How Do We Fix The Poor MMA Scoring System?


Following UFC 247, the biggest storyline has been the poor decisions by the judges.

Dominick Reyes statistically outscored Jon Jones in every aspect of the fight in the first 3 rounds. This would have meant that Jones was down 3 rounds and the only way he could have won the fight was via a stoppage.

However, the judges saw a different fight ringside than millions of people. One judge even astonishingly scored the fight 49-46 for Jones. This isn’t the first time that a fight decision has stirred controversy and it won’t be the last. It’s obvious there are fractures in the MMA scoring system and it’s about time that we begin to look at how to fix this. Here are 3 ways I think can create more transparency in the MMA world.

Increase the number of judges

Currently MMA has 3 judges that sit ringside to score the fight. But why not place more judges around the corner? With 5, 7 or even 9 judges around the corner, the number of controversial decisions would diminish drastically.

Currently, split decisions in close fights always spark media, fans, and pundits to criticize the scoring system. With a shortage of well qualified MMA judges, simply having more judges ringside will alleviate the scoring pressure.

Most importantly the use of more judges will reduce the # of split decisions. The way the system is now with 3 judges, 1 judge’s decision can sway the final decisions. With more judges, the chances of 1 judge swaying a fight will greatly minimize.

From the fighter’s viewpoint, a poor outcome will be difficult to blame on just 1 judge. On the flip side increasing the number of judges, the pressure for each judge to optimally score will improve.

Open Scoring System

Former Featherweight Champion Max Hollaway during UFC 247 posted on twitter about a possible open scoring system

Social media and MMA pundits alike responded with mixed viewpoints. I like this idea but I think there’s a lot of kinks that would need to be worked out.

I like this idea because judges will be held accountable for their scoring after each round. There’s a part of me that believes a fighter should know how they performed after each round. An open scoring system would also mean fighters will fight more strategically. The cliche saying “never leave it for the judges” sometimes is overlooked. However, if I’m a fighter and I know that the judges aren’t scoring this for me, I will most certainly for the finish.

The fear of an open scoring system is that fighters who are winning a fight will just run around the cage. If that’s a fear, I think MMA can incorporate a rule which reduces points for fighters who aren’t willing to engage.

Organizations to employ full time traveling judges

This idea is a push..for now. Currently, every state’s athletic commission operates independently. Meaning, if a fight takes place in NY, the NY athletic commission administers their officials, rules, etc.

Why not have fighting organizations have a set # of judges who travel to each event. For example, the UFC can hire 20 judges that travel around the events. Sadly, each state’s commission uses judges that don’t have adequate MMA knowledge. Hiring full-time judges who focus solely on MMA will remove controversial decisions.

Sport organizations such as the NBA and NFL have full-time officials. They are trained thoroughly but also held accountable for every call they make. At the moment, MMA officiating is not held accountable but having full-time judges means that officiating in MMA will be serious than ever.


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