Marc Ratner: UFC aiming to increase quality of MMA officiating nationwide
by John Morgan on Jul 05, 2009 at 12:55 pm ET
With power comes responsibility, and the heads of the UFC understand that as well as anyone.
While the UFC is clearly the sport's largest – and most profitable – organization, much of the growth in regulation and acceptance of the sport of mixed martial arts is thanks to the Las Vegas-based promotion.
With nationwide regulation nearing completion, UFC exec Marc Ratner recently told the MMAjunkie.com Radio Network (www.mmajunkie.com/radio) that increasing the quality of officiating was one of his next big projects.
"That's one of my other charges, is trying to make the officials better – get better referees, teaching more and doing more seminars," Ratner said. "We're going to do more of that, hopefully, next year."
Ratner said the first step is getting all 50 states to ratify regulation of mixed martial arts. Once complete, the UFC can work with the commissions to assist them in training both referees and judges.
"The first thing we want to do is get all the states to regulate [MMA]," Ratner said. "Once all the states regulate it, we can try to put some national seminars together. The Association of Boxing Commissions, which should now be called the Association of Combat Commissions, they're going to start doing some of that stuff."
While UFC president Dana White has often been openly critical of officials, Ratner offered a more understanding view of the state of MMA judging and refereeing.
"We need to keep on trying to make it better, trying to get a commonality of philosophy," Ratner said. "But some of the things I've read about – 'Oh, these decisions were horrible' – these fights are close fights. The Clay Guida fight with Diego (Sanchez at The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale), that's a tough fight to score. Some of those rounds were real close.
"The first round, some people scored that round 10-8. That was as dominant of a round as you're going to see. That's one of the problems whether it's boxing or MMA. not all 10-9 rounds are equal, but they're scored equal. Certainly a wide round like the first round in that fight compared to the third round which was razor-thin depending on who you give it to, it gives the appearance that the judging isn't that consistent. But when you have a 10-9 system, that's what happens."
Despite the challenges a 10-point-must system can create in a three-round contest, Ratner does not see a need to change the process. Instead, he hopes increased experience, coupled with education, can help to improve officiating.
"We as a company will help [the commissions] try to get more certification for officials," Ratner said. "But you still have to learn on the job. You can take all these tests – I was a Division I football official for 20 years. You can do everything, you can pass a test, you can get a 100, but until you're in that game situation and have to make a (call), there's nothing like experience and watching yourself on film.
"We go to some of these states and these officials have never worked in front of a big crowd before and they freeze a little bit. You have to get over that. It's a learning curve."
Ratner believes a system that provides for regional training seminar, in addition to a national certification process, could help improve performance.
"I think that's a possibility," Ratner said. "(But) it would be a little bit tough. I think you're better off with regional seminars to start with.
"A lot of these guys aren't going to have the money to travel, and you have to pay for the course. But I'd like to see it regionally and then possibly have some kind of a final certification here."
It's an ambitious idea, and one Ratner hopes to commence after the sport's current struggle for nationwide regulation ends. No rest for the weary, and that certainly includes the former Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director.
"It's so busy, my best analogy is like if you climb this mountain for UFC 100, you're trying to get to the top of the mountain and look down, but there's no down," Ratner said. "There's another mountain right behind it. You're constantly moving, constantly climbing, but that's the exciting part of being at the UFC. You're constantly in action. You're busy, and it's exciting."link