Considering The Relevance Of Commissions

Considering The Relevance Of Commissions


From fans to fighters, to the ownership of the UFC, everyone has bemoaned the commissions that govern our sport.

Whether or not the complaints have been about unqualified judges or referees, or whether or not it’s been accusations of political corruption or personal biases against the commissions directly, there’s seems to be a growing and palpable contempt for the governing system and its processes.

In essence and for many, it boils down to a question of who protects us from our protectors.

The commissions are populated with people who are simply bureaucrats. That’s it. They push and pull the levers of the machine and that’s all they do. In terms of understanding the sport that their machine has dominion over, they haven’t a clue; not at least as a general rule.

They appear to know nothing of MMA and its intricacies, the levels of knowledge required to judge and score it properly, nor do they even have a competent scale by which to grade it. More frighteningly, there seems to be a general malaise or resistance from the commissions in addressing these fundamental problems.  

Beyond that, the commissions seem to be vulnerable to third party manipulation; that rather than considering issues that are singularly pertinent to the sport, that they can be swayed by the influences of external agendas and chased down a path of spurious concerns.  

Further still and ironically so, the commissions, which were conjured into existence by government(s) for the purposes of dealing with corruption in sport, have themselves, a storied history of corruption.

Considering it all, it begs a question:

In the year 2013 and given the size of the UFC, its complete understanding of the sport and its own vested interests in ensuring that the sport is “clean”, and in every conceivable aspect that could be considered, then why can’t they (the promotion) govern themselves?

To be honest, there seems to be no real reason other than the appearance of propriety.

For all intents and purposes, commissions perform a threefold task; they enforce drug policies, license and assign judges and referees, and establish the scoring system. Beyond that, they’re political entities that are held accountable to various legislatures, which themselves, are populated by people who know little or nothing of MMA.   

In terms of the functions listed, there’s nothing tallied that the UFC cannot do or is not better qualified to do, than the commissions. Further, the promotion would be highly motivated to accomplish all of the goals and to do them in a highly professional and transparent manner.

Moreover, the UFC has no track record of corruption, misdealing or mismanagement. As such, it would be difficult to deny the promotion the right to self-governance based on any evidence of malfeasance, for there is none.

Further still, as the principal owners of the company (the Fertittas) also have a vested interest in a chain of gambling establishments (Stations Casinos), they’re not apt to risk that investment along with their billion dollar MMA promotion, for whatever limited return they might make on trying to game their fights. Quite the opposite would be true. The promotion would be exceedingly actuated to ensure even higher standards and controls than the commissions do, now.

In addition, the promotion’s self-governance would still be subject to existing Federal and State laws, regarding a myriad of subjects.

In synopsis, the UFC can easily do that which the commissions are currently doing, inclusive of sanctioning its fighters, which is something the promotion elected to do this past week with Ben Rothwell, and as such, a reasonable conclusion can be drawn, that as long as the UFC’s processes were transparent and improved the sport, that they’d be a better and more preferable option to what we have now.      

As to the business of the sport, it’s easy to see the value in commissions, but only regarding the view that the job needs to be done and done right. Who does that job and does it correctly, is an ancillary concern.

As it stands now, most fans would probably agree that the commissions aren’t doing the job to the standard that it should be done, and that simply because their oversight comes with a government stamp of approval, doesn’t mean that it’s a guarantee of either professionalism or fairness; certainly no more so than that which the UFC could itself, guarantee.

That said, as fans we’d be at a loss to say that the UFC or any promotion for that matter, will ever be able to govern themselves, but in pondering the question it’s fair to ask why not, for on its face, it appears to be a reasonable proposition.

Personally, I’d be comfortable with the UFC taking control of its own oversight and it would give me no cause to question their fights. Again, as they’d be motivated to do the job correctly and have no blemishes on their record, there’d be no reason to consider it otherwise.

Sadly enough for the commissions, the same cannot be said of either their motivation or their records.   

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  • Entity

    I'm not sure how these commissions generate their revenue but usually money drives progress and outcome.
    I agree with the point that we haven't had any reason to date to think the UFC has ever been obviously corrupt on any issues. Yet in some stages I can see how an org. could manipulate outcomes to garner profit due to match making. That alone could be one of the big issues of having a commission.
    I feel the answer to these issues lies somewhere in the middle of having ex-professional fighters and trainers in charge of scoring fights and letting the existing commission remain in charge of suspensions and doping issues.
    How these changes could be brought about would be a very technical problem to solve.
    But like most governing bodies, they never want to surrender any control to anyone but themselves.
    Again, much of this has to be due to revenue generated by them.
    No power brokers give up control withhout a fight.

