A lot can change in a week given the right catalyst. The status quo of the flawed application of the ten point must system in MMA seemed set to stay indefinitely just seven days ago despite a series of recent questionable judging decisions. That was until The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale, which saw Joe Rogan, pissed off by one judging robbery too many, cut a promo burying the NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer after two of his commission appointed judges made an "unaccountably bad" decision to score the Leonard Garcia vs. Nam Pham fight in favour of Garcia:
It's gross. You should be able to leave it in the hands of the judges. You should be able to just fight. And we should point out, that is the situation because of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. It's got nothing to do with the UFC. People keep saying 'oh the UFC!' We have no say whatsoever. And Keith Kizer has denied that there's an issue. I think he needs to clean house. There's a few very good judges surrounded by a bunch of incompetent morons, who know nothing about the sport. They need to do something about that, because it's ruining MMA. It's making people think that this sport is corrupt. It has nothing to do with corruption. It's sheer and total incompetence.
Two days after Rogan's rant, in an interview with MMAFA, Kizer, perhaps not realising that Dana White and the Fertittas were singing from the exact same hymn sheet as Rogan on this issue, responded by stubbornly digging his heels in and aloofly dismissing the valid, but unprofessionally voiced, criticisms Rogan had made:
“If Joe Rogan wants to get on the air and call people names, that’s his business. I’m not going waste my time responding to that.” says Keith Kizer, head of the NSAC.
Briefly addressing Rogan’s criticism, Kizer points to hypocrisy on Rogan and the UFC’s part:
“They always say that ‘the UFC has nothing to do with judging.’ Well guess what, they’ve got a big fight coming up in Canada called Koscheck vs. Georges St. Pierre - the UFC and Marc Ratner are flying Tony Weeks up there as a judge. C’mon, Joe. How about some honesty? They’ve taken 90% of our officials with them overseas, as they should. That’s not a knock on Dana [White] and Marc [Ratner]; they know what they’re doing.”
Kudos should go to Zach Arnold of FightOpinion.com, who was the first to spot that Kizer couldn't maintain such an intransigent position for long and would have to give in and make concessions at some point, as real power lies in the hands of the UFC owners who can pick and choose where their biggest fights take place:
This is not a winnable war for Keith Kizer, neither in public nor in private. If the Fertitta family is angry, they have the financial muscle to make a difference. If they’re not happy with the ways things are run in Nevada, they can run shows elsewhere and help other states make money while Nevada is on the sidelines. Don’t think that the local politicians ignore this kind of thing. Commissioners come and go. But UFC and their deep pockets are not going anywhere. If you’re a betting person and had to choose between who’s going to last longer in power, Keith Kizer or the UFC in Nevada, Mr. Kizer’s drawing the short end of that stick.
By Thursday, after several hundred angry emails about MMA judging in his state, Kizer spoke to Sherdog.com, which showed that his stance was already beginning to soften, as gone was the aloof attitude to Rogan and the attempt to deflect some of the heat back onto UFC, replaced by a keen desire to show that he was listening to their fans concerns:
Props to Mr. Rogan. He’s definitely got quite a loyal following. I’ve gotten more e-mails on this decision than any other decision we’ve ever had. Probably about 700 total. You’ve got to give him credit for that. Unfortunately, probably 90 percent of those e-mails were just very rude and unprofessional, and that’s too bad. I wish more people could argue or discuss things in a more rational, legitimate, ethical way, which you would think would perhaps be more effective as well. But nonetheless, that’s OK. I don’t mind getting those as well.
First off, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with someone’s opinion, you want to listen to it if you’re a public official. Even the e-mails with the curse words and the name calling, I read those e-mails. I didn’t respond to them, but I read those e-mails. I think it’s important no matter what.
However, he was still trying to fight his corner:
While Kizer is listening, he’s not necessarily agreeing. For instance, he does not believe there has been a preponderance of bad decisions lately in MMA.
“I kind of almost think not the opposite but differently in the sense that there’s always been -- I mean, I don’t know a time when there hasn’t been somebody arguing about some decision,” he said. “You look back at any year of MMA. Let’s just stick to MMA. The last 10 years of MMA, you can go to any calendar year and find people complaining about something or another. And that’s understandable, especially at these higher-level fights.
So has Kizer's stance softened further since the Sherdog.com interview? Has Keith Kizer already seen the light regarding MMA judging changes? If Dave Meltzer, in his usual read between the lines fashion, on his Dec. 11th (subscribers only) Observer Radio show is anything to go by, then the answer to both questions seems to be affirmative. He broke the news at the 21:22 mark that "there may be changes in judging" coming eventually, as "people in decision making are kind of aware that there’s something wrong with the judging right now" and "there were people who just thought the system was fine who no longer believe that the system is fine". Hmm, I wonder who on earth Meltzer could have been talking about? Let's just say you don't need Sherlock Holmes to solve this mystery.