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Referee Rob Hinds discusses MMA officiating in detail

Image courtesy of Rob Hinds

MMA referee and judge, Rob Hinds discusses a variety of topics including the elusive 10-10 round, what constitutes a 10-8 round, point deductions and more.

Combat sports are rife with criticism of the officiating, directed at both the referees and the judges. All of us have had moments where we feel we see things the officials should have seen and acted upon. In light of some recent questionable judging (Danny Castillo vs Edson Barboza), we decided that it was time to get someone on that could answer more of our questions.

Rob Hinds was our go to educational source for this round of interrogation. He is a referee and judge as well as a member of the ABC, and instructs upcoming judges and referees on the unified rules and holds seminars frequently. Hinds discussed a variety of topics including the elusive 10-10 round, what constitutes a 10-8 round, point deductions and more. Here's what he had to say:

MMA Sentinel: To kick things off, what exactly is your role with the ABC?

Rob Hinds: The ABC has certain trainers for referees and judges all across the country, and there is a number of us approved to teach the unified rules and teach the judging criteria to both athletic commissions, and their licensed officials.

MMA Sentinel: A few years back, I guess about five years ago now, The Underground Forums,, became the official record keepers for the ABC. What made the ABC decide to make them the record keeper over Sherdog, and have they done an adequate job in your opinion?

Rob Hinds: put forth all of the information that the ABC wanted out of them, and was able to present it at one of their conferences. I'm unsure about how much Sherdog actually presented to the ABC, but at the time was able to present the information that the ABC was looking for, therefore Kirik Jenness has a good relationship with some of the board members at the ABC and was able to get in there as the records keeper. 

I know both Sherdog and have their own databases, and everybody seems to have their preference of one over the other. I think does a good job of record keeping, but it's only as good as the information the athletic commissions and tribal commissions report to them. When it comes down to it, it's really about who is reporting these results properly, more than the person that's actually posting the results.

Sherdog does a very good job of seeking out the information, whereas get the information reported to them. It seems like Sherdog digs a little bit deeper as far as who was assigned to the bouts, and get a little more detail about the bout information. Kirik gets things reported to him, and he can only put out there what's reported to him.

MMA Sentinel: With judging, there are some questions about 10-10 rounds, which are almost unheard of in MMA judging. Can you give me your stance on 10-10 rounds?

Rob Hinds: My stance on a 10-10 round is if you're a qualified, trained judge, and you use the judging criteria exactly the way it's supposed to be used... The way I put it to my students is, ‘A 10-10 round is like a unicorn. Some people believe in them, some people believe they've seem them, but they don't actually exist.' If you really assess a round based on the criteria in the right order, you will be able to pick a winner of a round, even if it's by the smallest margin, and that's the job of a judge.

A 10-10 round is basically throwing up your hands and saying, ‘Well, this thing was close enough. I'm not going to make a decision here.' That's not really the job of a judge.

MMA Sentinel: Do you yourself ever award 10-10 rounds?

Rob Hinds: The last 10-10 round I awarded was probably ten or eleven years ago, and it was in a kickboxing bout.

MMA Sentinel: What do you think causes the reluctance to take away points for sloppy strikes leading to fouls, like pokes to the eye or low blows?

Rob Hinds: Well, there's a protocol for that. From a referee's standpoint, there are two things we look at when there is a foul. We look at the intent; is the foul accidental or intentional? From there, there's a certain path we go on in terms of verbal warnings, point deductions and diqualifications, that sort of thing. 

There's a whole path chart you go from, but the first thing you need to do is figure out if it's accidental, or if it's on purpose. Then if it's repeated, if it's accidental and it's repeated, that's where point deductions come into play. If it's continued even after that, that's where disqualifications come in. In the case of an intentional foul, you're more apt to take away points and disqualify people a lot quicker.

MMA Sentinel: It seems like so many refs are unwilling to take away points, and they kind of chalk it up to it being sloppy technique, when in my opinion, if there's a second eye-poke or low blow, a point should immediately be taken. Sometimes we see three or four fouls before anything happens.

Rob Hinds: Realistically, you're correct. The proper protocol for those fouls is, if it's accidental, the first time is a warning and you let them know during the injury time out, ‘If you do this again, I'm going to deduct a point.' That is the proper protocol. That's where well trained and updated referees come in; their procedure.

It's not really about whether it's two or three or four fouls, it's what the proper protocol is.

The proper protocol is: You need to give a warning, if it's unintentional. If they do it again, you deduct a point. That's something that needs to be explained to fighters in the rules meeting, and a lot of times, it's not.

MMA Sentinel: That's something that drives me nuts. There's such a disparity amongst the referees. I asked referee Jason Herzog about this last week, and I'd like to get your take on it as well. Fence Holding. I freaking hate it, especially when fighters intentionally reach out and grab the fence to prevent a big slam or a takedown. In my opinion, that should be an automatic point deduction. What's your take on that?

Rob Hinds: It comes back to proper procedure. Personally, in my rules meetings, I explain to fighters, ‘If you grab the fence, I'm going to warn you and slap your hands or feet off the cage. If it becomes a habit, I will deduct points. If it becomes your strategy for the fight, I will disqualify you. If you grab the cage illegally and you improve your position or restrain a position, I will deduct a point.' That's in the explanation, and a lot of referees don't explain that clearly to the fighters.

MMA Sentinel: So they do have leeway to take a point right off the bat if fighter A is slamming fighter B, and fighter B grabs the fence to prevent that from happening?