    • Entity

      Definitely much food for thought in your article Brian. +1

    • Brian Cox

      Your solution to the problem, by splitting it up, is an interesting one, Stewie.

      In terms of the UFC manipulating outcomes could they not already do that and if they were or did, would that not fall under the purview of the FBI or some other law agency and not a some state athletic commission?

      I think if fans could put it to a vote, they'd probably support your idea and leave the medical parameters and suspensions in the hands of the commissions, but strip them of the officiating and judging aspects of the sport; inclusive of how it's scored.

      Why that can't happen, I have no idea. If it's a question of criminality or the perception of criminality, it wasn't Dana White who had to call the Governor of Nevada and apologize for how a judge had scored two boxing matches, and in a manner that was not only egregiously out of step with the fight, but exceedingly suspicious in its lack of accuracy.

  • MMAMarco

    Having the UFC govern the fights would be a conflict of interest. You have to keep the promotion separate from the judging and governing of fights. There may not be corruption now but putting all of that authority into one entity is asking for things to eventually slide towards corruption. Consider that even now, the UFC already favors fighters that are the most marketable.

    • Brian Cox

      MMA…an argument could be made that it would be a conflict of interest, but then again, its the UFC's business. Concordantly, it could be argued that it's not a conflict for the UFC to show an interest in their business, particularly if it's a transparent regulatory interest.

      As to authority, it's already in the hands of one entity and has been for a long time. So, by extension of the argument, the commissions and the process are either already corrupt and the process should be taken away from them or the commissions are not corrupt and as such, prove that all authority can be placed successful with a single entity, thus affirming that the contention that the UFC could do the same job as the commissions and without any corruption issues.

      Either way, when a referee like Big John McCarthy can't get licensed in Las Vegas, when Unions can bring bogus claims and keep the UFC out of a state or venue, when a fighter can get owned for a round, but only lose it 10 – 9 or a judge can blow a whole fight on a scorecard. …then there's something wrong with the system and it needs to be fixed.

      Entity's suggestion of splitting the duties seems to be a reasonable one, but even in doing in that, the judging and scoring is still going to be concentrated in one place.

      In a nutshell, no matter where fans turn on this issue they are confronted by the same issue, which is the one you raise.

      No matter what is done here, the judging and officiating is going to be in the hands of one body or another and as such, I see no reason why the UFC can't be trusted anymore than the next guy.

      At the end of the day, I, like most fans, would simply like to see something done about the problems and the first step in doing that, is acknowledging that there is a problem and that the status quo can be changed.

      In terms of the UFC favoring marketable fighters, most of those are champions or contenders and as such, their favoring is simply part of the natural process, at least as I see it and the funny thing is, if we talk to Brazilian fans they believe North America fighters are favored, speak to the latter and they'll tell us it's the Brazilians that are favored. Sadly, talk to the Europeans or Asian fans and they'll tell you it's both.

      As all things Marco, not everyone is going to be happy; perceptions are realities and all that, but I do feel you on some fighters getting preferential treatment. Yeah, I do think some of that goes on.

      Enjoy the fights tomorrow night.

  • Cookie77

    There should be an MMA commission that governs all MMA company.

    • Brian Cox

      You could sway my vote that way, Cookie. Perhaps something equally funded by the UFC and Bellator MMA, and as selected from a rotating pool of x-fighters, coaches, refs etc.

      It it includes a new scoring system and Big John being licensed in Las Vegas, it works for me.

  • movescamp

    Nice job on the article. We have certainly butted heads on the subject but this is an important topic.

    I would like to make a few points though.

    The UFC may have no evidence of wrong doing but,..who is there to govern them? The commission. The integrity of the organization is only as good as it is made to be in sports unfortunately. I know it may seem like they have motivation to make it a clean sport but I don't buy that. I think based on the characters and business models they use they will get away what they can until they can't. Like every other pro and amateur sport.

    Marketing is extremely important. Just look at Machida. He was basically squeezed out by judging. Maybe his fault, maybe intentionally. It certainly seems convienient the way things like the Machida situation happen.

    The UFC if they truly cared could do more. More public awareness, more lawsuits, etc.

    I think the UFC is prob neutral. They will get away with what they can while they can but if they are actually monitored they will comply.

    Human nature tells me they are not innocent and the whole premise of the article and the UFC innocence doesn't make sense. If the commission is corrupt how would they catch the UFC for corruption? Who would catch the UFC or expose them?

    So the fact that it has gone on so Long should tell you they are not doing much but complaining every now and then.