pose an entirely different set of circumstances.
“It’s a conflict of interest because fighters are very biased,” said Hinds. “Judges and referees are supposed to be 100 percent unbiased. When fighters watch each other fight they always say, ‘I would have done this or I would’ve done that.’ If you take that sort of thinking into judging, you’re doing a disservice to the athletes because you are going in with a bias or strategy in your mind.”
Hinds is not opposed to former fighters becoming officials, but he does not see any reason why it’s a necessity. In fact, he feels that anyone can become an MMA official.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what walk of life you come from, if you’re truly educated on the technical aspect of the fighting game — the combination of the different martial arts — and you are knowledgeable about the judging criteria, you can be a judge or referee.”
For those unfamiliar with Hinds, since 1994 he has refereed over 4,000 fights and judged more than 650. Many of these have been on the big stage with the UFC, Bellator, the International Fight League and promotions in the greater-Chicago area. Additionally, Hinds has competed both professionally and as an amateur in numerous forms of martial arts. He runs Combat Consulting, LLC
and offers ABC-approved referee and judge training for all levels. You can reach him on Twitter at @hindsmmareferee
Hinds prepares to referee a bout in the UFC’s Octagon (Combat Consulting)