Rob Hinds: There's always the ability to deduct a point. The one thing that's a very fine line for referees, is this isn't boxing with 10 or 12 rounds. This is a three round fight, and every point deduction you make has a significant impact on the overall decision of that fight. That really shouldn't come into play in a referees mind, but if we deduct points for everything, we're going to see somebody who had an accidental eye poke twice, then has a completely dominating performance for the rest of the fight, lose or get a draw because of that. 

It's a really fine line, but again, the communication with the fighters and the clarity of those rules needs to be had, and it's not.

MMA Sentinel: We got talking during the Danny Castillo vs. Edson Barboza fight, and I was under the impression it was a pretty clear 10-8 round, but you told me that under the judging criteria it was more likely to be a 10-9 round. Can you explain what the criteria is for a 10-8 round, and why you didn't feel that round qualified?

Rob Hinds: The biggest challenge is that a 10-9 round has a wide, wide range of what qualifies as a 10-9 round. It could be razor close and be 10-9, and it could be a pretty dominant round and be a 10-9. The proper definition of a 10-8 round is complete domination and significant impact or damage for the majority of the round, with little to no offensive output by the opponent. 

Castillo definitely had some dominating and damaging portions in that round, but that was for less than two minutes and thirty seconds of a five minute round. A judge has to take the full five minutes into consideration. Now if Castillo had that same play for three and a half to four minutes of that round, and there was little to no offensive output, that's when you really have a complete 10-8 round.

MMA Sentinel: What caught me off guard most when we were discussing this, is that the unified rules themselves are not clear on that. The rules themselves just basically say, ‘A dominating round through strikes or grappling,' and doesn't go into the sort of detail you went into there. Do you think that's an issue for the fighters, that the rules they see in the unified rules are maybe slightly different to how judges are actually taught to score rounds?

Rob Hinds: The written unified rules that you see on the ABC website, not only are they outdated and not updated, but it's a blanket statement. You don't see any other rulebook in any other sport that doesn't have great detail about everything. What the ABC does, is they recommend those general rules, and then it's up to us, the trainers, to go out there and train the officials on the details, like the definition of a 10-8 round, and going into more detail about what a 10-10 round really looks like, and all of those things.

To answer the part of the question about the fighters, it's a great disservice for nobody to explain to the fighters exactly what's expected of them with a 10-9 round, or a 10-8 round. It's funny, the more seminars I do for officials, the more pro and amateur fighters and trainers come to them to find out what's expected, because even at the UFC level, that's not explained to them.

You have somebody like a Rich Franklin, who will tell you, ‘My whole career, nobody has ever explained to me what the difference between a 10-9 and a 10-8 round is. Everybody has an opinion on it, but hardly anybody has the true definition of it.'

MMA Sentinel: That's crazy. You were saying that a 10-9 round can range from barely winning a round, to winning it by a significant margin. Do you think that's an issue? There's the half-point system being mooted around, to give more clarification between a dominant round and a close round. Do you think there needs to be a change to the scoring to better take that into consideration?

Rob Hinds: It's not so much that I think there should be a change in the scoring. Would something like a half point system be helpful? Yes. If that closes the gap between a close round versus a clear round versus a partially dominant round versus a completely dominant round, whether it's 10-9.5, or 10-8.5, whatever that looks like, that would be helpful.

What it ultimately comes down to, is the proper training of the criteria, and the proper training in assessing what is a completely dominant and damaging round. I think that has more play than the numbers system, but that half point numbers system is helpful.

MMA Sentinel: Can you give us a little bit of information on the process of someone becoming a judge, the training they would undergo and the approval process they have to go through?

Rob Hinds: This is another major challenge. Some states and tribal commissions require training, but some do not. Some require that people get updated every 1-2 years, but some do not. Something we're very concerned about is if you've been a boxing official for 10 years, you're automatically going to become an MMA official at the highest level. Those are the things that are challenging. Along with the rules, states and tribal commissions are allowed to do whatever they want to know. They have recommendations from the ABC about what they should do, whether they do it or not is up in the air. 

That's one of the major challenges with officiating; training is only sometimes required, and sometimes it'll be required, but once you're trained it could be five or ten years before you get trained again, or you may never get trained again. One of the challenges we're seeing with experienced officials is that they haven't been updated on the sport or the rules in years.

MMA Sentinel: Wow. So we could potentially have a situation where we have three judges for a fight, one of them has been trained by yourself, and they're up to date on how the rules work and how to score a round, but there could be two other judges there who came over from boxing, and their entire knowledge of the rules is from the blanket statement in the unified rules, and they're scoring in a completely different way. That seems massively problematic.

Rob Hinds: Yeah. We see it all the time, and that is the challenge. More than the system, more than the rules, more than anything else; it's the officials at different levels not being on the same page. In baseball, umpires strike zones may be a little bit difference, but ultimately, there's a guideline there. With combat sports, there's no specific guidelines anywhere.

MMA Sentinel: The guidelines are basically made by people like yourself who train the judges, but they are approved by the ABC, correct? You submit your materials to the ABC, who approve them?

Rob Hinds: Yeah. You submit your written materials, you submit your exam material, you obviously have a background check on your experience in the sport as well. There's a whole laundry list of items to actually become an approved trainer. When you look at how people become trainers and that sort of thing, you have to look at not only their experience, but also their education level and whether or not they're up to date on what's happening. There's a lot to it.

MMA Sentinel: Speaking of training judges and referees, do you see many of your colleagues at the ABC meetings? Do you find a lot of your mixed martial arts officiating colleagues attend those, or do they tend to be more sparsely attended, as it were? 

