Trip Report: NYC MMA Officials Training
First off, don't get confused by the title; MMA in NYC is still squirming to emerge from under a big sweaty pile of bureaucrats trying to...
...wait, that's probably not the best analogy to go with here. How about this:
Lady New York is in labor, fully dilated. Stephen Koepher, the Coalition to legalize Mixed Martial Arts in NY, various promotions, and millions of fans are eagerly awaiting the delivery of a healthy sport. But certain members of NY state's entrenched political elite, dressed up in the guise of doctors, are trying to hold her legs together in defiance of nature and what's best for the state herself.
Hrm, that wasn't much better, but that's all I've got right now as I post this from the counter of a crepes kiosk at JFK airport. (Hey, they had power strips AND single-malt scotch.)
Regardless, the point is this: this weekend's Association of Boxing Commissions-sanctioned training, was a proactive step in not only bringing a new crop of officials up to speed in anticipation of the... erm... birth of MMA in NY; but also educating media, fans, and lawmakers on the intricacies of the sport in general.
The Who and What
Rob Hinds started fighting "MMA" back in the days when you could yank a guy's beautiful 90's brony-tail out of his head, or throw uninterrupted crotch-punches without either causing the match to grind to a halt. (Good times?)He's been a referee and a judge for pretty much every one of the big shows and knows more about MMA than you do. Yes, you.
Sean Wheelock is an experienced referee and commentator for Bellator, M-1, and even other sports like Soccer which we don't really care about but good for him. He also has his own Wikipedia page, unlike us, since Internet Basement-Ninjas haven't had their feelings hurt by him making fun of their manchild stupidity. Yet.
Seriously though, these two MMA experts have formed a group that now travels the country (and possibly world) providing expert training on exactly what it takes to be a judge or a referee in the only sport on the planet that matters. So for all those folks who've jumped up during a MMA event, spilling nachos and PBR all over their wheel-mounted residence to yell at a television they're making payments on, this point bears repeating:
Judging is hard.
There was a 10 question test on techniques and positions... it was NOT multiple choice
Rob reiterates this point many times during the course, and appends onto it the fact that it's not for everybody. To paraphrase him: if you can't focus on one thing, to the exclusion of everything else, for at least three minutes, you have no business being a judge in MMA. Aside from learning the nuances of the Unified Rules System, and judging past events, we actually watched tape of distracted and unprofessional judges doing everything but their damn jobs.
The UFC's Dan Mirgliotta was one of the celebrity guests at the training course; I sure hope he passed...
The author of this article has been a judge for about 7 years now, and I learned more than enough myself, with all my experience, to easily justify the cost of the course. Rob is one of six people who are approved to teach this course by the ABC, which itself is pretty much the closest thing to a national standards body for professional MMA.
The latter portion of the day's events involves advice on how to get work as a judge with various athletic commissions or tribal organizations where fights take place.
For those of you who are Sponsors or Supporting Members, I'll be posting my notes from the course for you to read, unedited, in the VIP section. For everyone else, even if you just consider yourself a casual fan of MMA, this course is definitely worth it when it comes anywhere near your part of the country. (Even if it isn't close, get on a plane and go. Think of the TSA's groping as a bonus.) You don't have to be a sportswriter or aspiring judge or referee to attend; for little more than the cost of renting a steamer to clean cheep beer and nacho cheese out of your carpet, you could actually be able to tell people you know what you're talking about when it comes to MMA scoring.
...without even lying.
You can see upcoming courses on their website, here: