It’s no secret that many MMA fighters, especially those who have ever felt cheated by a questionable decision, are in support of implementing real-time scoring into the sport as an attempt to give more transparency into how judges are tallying fights. Former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway is one of those fighters.
The Invicta FC event March 6 at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas, will be a historic event for MMA, and Holloway plans to fly in from his native Hawaii to be a part of it. The event will be the first time in the United States that real-time scoring, or open scoring, will be used during the modern MMA era.
Gripes with MMA officiating are pretty common. Bad judge’s decisions seem to have been even more prevalent in headlines recently, perhaps most notably for several fights on the UFC 247 card in Houston.
But the Kansas Athletic Commission (KAC) is taking a bold step in a progressive direction and will experiment with real-time scoring at the Invicta FC: Phoenix Series 3 event. Under the current Unified Rules of MMA, judges’ scores are only read at the conclusion of a fight. Starting Friday night, the KAC will allow promotions that hold events in Kansas to implement real-time scoring. Invicta FC, a progressive company itself that is the largest all-women MMA promotion in the sport, will be the first to try out the new, optional rule.
“If we can help in some way to push the sport forward in a positive direction, that’s what we’re about — we’ll try,” Invicta promoter Shannon Knapp told ESPN.
Holloway, who lost his last fight and his featherweight title to Alexander Volkanovski by unanimous decision at UFC 245 in Las Vegas, wants to make sure he’s sitting front and center for this historic event to show support for open scoring.
“I’ve been in the UFC for eight years,” Holloway told ESPN. “I’ve won five title fights in the UFC, and I’ve never met a fighter or even a judge who thinks the scoring system in MMA is perfect. So what are we going to do? We at that point. If all of us agree it’s not perfect, what we going to do? What are we doing? What are we doing now? Are we just gonna keep tweeting? What are we doing? Why are we still talking if we all agree? The first step is to test ideas. And that’s what I’m here for.”
For those curious about how this open scoring will actually work during the event itself, Kansas boxing commissioner Adam Roorbach told ESPN that there will be two people in the arena designated to collect the judges’ scores after every round. Roorbach himself will then input those scores into a computer, which will then send the scores to two people holding tablets that will be positioned on either side of Memorial Hall in the line of sight of each fighter. The scores will also be put on the arena’s big screen at the beginning of each round but will not be announced over the PA system.
Roorbach said he wants to avoid being invasive to the fighters in any way, so the fighters won’t easily be able to read the scores themselves, but their coaches can tell them if they’d like. The entire process is expected to take about 40 seconds or less. Fighters get one minute in their corner between rounds.
Also for the first time, Invicta will provide judges with monitors at their seat cageside in order to provide more viewing options.
The rule change is likely to be one that is welcomed with open arms by the MMA community. MMA is one of the few sports where the athletes and fans don’t know who is winning the competition until the very end. Real-time scoring already exists in WBC boxing (only after the fourth and eighth rounds) and Glory kickboxing in the jurisdictions that allow it.
While many believe this is the type of change MMA needs and Holloway is certainly an advocate of trying it out, he’s not 100 percent convinced yet that it will solve all the sport’s scoring problems.
“Open scoring has been tested in boxing,” Holloway said. “Cool. MMA isn’t boxing, my friends. We don’t know for sure how it will work in MMA. And if it creates more problems than it fixes, that’s good, because at least we finally have proof and can move on to the next idea. But maybe it works. Or maybe it creates new problems. But we can fix those with new scoring and rules. I don’t know, but nobody does. And that’s why we have to put down the bag of Cheetos now and do the work. I’m here for it.”
Pat Donohue has been covering sports for more than 10 years. He is a former Washington Redskins beat reporter and has been covering the University of Maryland football and basketball recruiting and daily beats for Rivals.com since 2013. Pat graduated from Maryland with his master’s degree in journalism and has received bylines in publications such as USA TODAY Sports, The Philadelphia Inquirer, SB Nation, and Yahoo! Sports. As a wrestler for 13 years in Pennsylvania, Pat has a deep appreciation for MMA and a keen understanding of the sport.