Rob Hinds: Right as it is today, it's still a very, very boxing world when it comes to regulation and that sort of thing. There are no commissions out there that are segregated between boxing, MMA and kickboxing. Everything is still all mashed together, and from the ABC's standpoint, there are very few directors of athletic commissions that actually have experience in combat sports and mixed martial arts specifically. There's still a wide range of boxing based officials that have just automatically made the crossover, simply because it's a combat sport, without knowing the true differences.

MMA Sentinel: The California State Athletic Commission has undergone something of a major restructuring in the past couple of years, and it seems like the new commission is building it up to be much more mixed martial arts friendly. Have you been keeping an eye on that, and how do you think they're doing down there in California?

Rob Hinds: Andy Foster is a former mixed martial artist. He was actually a fighter, so he understands not only the fight game, but how trainers work and how the actual sport itself works. He was the director for Georgia for quite a number of years, and then he moved to his position in California. The benefit that California has, is Andy Foster was a mixed martial artist, so he does understand the sport. There are certain things that he needs to be updated on as far as officiating and that sort of thing goes.

The other benefit California has, is they have some of the best officials in the sport there. They have your Jason Herzogs, Big John McCarthys and your Herb Deans. They have some of the better pool of experienced officials in mixed martial arts in that state. They're going to have a very good rise in the quality of officiating in that state.

You can follow Rob via his Twitter account, @hindsmmareferee

Judging by reaction to GSP-Hendricks at UFC 167, some just don't get it

Georges St. Pierre, of Canada, kicks Johny Hendricks,

Photo credit: AP Photo Isaac Brekken | Georges St. Pierre, of Canada, kicks Johny Hendricks, during a UFC 167 mixed martial arts championship welterweight bout on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Las Vegas. St. Pierre won by split decision. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Mark La Monica

Mark La MonicaMark La Monica

Mark La Monica is the deputy sports editor for cross

The escalation of discourse after a close UFC fight looks something like this: fight ends, decision announced, Twitter explodes, conspiracy theorists multiply, people curse and scream, the world nears its end.

All that, just because many observers of the fight think the other guy won. Too bad the only ones that matter are three specific people sitting in specific chairs in specific locations around the cage -- the judges.

Georges St-Pierre's split-decision win over Johny Hendricks in the UFC 167 main event Nov. 16 in Las Vegas was the latest mixed martial arts bout put through the ringer. Although "controversial" was the buzzword after the fact, that's not entirely accurate.

"We're talking about one round out of five," said Robert Hinds, an MMA judge and referee since 1994 who also teaches courses in both. "When you look at one round that could really be seen either way, you're not looking at controversy at all. You're looking at a contested fight where four of the five rounds were pretty obviously contested and then you have one round that was really, really close."

Judges Sal D'Amato and Tony Weeks scored the fight 48-47 in favor of St-Pierre. Judge Glenn Trowbridge scored it 48-47 for Hendricks. The round in question was the first one. Hinds said he scored the bout 48-47 for Hendricks while watching it live. On four subsequent viewings, his scoring did not change.

"I think part of the problem with the way the fight was scored was the rounds Johny won, he won decisively,'' UFC chief executive Lorenzo Fertitta said. "The rounds GSP won, I thought he won razor-thin. Therefore, when you combine it all together, the balance tends to lean toward Johny, but that's not how our scoring system works. It works you judge every round, round by round. You add it up at the end and that's the outcome.''

No judge is infallible. Not in a subjective capacity for a sport as complex to score as mixed martial arts. There are punches to consider. Kicks, elbows, knees, takedowns, submissions, wrestling, top control, side control, general body control.

"For me, the way I was always taught to score fights from the Commision, from Marc Ratner when I was on the [Nevada State Athletic] Commision, was damage," Fertitta said. "It's who hurts the other guy. It's not point karate. People say the punch stat, this guy had more punches -- forget about it. A power punch is going to, in my opinion, weigh a lot more than a non-power punch or jab or something like that."

Hinds agreed. And he should know. He has judged and refereed fights in the UFC, Bellator, Invicta, the IFL and other organizations. He also is one of a handful of people approved by the Association of Boxing Commissions to teach people how to properly officiate MMA fights, be it as a judge or referee.

"I know Fight Metric and all those things are very fan friendly," Hinds said. "But when you get judges who are counting strikes versus counting effetiveness -- we're supposed to be assessing the effect of what happens, not what happens itself. It's not the action, it's the result."

This is not to defend all judges and all scoring decisions, but there are quite a few things that differ from watching a fight at home and watching cageside.

A television viewer gets a well-produced delivery of the action. What is seen on screen is the collection of 12-15 cameras and 18-20 production people "in the truck" all working in the moment to make sure the home consumer doesn't miss a single punch or kick or submission attempt because the fence or padding got in the way.

A judge sits in a chair and is not allowed to move from it to get a better angle. If all the action happens at the opposite side of the cage from a judge's seat, there may be no easy way to tell if a punch lands or a fighter just pulled his head back to avoid getting hit. (Hinds said proximity wasn't an issue in the first round of St-Pierre vs. Hendricks.)

The UFC provides monitors at all of its events for judges. Those monitors show the in-arena feed -- the same thing an eventgoer would see on the big screens. That feed includes multiple camera angles but does not show replays. In between rounds, the monitors show nothing. A judge is not required by a state athletic commission (or the UFC) to use the monitor. It is there as an optional tool for those who wish to use it. Not every MMA promotion installs monitors for its judges.

