An angry rant by color commentator Joe Rogan during the broadcast of an Ultimate Fighting Championship event on Saturday night has helped create Internet furor over judging in the sport of mixed martial arts.
Rogan was irate after Leonard Garcia was awarded a split decision over Nam Phan on “The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale” card at the Palms.
Phan dominated the second round and was awarded the round on all three scorecards. Two judges awarded Garcia the first and third rounds, which were much closer. The crowd booed loudly and chanted their displeasure with the verdict.
Rogan said he believes poor judging has become an epidemic in the sport, and he pointed a finger squarely at Keith Kizer, the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission.
“(This) is the situation because of the (NAC). It has nothing to do with the UFC,” Rogan said. “I think (Kizer) needs to clean house. There’s a few very good judges surrounded by a bunch of incompetent morons who know nothing about the sport.”
Kizer, who felt watching the fight live that Phan should have been victorious, didn’t want to get into a war of words.
“He’s got the right to say what he believes, and that’s fine, but when someone starts calling people names, I’m not going to respond to it directly,” said Kizer, who said he has received about 600 e-mails about the decision. “It’s not worth my time and it’s probably not worth his time, either.”
Kizer said he was “shocked” by two judges awarding Garcia the third round after watching the fight cageside, but added he was offered an explanation from the judges.
“They felt Garcia fought all five minutes of that round and Phan did not. He took a lot of that round off. He was a lot less active and less aggressive,” Kizer said. “On the flip side, I think he landed more punches, so that’s why I was surprised.”
Kizer and Marc Ratner, the UFC’s vice president of regulatory affairs and a former NAC executive director, said the current 10-point must system long used in boxing does work for MMA. That doesn’t mean alternatives aren’t being explored.
Kizer and Ratner also mentioned the half-point system set to be tested in amateur bouts in California, in which close rounds could also be scored 10-9.5 or 10-8.5 to give a little more flexibility.
“It’s still a brand new sport. You’re really only talking about the last 10 years,” Ratner said. “You’re going to have some controversies, but we can’t be ostriches, either. We, as a sport, need to keep improving.”
Kizer said the half-point system is so far the most viable potential alternative he’s come across.
“I want to see how it works out in California,” he said, adding he’s open to anything that could improve judging, including video monitors.
■ SONNEN UPDATE — UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen had his suspension reduced from one year to six months by the California State Athletic Commission after a hearing last week.
Sonnen tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone following his loss to champion Anderson Silva in Oakland in August.
During his Thursday hearing, Sonnen claimed he takes testosterone to treat hypogonadism, a condition where the sex glands produce little or no hormones. The hearing, however, focused more on his failure to disclose his treatment than the validity of his excuse. Kizer said Sonnen would likely be required to appear at a commission meeting in person before being licensed again in Nevada.
“I think there’s a lot of questions about him that need to be answered, and we want to give him a full and fair opportunity to respond to those questions,” Kizer said.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509.