Everything follows a hierarchy: The UFC judges evaluate according to these criteria

At UFC MMA events, knockouts are frenetically celebrated by fans. If the fight does not end prematurely, three judges decide on the outcome of the cage duel. The verdicts are hotly debated and are not always clear. The German judge Clemens Werner explains why.

A resounding knockout or a skillful submission – mixed martial arts fighters aim to end the duel in the cage prematurely. A finish is also desired in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the champions league of martial arts. If a fight goes the full distance, three judges decide which fighter did better. Again and again there are ratings that surprise both fighters and spectators as well as organizers. “The main reason is that many of those involved do not know the rules and do not know which criteria are decisive for the judges,” explains Clemens Werner, the only active German “judge” in the UFC, in an interview with ntv.de.

Clemens Werner has been a judge in the UFC for several years.

(Photo: MMA Unfolded)

Together with two other judges, who sit in a triangle formation right next to the cage, the fight should be “captured as comprehensively as possible from different perspectives,” explains the 30-year-old. This happens based on the visual and acoustic impressions, which are different in the cage than for a TV viewer or a visitor on site. “You see the fighters in real size, you just see the eyes and movement signals better.”

Werner: Don’t equate effectiveness with damage

One criterion in particular is then evaluated: effectiveness. Effectiveness can be achieved through striking (punches and kicks) and grappling (freely translated “grip methods”). Elements of grappling are, for example, bringing the opponent to the ground (“takedowns”) or submission holds (“submission”), as well as improving position on the ground. According to Werner, there is often a big misunderstanding: “You shouldn’t equate effectiveness exclusively with damage.” When you hear the word damage, you think of striking first, but a fighter can be just as effective with his grappling as the striker without doing a lot of damage. “Striking causes physical damage to the opponent, grappling tends to make the opponent tired and worn out and rob him of his will to fight”. In terms of effectiveness, the judges would primarily evaluate as follows: Which athlete performs which action and how effective is it.

And yet there are often fights where the effectiveness of the two fighters is close. The evaluation criteria of the judges always follow a hierarchy, explains Werner. “The primary criterion: effectiveness. That is crucial. One fighter can exert so much pressure and control that if he is not more effective, the other wins the round. Only when the effectiveness is balanced does the judge go to the second criterion – effective Aggressiveness.” Various questions play a role in this. Who goes forward? Who is looking for a slugfest and who wants to end the fight? Finally, the third criterion is the control of the ring surface. “Who controls the position at the edge of the cage, who controls the middle of the ring. The judge has to decide at this point at the latest,” said Werner.


After each fight, the scorecard shows how the judges scored.

(Photo: UFC)

After each round, points are awarded in the UFC and many other organizations, just like in boxing. The winner of the round gets 10 points, the loser 9, 8 or 7, depending on how big the difference was. After three or five rounds, the points are added up and the winner is determined.

Tally costs important milliseconds

All three judges do the same thing and also have a few tools. Big promoters like the UFC have an extra monitor. “You can see the live TV picture without any overlays,” said the German judge. The obstructed view can become a critical factor if, for example, the athletes are lying on the floor on the opposite side. “The monitors at the highest level will help.”

In addition, many judges keep a kind of tally for significant actions. “But they usually have their own system for it,” explains Werner. For the Berliner, who does MMA himself, that’s nothing. “I don’t do that because it requires you to look down at your notebook at times. Even if it’s just a millisecond. My position is that the judge should be 100 percent watching the match during the match without distraction.” That’s why he’s learned over the years to record the fight in his head. A period of high concentration. “I then no longer notice the environment at all, the hall can be as loud as you want. When you hear the go-ahead from the referee, you’re pretty much in the tunnel. In the breaks between fights, I just don’t do anything to make it regain concentration.” UFC events are often ten-hour days for Werner. Werner is in several fights as a judge on the cage at each event, at the UFC there is a debriefing after the last fight, of course judgments that caused a stir or were not clear are also a topic.

Presumably incomprehensible ratings often have media consequences for the judges in the UFC. In the Champions League of mixed marial arts, the judges, like the referee in football, are now and then the target of hostilities – especially on the internet. Werner is now relaxed about the topic. “At some point everyone will lose their fat. You can constructively draw your lessons from it. Then there is the trash talk, the hate and the shitstorms. You don’t need to listen to that.”

“Many impressions arise from ignorance”

However, there will continue to be disputed judgments in the future. “Judges remain subjective, the criteria are there, but the exact weighting of individual actions is not specified. Ultimately, only the athletes can state exactly how effective the opponent’s action actually is. And that’s why the judge’s assessment doesn’t always give an answer definite wrong or right. It will always remain controversial to some degree.” Werner follows two approaches in this regard to keep the chance of different judgments small: “It works up to a certain level. Use trained judges, reflect after the events. So that everyone moves closer together in their assessment. We’re on the right track there Away.”

The board member of the GEMMAF, the German Mixed Martial Arts Federation, for more recognition of MMA. The GEMMAF organizes tournaments and promotes athletes. Another heart project is his platform MMA Unfolded. There he spreads content on officials and rules. A kind of training platform for people who want to become judges is also planned. “Many don’t know the rules very well. Many impressions arise from ignorance, even among people who have been familiar with the sport for years,” explains Werner. I want to change that with the project.”

source site-59