"The monitor is a great tool if it's used properly," Hinds said. "It's actually more abused than it is used. When you look up from the monitor, you have to re-find where the action is. We're seeing judges, when the fight is right in front of them, staring down at the minotor and looking up and down and back and forth. That's where they're missing some of the action."

A viewer of fights, be it in the arena or elsewhere, gets one minute between rounds to evaluate who they think won, see replays, get something to eat, tweet something or listen to trainers instruct fighters. A judge has until the outside referee's hand gets outstretched and demands his card. That can be one second after a round ends, depending on where the judge is located. It could be 20 seconds, or even 30. But a judge does not get a full minute to ponder and evaluate. When that bell rings, the decision must be made.

Close fights such as St-Pierre vs. Hendricks also bring out calls for a new scoring system. A half-point system has been talked about as a replacement for the 10-point must system adopted from boxing.

Hinds said the issue goes beyond scoring.

"The issue is the people inplementing the system, not the system itself," Hinds said.

In addition to boxing's scoring system, many state athletic commissions use their boxing judges to score MMA bouts. The two sports are distinctly different, which causes discrepancies from state to state and judge to judge on how criteria is measured.

"I think judging can be better," Fertitta said. "I think there's probably some judges in the sport who don't really know what a submission is, or have never put on gloves and actually been hit in the head or kicked in the legs, so they don't know how to equate how damage is done, or never been in a submission or been choked out. I think in order to be a really good, effective judge, it probably makes a lot of sense to begin cultivating some athletes that have either been in the sport or trained in the sport or coached in the sport so they have a real understanding of what's happening in the fight."

UFC 164: Rob Hinds Explains Decision in Josh Barnett-Frank Mir Fight


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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

UFC 166 figures to featured an instant classic for the main event as Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos look to settle the score in their rivalry. Most figure the fight will end with either a JDS knockout or Velasquez dominating on the judge's scorecards. Either way, the odds are there won't be much controversy in the cage; something that couldn't be said at UFC 164.

Prior to Anthony Pettis dethroning Benson Henderson as UFC lightweight champion in the main event, an entire arena erupted in boos for one man in particular. He wasn't a fighter, coach or even an athlete from a rival sports team being shown on the big screen. No, these boos (along with the flooding of message boards) were focused onMMA referee Rob Hinds.

To review, Hinds was the official for the UFC 164 co-main event, a heavyweight bout between Josh Barnett and Frank Mir. The fight started quickly with both men going toe-to-toe with one another. Eventually, Barnett got an advantage and pushed Mir against the cage. It was here where Barnett worked his dirty boxing, eventually landing a knee that sent Mir sprawling to the canvas. 

Hinds quickly jumped in to call the fight, but Mir and the fans didn't seem happy with the decision.

Hinds is a veteran being the third man in the cage, and he spoke to Bleacher Report MMA about the now-notorious decision.

"I expected this matchup to be an aggressive, no nonsense fight…Sometimes you can sense the end over a period of time. This time it was immediate. Mir was taking punishment in the clinch. No problem there. It was when Barnett’s knee connected on Mir's temple. Mir briefly lost all neurological control and collapsed with no possible sign of any defense."

I asked Hinds to give fans (and myself) a little bit of insight into the thought process when something like this happens. After all, it’s not easy to make a judgment call to step in while two heavyweights are battling it out in the matter of a few seconds. 

Is Mir conscious/unconscious? Maybe partially conscious. Maybe not.

Is he facing Barnett or facing the floor? Face toward the mat.

Are Mir’s arms, legs or body in any position to intelligently defend himself? Palms and forearms were facing down. Arms were loosely above his head. Not protecting his face or head. Legs straight out with no foot, knee or leg between him and Barnett. Body turned to the side angling toward the mat.

What is Barnett's position to finish? Is it a striking position or is he going for submission? Barnett was postured up, had knee on body with his arm cocked to do more striking damage to a defenseless Mir.

As you can see, there's plenty going on upstairs when Hinds made the call. Fans were up in arms over an early stoppage but at least this call wasn't as glaringly bad as some other calls. 

Some fans argued that, “Hey this is Mir’s thing. He drops to the ground and gets his opponent to come to the ground with him.” I'm not inclined to believe that was Mir's strategy as he collapsed to the canvas and neither does Hinds. 

"In No. 3, if Mir would have shown any signs of fighting back, defending himself or at least in a position to offer some resistance after that brutal knee, the fight would have continued," he said. "Mir showed none of those signs."

Another thought coming from this fight was the fact Hinds likely did Mir (and his brain cells) a favor by jumping in right away. We've seen Mir be on the wrong end of some vicious beatings (Brock Lesnar) and thunderous knockouts (Shane Carwin, Junior dos Santos). Mir’s questionable chin has failed him in the past but it wasn't on Hinds' mind the night of the fight.

"Prior knowledge of fighters is helpful as a referee, but should not be the determining factor in making a decision,” he said. “Every situation is different. Mir’s previous fights have nothing to do with the next. If a fighter is medically cleared to compete, they get the same chance as every other athlete.”

After the fight was called Mir rose to his feet to protest the stoppage and the fans erupted with boos. It’s an environment few can relate to but it’s nothing new to Hinds."

"I stood by this call 100 percent at the time (and still do). Protests are part of all sports. That’s what we sign up for. If you’re not prepared for that and are not confident in your abilities, maybe this isn't the position to be in… I am confident in my decision making, regardless of what’s going on around me. An arena can be intimidating and can affect the mindset of an unconfident or newer/inexperienced referee. This was a very good call."

