Referees are going to make mistakes. Theyíre only human, after all.
Refs are also tasked with protecting fighters by stopping bouts the moment competitors arenít intelligently defending themselves. That decision has to be made on the spot and there is no time for second-guessing. So controversial stoppages are bound to happen.
Itís therefore ludicrous that MMA does not use instant replay to correct errors on the spot.
At UFC 142 last Saturday, referee Mario Yamasaki made a mistake. He stepped in quickly ó not to award Erick Silva a deserved TKO victory over Carlo Prater, but rather to disqualify Silva for perceived punches to the back of Praterís head.
Replays showed Silva doing his best to pick his shots. Most, if not all, appeared to land on the side of Praterís dome. If any strikes were illegal, they were unintentional. Itís not uncommon for a prone fighter to frantically turn his head away from strikes, opening himself up to an accidental punch to the back of the skull.
Fighters can appeal decisions to athletic commissions afterwards, but often those sanctioning bodies are hesitant to overturn calls made by their own employees. Itís almost like they canít admit fault.
In the case of Silva, heís already appealed to the UFC directly. Since there is no athletic commission in Brazil, the UFC acts as its own regulator and has the power to overturn the result.
MMA is a new sport and is, in many ways, cutting edge. Itís a shame no serious moves have been made to introduce instant replay as a means for challenging bad calls.
ESPNís Outside The Lines recently featured an episode on what fighters are paid in the UFC.
The piece was a pretty slanted affair, citing that a $6,000 US minimum isnít enough money for new fighters. Those same competitors earn an additional $6,000 if they win their bouts. There are official Ďfight nightí bonuses awarded for best fight, knockout and submission ó the cash varies based on the card, but are usually in the ballpark of $65,000-plus for a pay-per-view. Then thereís sponsorship money for athletes lined up by their managers.
The UFC also hands out discretionary bonuses on a whim if they feel certain fighters performed well. These figures are not made public. So itís impossible to nail down exactly what each athlete makes per bout
Despite the tone of ESPNís piece, its reporters were unable to produce any actual figures. They claimed to have spoken to a number of disgruntled fighters employed by the UFC, but the only person to appear on camera was Ken Shamrock, who was ordered to pay his former employer $175,000 in court fees from a lost legal battle.
The UFC responded with a series of videos, one featuring Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin and Matt Serra discussing how well theyíve been paid. Of course, all three are former champions and have tasted main-event money.
But despite all the back-and-forth that has resulted since the story aired, this is a subject worth discussing.
Letís face it, compared to sports leagues like the NFL, NFL, NBA and MLB, the UFC pays chump change for a new athlete.
But itís a large step up from what low-tier boxers make.
Itís also way more money than what MMA fighters earn on smaller shows. Former UFC fighter Sean McCorkle recently admitted on the MMA Underground forum that two of his three UFC appearances netted him more cash than his 12 non-UFC bouts combined.
Would I like to see the salary floor raised so young fighters earn more? Absolutely ó thatís hardly unreasonable. But is the current system completely unfair? No. It might not be ideal for some, but itís hardly highway robbery.
It does encourage guys to be successful. The more you achieve, the bigger the payday. Thatís life.
Due to his disastrous weight cut prior to his submission loss to Vitor Belfort in the UFC 142 co-main event, Anthony Johnson has been handed his walking papers.
For his middleweight debut, Johnson came close to hitting the non-title bout limit of 186 pounds, but was instructed by doctors to cease cutting water weight and immediately rehydrate. He weighed in later that day at 197 pounds.
The punishment fit the crime, though. Itís every fighterís responsibility to make weight and this is the third time Johnson has been over in 11 UFC bouts.
Excessive weight-cutting is a serious issue in MMA. In the long-term it can affect things like reflexes and testosterone levels, and can also lead to a number of health complications.
But what can be done to discourage athletes from taking big risks?
Some have suggested weigh-ins be held the day of a fight, rather than 24 hours earlier. This would certainly prevent larger cuts among some, but it would also prove to be even more dangerous for those who are determined to push the envelope.
The truth is, without changing the culture of MMA completely, the only way to send a message is show there are consequences.
Firing Johnson was the right move. But whether or not other fighters took notice is debatable.