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Joe Rogan: “I think they should fire judges that suck.”

If you ask a fan of combat sports for an opinion on judging chances are he/she will not only have one but it will involve some sort of negative sentiment about the job being done. Even as recently as last weekend questionable scoring came into play when a head-scratching Split Decision was rendered in a boxing match between Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley where the only three people who seemed to see things in Bradley’s favor were the fighter himself and the two judges who awarded him the win. MMA fans too were treated to a few officials’ questionable observation skills when one errantly ruled in favor of Carlos Eduardo Rocha against Mike Pierce at UFC on FX 3.

UFC announcer and lifelong fan of martial arts Joe Rogan addressed the topic this week while a guest on Bloody Elbow and had a simple, logical solution to the ongoing issue.

“I think they should fire judges that suck,” Rogan replied frankly when asked about how to handle the problem. “I don’t understand how someone can keep their job over and over again while screwing up over and over. What do you call that exactly? Extreme incompetence. How does someone judge any sort of combat sport without at least a passing interest in the sport?”

“If you pulled aside, and I don’t want to name any names, but if you pulled aside some of those judges from the Nevada State Athletic Commission, that has notoriously had horrific scoring, and started asking them about fighters that aren’t fighting in the UFC, would they know anything about them? Would they know anything about who the top judo guy is? Would they even know anything about Gilbert Melendez and how good he is,” a frustrated Rogan continued. “Do these guys know how you set up an Armbar? If I sat them down and said, ‘Do an Armbar on this guy’, would they be able to do that? I think you’ve got to know when a guy’s in trouble and when a guy’s not in trouble, and the only way to know that, is to have actually trained. I don’t think you can be a person who judges martial arts without being an expert in martial arts.”

Rogan concluded his rant by pointing out his own passion for MMA, implying officials who aren’t genuinely invested in the sport will never dedicate the kind of respect and attention it deserves in order to eliminate the blatant butchery of scorecards.


  • THEGUNNER says:

    Rogan should guest judge a super fight.

  • MickeyC says:

    We love you Joe Rogan!

  • While I agree with Rogan about firing judges that suck, I disagree with his take that you have to train in order to have knowledge of a sport. Im notrorious for saying half the things he says before he says them while watching ppvs, probably because Ive been listening to him for years and partially because Im alot more sober than he is.
    Either way, I think fans of the sport should apply for judges licenses. Those of us who spend copious amounts of time watching MMA certainly know who’s in trouble, how and why, plus we do have that same passion for making sure things are scored properly just so that way things are made right….i guess the only downside to that would be fan bias… would be hard for a person to score for someone they didnt like in a close round.

  • Lord Faust says:

    Get a public official fired for incompetence?

    Yeah, don’t hold your breath.

  • Rece Rock says:

    Everybody complains about refs & judges but nobody who complains ever applies to be an official… So retired fighters, part time commentators, fans who train & whomever think they can do better should learn the rules, apply for licensing, pay the fees & hope they get to ref the big shows after a few regional stints. If its so easy then retired fighters whom aren’t sitting on a truckload of money should go do it… Hey McCarthy & herb get big bucks to show up & ref overseas, and small promotions.

    Refs suck, judges suck, but the fact that no one does anything to change the trend sucks even more.

  • AlphaOmega says:

    “Im notrorious for saying half the things he says before he says them while watching ppvs”

    My friend and I do the same thing, we joke that there’s a bug in the house and they are just repeating what we say. We do it with the SF announcers too, but that’s not quite so difficult.

  • Lord Faust says:

    Damn, i thought I was alone in that.

    I think we’re all used to what Joe looks for, and in my case I tend to watch PPVs with my folks and so I am usually doing a bit of commentary for them, since they are casual viewers.

  • Lord Faust says:

    I’d love to apply to be a judge, but I figure I have no business doing so unless I had ref experience. To get that, my ass is still working on getting into better shape and at least dipping my feet in the combat sports waters. Maybe 5 years from now.

  • MCM says:

    @superdave, couldn’t agree with you more about training being the only avenue to knowledge of the sport. I don’t know how many professional fighters are on 5oz, but I’d put even odds on the knowledge of those that regularly post on here against a gym full of “experts in martial arts” any day. I can’t pull off an Omoplata, but I can tell you when a guy is looking for one and setting it up.

    @Rece, I agree that more people need to take an active role in the sport. I’ve looked into becoming a judge (cause I think it would be awesome!) but it’s not as easy as one might expect. Here in CA, you either have to pay Big John to get licensed, and he’s neither cheap nor frequent in his classes, or register for CAMO but that will only allow you to work Amateur shows, or know somebody on the commission that will straight up ask you to judge a fight.
    Since I have no connections, the first two are the only options for me. But even if I took their courses and passed (must get anywhere from a 90-98% on all tests) I would still not be allowed to judge with out following around several other judges for 3 or 4 months and comparing score cards. And the cards have to match, which is insane if you’re dealing with one of these awful judges. Then, when I’m finally able to become a judge in the sport, if I went through CAMO, I would have to apply separately with each org and each show they put on.

    If I was looking to make a career out of it, it would be worth it (although I could no longer legally comment on MMA boards) and I hope more ex fighters do it. But for fans or family guys, it’s just not really feasible.

  • elsicilian says:

    I don’t doubt that many of you guys have a fine spectator’s appreciation for the sport, but being able to predict when Joe Rogan is going to start hollering about “top of the food chain jujitsu” or “an underrated ground game” or one of his other cliches is quite different from being able to reliably score an MMA fight.

    The fact that you believe you could accurately judge a fight without having any personal understanding of the moves, positions, counters, etc. is precisely the sort of misguided overconfidence that Rogan has identified the biggest problem among today’s judges: they simply don’t *realize* all the things they don’t know.

    In any case, the UFC doesn’t need THAT many judges, and there are probably plenty of folks who HAVE trained in MMA that would be interested in doing it. Why not err on the side of caution and require a degree of practitioner’s competence for those being asked to judge the fights? It actually seems like kind of a no-brainer …

  • MCM says:

    @elsicillian – There is a world of difference between “having any personal understanding of the moves, positions, counters, etc.” and being an “expert martial artists” as Joe claims judges need to be.
    Speaking for myself, I am highly educated in the moves, positions, and counters used by fighter in the cage but do not posses the physicality to execute them as well as those that perform in the cage or that teach those that perform in the cage. I do roll, strike and grapple, but my skills are far from expert, my understanding might be though.

    And for the record, all judges (that get their license in CA anyway) have to pass several tests showing that they understand many different techniques, moves, and counters, as well as the effectiveness of each move. Meaning they are not as uneducated as we sometimes presume. We bag on judges a lot but most of them do a good job most of the time. It’s just the times they don’t really stand out.

  • elsicilian says:

    Although the kind of testing you are describing sounds like a great start, most UFC fights are held in Nevada (not California), so I am not sure how relevant that is. More importantly, I still think you are missing the point: while it’s theoretically *possible* that somebody who has never trained MMA could develop an understanding of the sport sophisticated enough to be a good fight judge, the reality is that many of the actual judges with no MMA training appear to be deficient (at least in Rogan’s opinion, which is shared by a lot of fans as well).

    Since it would be virtually *impossible* to rigorously train MMA without developing the kind of sophisticated understanding of the sport that judges really need to possess (and since that wouldn’t appear to be a prohibitive obstacle), why *not* implement more exacting standards? As I said before, cronyism in the state athletic commission probably explains why unqualified judges keep their jobs, but I have a hard time understanding why *fans* would argue against judges having the utmost expertise in the fights they are being asked to judge.


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