I will give Hinds credit on the fact he appears to be the type of person to own up to their mistake. It's become a routine for officials in other sports to stand by their calls even when they’re so obviously wrong.

"If I would have made a mistake or realized that I did something wrong, I would definitely lose sleep over it," he said. "I take this position seriously, have a lot of pride in what I do and constantly put a lot of work into my craft."

Improving his craft as an official in the cage no doubt requires a lot of work without much payoff. Nobody notices the referee in a fight unless something controversial happens. Even though it can seem like the referee gets put on an island by himself following a controversial call, Hinds explains that’s not the case.

"Whenever decisions are made, the officials who truly care will consult with one another and get different perspectives on the same situation. It's very helpful for the growth of an official. There is a lot of peer support."

It's good to know the officials will pick the brains of one another following a fight. Just like we have three judges at different sections of the cage, it's helpful to have another set of eyes in a different position to explain what happened.

Still, it'd be easy to let something like this get to you. But Hinds explains it's always a mindset of "on to the next one."

"Bout to bout, event to event, I do not bring my previous performances into thought," he said. "That time has passed. To me, it’s a continuous evolution and learning experience. I tirelessly review as much footage as I can and break down my (and other officials’) performances so I can be better with every event."

Fans may have not liked the call immediately after it happened (I was one of them), but after seeing the replay, it's hard to say that Hinds' call was a bad one. Mir was face first and limp on the canvas. Not only was Barnett in prime position to deliver a few follow-up punches that would've scrambled Mir’s brain cells like Sunday morning breakfast, the outcome of the fight at the point wasn't in question.

All quotes were obtained by Bleacher Report MMA.

Dana White disgusted by UFC 166 officiating errors: 'It makes me sick, do your f--king job'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

HOUSTON -- While the fighters did their job to make UFC 166 a special night, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation didn't uphold its end of the bargain. Saturday night's card, held at the Toyota Center, was rife with indefensible mistakes from appointees of the Texas commission.

Overseeing his first UFC event, referee Jay Stafin severely botched two stoppages out of his three contests, allowing T.J. Waldburger and Shawn Jordan to suffer extensive damage well after both men were already knocked out cold.

"He was terrible. The guy was terrible. Always in the wrong position," UFC PresidentDana White told reporters afterward.

"That knucklehead referee. I started screaming at this f--king guy. [Jordan] was getting blasted. I counted six [extra punches].

"Six extra punches he took in the face, Jordan did," White continued. "I mean if you look at the physical stature of that referee, he shouldn't be in there with two big heavyweights anyway. That guy weighed about f--king 97 pounds. It's like when they throw what's-her-face in Nevada, she's in there with two huge guys. It's like, are you serious right now?"

Jordan recovered under his own power, however Waldburger had to be removed from the cage on a stretcher and delivered immediately to a local hospital, where he was eventually cleared and released.

The late stoppages by Stafin joined a pair of inexcusable decisions made by another first time appointee, judge Ruben Najera. Also overseeing his first UFC event, Najera scored the final frame of a preliminary card fight between Sarah Kaufman vs. Jessica Eye a 10-9 in favor of Eye, despite Kaufman's heavy striking advantage in the round. Kaufman ultimately lost a split decision due to Najera's scorecard.

Najera later, and perhaps more puzzlingly, scored all three rounds of Tim Boetsch's fight against C.B. Dollaway in favor of Boetsch, as did judge Jon Schorle.

Those mistakes, compounded by Stafin's ineffectualness, left White scratching his head at the end of what was an otherwise electrifying night.

"Whenever a guy gets knocked out, especially when a guy takes more punches than he should, it always freaks me out. The one punch knocks you out, and then for him to take more punishment after that when he's out, I go f--king crazy, man. I hate it," White said.

"I jumped up and I was screaming at that f--king referee tonight. Screaming at him. Do your f--king job. Get your skinny ass in there and stop that f--king fight when this guy is out cold, getting hit. I hate it so bad. It makes me sick.

"The guy is terrible. Judging was [terrible]."

“MMA Officials: Requirements & Education” part 1 of 2

What requirements does someone need to become an official in MMA? Good question.

Referees, judges, inspectors and other officials’ positions have very minimal requirements to become licensed and even used in events. Some regulating bodies require more than others, thus supporting an ongoing regulation challenge in MMA: everybody plays by their own set of rules.

Currently, some Commissions require initial training and/or some sort of background in the sport. This information would be asked in the application process. Many regulators have and continue grandfather in their current licensed officials from other Combat Sports with little to no education or training in MMA required. This is where a large part of the challenges (in MMA officiating) lie.
There are many initial training classes and advanced workshops available to help educate officials; however, if it is not required or offered from their licensing Commission, a high percentage of working officials will not seek this out on their own. This creates another challenge: outdated officiating. In a rapidly evolving sport, even the most “experienced” officials have fallen behind due to not keeping current with updated procedures, rule changes, etc.

Now days, more regulating bodies are recognizing a need for continuing education not only for the officials, but for their Commission staff. A few progressive Commissions are getting on board requiring more training. On the other side, most other regulators do not follow up with continuing education, coaching, workshops, post event meetings or any real evaluation system to help grow their officials.

Who educates the officials? Another good question.

Many of the regulators claim to conduct “in house training”. This is normally someone from the Commission staff or an active licensed official conducting a meeting for that organization’s officials. Third party Sanctioning Bodies offer “training” as well. Often the individual(s) conducting these meetings may be active in the sport, but are not qualified to teach. Hence the next challenge: qualified trainers. There are only a handful of experts that are truly qualified, experienced, updated and (importantly) perform at a high level in regards to MMA Officiating that can actually teach the correct, current information.

Unlike the other professional sports organizations that set and enforce rules for every team in every State, MMA does not have one governing body. Each State or Tribe has their own version of a regulating body. Each one of these individual organizations oversees Combat Sports through their particular laws, rules, regulations and medical requirements. With many differences in rules from State to State, there is no uniformity for anyone involved, including officials’ requirements.

Organizations such as the NHL, NFL or NBA have processes that all representing the sport have to follow. All professional sports organization officials (outside of Combat Sports) have strict requirements, provided mandatory ongoing training programs and a level system for officials that include strong performance evaluations.

None of this exists in MMA… yet!

Stay tuned for part two of this piece, as we take a look at the MMA Officials’ evaluation process…

Bellator 120 judge Rob Hinds explains, defends controversial scores in Brooks vs. Chandler and Rampage vs. King Mo

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports caught up with Rob Hinds to discuss the controversial decision at Bellator 120 last Saturday (May 17, 2014) that saw Will Brooks edge out a split-decision victory over Michael Chandler to win the Bellator interim lightweight championship. The veteran official gave his reasoning and explanation on why he came to his 48-47 score and 10-9 fifth round for Brooks. He also breaks down his 29-28 score for the main event between Rampage Jackson and King Mo Lawal.

Bellator 120 was filled with many memorable moments.

Highlights included Tito Ortiz mowing down middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko, Frank Shamrock's awkward backstage interviews, and Muhammed Lawal calling Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney a "dick rider" (a beef that was later squashed).

And, of course, one item that did not escape the promotion's first venture into pay-per-view (PPV) was the controversy in the most usual category.


Will Brooks -- in lieu of a concussed Eddie Alvarez -- turned in a career performance against the heavily-favored Michael Chandler in a close and hard fought five-round battle (watch it) and when Bellator cage announcer Michael Williams announced Brooks as the new interim lightweight champion (via split decision), the public outcry began.

When the scorecards were released, out came the torches and pitchforks. Larry Ingle (48-47) scored it for Chandler, while Todd Anderson (48-46) and Rob Hinds (48-47) scored it in favor of Brooks.

The latter of the three judges just mentioned, Hinds, spoke with over the weekend to explain how he came to his conclusion on the interim lightweight championship and explained the highly-scrutinized fifth round score of 10-9 for Brooks that he -- along with Todd Anderson -- both turned in.

"Everybody knows Michael Chandler," Hinds said. "Just about everybody loves Michael Chandler. Nobody knows Will Brooks at this point until know. Just that alone, in that minute, minute and a half flurry at the end of the round for Chandler, that obviously sits in everybody's eyes. I completely understand that. Looking at the full five minutes, what Chandler did the last minute and 15 or whatever it is, wasn't more effective than the effectiveness that Will Brooks through that entire round up until then. That's why I saw round five going Will Brooks way."

"You know me, I will review it a million times but, really from my judges seat it was pretty clear cut when I took the full five minutes into consideration," he continued. "It was pretty clear cut. Of course all of us had a feeling that if this fight came down to a decision the way it was going there would be some quote, unquote 'controversy' and people not happy either way or whatever that looked like. That round to me was very clear for the full five minutes."

For those who don't know, rounds are assessed as a whole, meaning everything counts from beginning to end and is factored in as such. Many who watched the fight between Chandler and Brooks on Saturday felt Chandler's side triangle submission attempt at the end of the fight was enough to seal the deal to win the round.

Before Hinds explained what he saw during that sequence, he made a point to let those who watch at home know that his view that night at the Landers Center was often obstructed and there were noticeable times in the broadcast where he said he had to "lean a lot and try to get a better view." This is something that happens to judges quite often depending on the venue.

"Here's one of those things I experienced during that fight and the Rampage fight," he explained. "My judges seat... right to the left of me was a huge post and one of the boxes the camera guys stands on. To my right, the corner post by the cage door that I had, gave me a little bit of a blind spot and some of those things had a little bit of an effect. There were some things that I don't think anything was going on, but I just couldn't see."

"During those two fights especially there were times I couldn't see and where I could see really well," he revealed. "In the fifth round where Chandler got him down and was ground and pounding, Will Brooks was either deflecting a lot of those shots or they weren't landing very cleanly. There were a lot of things from my actual judges seat that I know would definitely make a difference from looking on TV."

The veteran official then shed some light on the round-ending submission attempt that many felt should have given Chandler the round and also broke down how a submission attempt can be seen completely differently depending on the angle and vantage point of the particular judge.

"An attempt versus an effective catch or a close submission, there's different weight to those," Hinds explained. "When you see an attempt at something, as judges we need to see how deep it goes, how much trouble it puts the other fighter in, all those things to give it either more or lesser weight. That's one of the things you look at too is really from each judges' chair the perspective you get is different."

"If somebody gets in a submission and you can't see their face, you can't see the actual lock, you can't see how deep the choke is, that has a lot of impact on how much impact you are going to give it. You just can't assume that something is deep or something's not. There's a lot different tell-tale signs that you have to look at."

Another topic of debate was round three, where many pundits were clamoring for a 10-8. Judge Anderson was the lone judge who awarded a 10-8 for Brooks in that round. Hinds said that round again came down to what he could see and what he could not.

"During that fight we saw a lot of similar things and also during that same fight we saw some things a little bit differently," he explained. "He scored round three a 10-8, which I can totally understand, and I scored it a 10-9 because there were things that we talked about after the fact that he had a really clear picture of and I didn't. That's where some of those things come into play too where you hear all of the 'oh my God it should've been this or should've been that.' When the judges are in different spots, there are different things that you see and don't see."

Almost every card is full of media members and fans scoring the fights on Twitter while they are watching, texting and tweeting and are obviously not solely focused on watching every moment of action that is going on inside the cage. Many don't know how fights are correctly scored or how rounds are assessed on top of that. Or they point to the "unified rules" which don't accurately tell how the criteria is used in the scoring of fights.

The judge and referee who hosts ABC approved seminars to help educate and improve the officiating in the sport of MMA ( says it's all "all just part of the process and part and parcel of fans being fans."

"It's so funny the people that are there in the media and they are typing and tweeting and all that and then it's 'It's such a robbery because this should've gone this way.' Listen man, when I watch you on the fights when I'm not judging, you are typing and on your phone and all these other things, how can you be sure of anything?"

Another score that drew some raised eyebrows was the unanimous 29-28 decision for Rampage Jackson over "King Mo" Lawal in the main event (highlights here). Many fans and experts felt it was Lawal who did more with his wrestling and should have been awarded the decision.

Hinds shares his assessment:

"First round, King Mo's wrestling was very effective," Hinds explained. "He put him where he wanted to be, he got him where he wanted him, all the grappling was effective. Second round, Rampage definitely started to feel the counter wrestling, really doing good digging the under hooks and denying Mo and hitting him with good shots."

"The third round where everybody thought Mo was winning, that is called ineffective wrestling," he continued. "Yes, you are getting in there, you are really trying hard, you're digging, but aggression and control are the very last two things that you consider. Rampage's striking was the most effective out of everything that happened in the five minutes of the third round, no question about it."

Hinds again shared "one of the differences between cageside and TV, or TV and being out in the crowd" as far as what he was able to see and hear during the main event.

"The shots that Rampage was hitting him with, whether it was a short uppercut or a mid-range shot, he was landing hard," Hinds revealed. "Those are the ones that sound like hitting a plastic lunchbox against a table. Those were thudding shots, regardless of the range of them and they were tremendously effective. Mo was trying hard and wrestling hard. The third round was ineffective wrestling versus effective striking, no question about it, at least from my seat."

Hinds is his own worst critic and is never afraid to face the music on a controversial call when he is a referee or a decision when he is a judge. He always goes back and re-watches the broadcast of the fights he refs or judges. Sometimes he "may have a different opinion on it" after watching it for a second time in a different format.

"That's kind of one of the cool things when I actually get to judge those fights and I get to reassess it later versus watching what everybody else is watching and making my assessment there," he said. But after turning in another night's work at Bellator 120, he firmly stands behind all his decisions.

"No question about it."

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MMA Referee Rob Hinds Talks Eye Pokes, 10-10 Rounds, Communication and Focus



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Longtime MMA official Rob Hinds has been inside the cage as a referee for more than 4,000 professional fights and sat outside as a judge for almost 1,000.  There is not much he hasn’t seen or heard. 

He is leading the charge in educating new and current MMA officials.  His company, Combat Consulting, teaches MMA referees and judges in seminars around the country. 

Recently, he provided his insight into the controversial and rare technical decision between Gian Villante and Ovince St. Preux.  At UFC 159, referee Kevin Mulhall paused the action early in the third round after Villante suffered an inadvertent eye poke from St. Preux.  Mulhall then waived off the bout after Villante informed him he couldn’t see.  St. Preux won the contest by majority technical decision.

“Any time a fighters tells a referee ‘I can’t see’ or ‘I can’t breathe,’ the only procedure at that time is to call the fight,” Hinds explained on Wednesday as a guest on Darce Side Radio.

Hinds said there could have been “better communication” or “more time to deliberate" or “call in the doctor”; however, once Villante admitted he couldn’t see, proper procedure was followed.

He said, “In the heat of the moment, that procedure was heard, which caused Villanteto give the one incorrect answer that you can’t give a referee.  At that point, once that is verbalized, you have to call the fight.

“Maybe ask him a more general question: Are you all right, man?  Do you need to see the doctor?” Hinds suggested.  “Normally that gives you a more general answer, and then you can call in the doctor and actually give a little bit of time.”

Eye pokes have been a sore subject in MMA for some time.  Suggestions about altering the style of gloves are often bandied about.  Another common question is:  Why aren’t fighters given five minutes like they are for incidental groin strikes?

Hinds had this to say:

The reason a groin shot gets five minutes is because there’s absolutely no way for the doctor to check what’s happening there.  You can’t pull down their shorts or jock strap and all that and examine.  Any other injury, a thumb injury an eye injury the doctor can physically look at it, take an evaluation, clear blood away, ask questions, those types of things.

Hinds explained that it’s not necessarily about having an automatic five-minute rule but more about proper referee procedure.

It’s a determination of the referee on how much recovery time they get.  So it doesn’t need to be an automatic five minutes.  Again, this is a procedural thing from referees to where they need to take their time, assess the fighter, call the doctor if necessary, and this whole time they are getting a chance to recover.

Hi-res-7304788_crop_exactBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After the fight had concluded—and St. Preux had been declared the winner—thescorecards were revealed, which showed that judges Eric Colon, Michael DePasqualeJr. and Jose Tabora had scored the incomplete round 10-10.

According to Hinds, even in that short of period of time, one fighter should have been awarded 10-9 as someone had to have “some effective advantage over their opponent.”

I always say a 10-10 round is like a unicorn.  Some people claim they’veseen them, some people believe in them, but they don’t really actually exist.  Now, for that 33 seconds; if they just circled each other, and nobody threw a punch, kick, knee, tried a takedown, if they did absolutely nothing but circled for the 33 seconds, then you would have a 10-10 round because you didn’t have any effective offense or any effective technique.

Jose Tabora actually scored both the second and third round 10-10.

For a professional judge at that level to score a 10-10 to begin with, and then have two 10-10 rounds in one bout, that’s either the most boring bout we’ve seen or there needs to be further evaluation of those officials who score those 10-10 rounds.

Hinds explained that the sudden stop at the beginning of Round 3 between Villante and St. Preux could have provoked the three 10-10 scores.

One of the things that happens with judges on incomplete rounds is it kind of takes you by surprise.  You have the pause in the action due to the injury, and some judges if they’re not focused, they’ll forget what happened up until that point.

Hinds offered a refreshing and insightful take on what many fighters, managers, promoters and fans have complained about lately.  If more referees were to communicate better and more judges were to improve their focus, maybe there would be fewer complaints about refereeing and scoring.

Michael Stets is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.  All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

Trip Report: NYC MMA Officials Training

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First off, don't get confused by the title; MMA in NYC is still squirming to emerge from under a big sweaty pile of bureaucrats trying to...

...wait, that's probably not the best analogy to go with here. How about this:

Lady New York is in labor, fully dilated. Stephen Koepher, the Coalition to legalize Mixed Martial Arts in NY, various promotions, and millions of fans are eagerly awaiting the delivery of a healthy sport. But certain members of NY state's entrenched political elite, dressed up in the guise of doctors, are trying to hold her legs together in defiance of nature and what's best for the state herself.

Hrm, that wasn't much better, but that's all I've got right now as I post this from the counter of a crepes kiosk at JFK airport. (Hey, they had power strips AND single-malt scotch.)

Regardless, the point is this: this weekend's Association of Boxing Commissions-sanctioned training, was a proactive step in not only bringing a new crop of officials up to speed in anticipation of the... erm... birth of MMA in NY; but also educating media, fans, and lawmakers on the intricacies of the sport in general. 

The Who and What

Rob Hinds started fighting "MMA" back in the days when you could yank a guy's beautiful 90's brony-tail out of his head, or throw uninterrupted crotch-punches without either causing the match to grind to a halt. (Good times?)He's been a referee and a judge for pretty much every one of the big shows and knows more about MMA than you do. Yes, you.

Sean Wheelock is an experienced referee and commentator for Bellator, M-1, and even other sports like Soccer which we don't really care about but good for him. He also has his own Wikipedia page, unlike us, since Internet Basement-Ninjas haven't had their feelings hurt by him making fun of their manchild stupidity. Yet.

I digress.

Seriously though, these two MMA experts have formed a group that now travels the country (and possibly world) providing expert training on exactly what it takes to be a judge or a referee in the only sport on the planet that matters. So for all those folks who've jumped up during a MMA event, spilling nachos and PBR all over their wheel-mounted residence to yell at a television they're making payments on, this point bears repeating:

Judging is hard.

There was a 10 question test on techniques and positions... it was NOT multiple choice

Rob reiterates this point many times during the course, and appends onto it the fact that it's not for everybody. To paraphrase him: if you can't focus on one thing, to the exclusion of everything else, for at least three minutes, you have no business being a judge in MMA. Aside from learning the nuances of the Unified Rules System, and judging past events, we actually watched tape of distracted and unprofessional judges doing everything but their damn jobs. 

The UFC's Dan Mirgliotta was one of the celebrity guests at the training course; I sure hope he passed...

The author of this article has been a judge for about 7 years now, and I learned more than enough myself, with all my experience, to easily justify the cost of the course. Rob is one of six people who are approved to teach this course by the ABC, which itself is pretty much the closest thing to a national standards body for professional MMA.

The latter portion of the day's events involves advice on how to get work as a judge with various athletic commissions or tribal organizations where fights take place. 

For those of you who are Sponsors or Supporting Members, I'll be posting my notes from the course for you to read, unedited, in the VIP section. For everyone else, even if you just consider yourself a casual fan of MMA, this course is definitely worth it when it comes anywhere near your part of the country. (Even if it isn't close, get on a plane and go. Think of the TSA's groping as a bonus.) You don't have to be a sportswriter or aspiring judge or referee to attend; for little more than the cost of renting a steamer to clean cheep beer and nacho cheese out of your carpet, you could actually be able to tell people you know what you're talking about when it comes to MMA scoring.

...without even lying.

You can see upcoming courses on their website, here:

MMA referee, judge training coming to New York with hopes to educate legislators

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 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

This weeks guest is MMA referee and judge Rob Hinds. Hinds has refereed over 4,200 fights, and judged over 750.   He started, 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



Top Photo:

Hinds prepares to referee a bout in the UFC’s Octagon (Combat Consulting)

About the Author

Rob Tatum
Rob Tatum
Rob Tatum joined The MMA Corner as a lead writer and news manager following his time at MMADieHards in the same capacity. Additionally, he is a Featured Columnist for the MMA portion of Bleacher Report. Beyond his writing, Rob has trained in both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai. He is a Colorado native that works as a mechanical engineer during the day and enjoys watching sports, playing music, or working on cars. After running his own music site from 2002-2009, Rob decided to focus solely on the sport of MMA.


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