Long before Georges St-Pierre defeated Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 last weekend (Sat., Nov. 16, 2013), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was working hard to beat back public perception that big fight results were pre-determined.
After all, company president Dana White was a product of boxing, and has done everything -- at least according to him -- in his power to point his mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion in a legitimately opposite direction, learning from the mistakes made by the "Sweet Science."
White and Co. have certainly done well since undefeated The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 3 winner, British bad boy and possible future -- and first-ever -- European UFC champion hopeful, Michael Bisping, seemingly didn't win a single round against wrestling-minded Matt Hamill at UFC 75 in Sept. 2007, but still won the split decision.
That was the first real sniff that UFC could possibly be "corrupt." After all, UFC was tasked with appointing the three judges -- Jeff Mullen, Cecil Peoples and Chris Watts -- because England, at the time, had no athletic commission that mirrored those that exist stateside.
Since that time, there have certainly been a fair share of judging, as well as officiating, controversies with which UFC has had to defend, or to its credit, often blast. However, two close calls in two major pay-per-view (PPV) main events between Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 and Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 in (almost) just as many months have White on a major, major defensive.
And we're not even about to touch the "fight-fixing" conspiracy theories that marred the UFC 162 main event between Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman, which saw the greatest fighter of all time clown his way into unconsciousness, getting knocked out cold by a Brazilian jiu-jitsu / wrestling stylist.
As a result, White was nothing short of irate several days ago in Las Vegas, Nevada, claiming that he was "fucking scared" to stage a future event in "Sin City," which is referred to as the "Fight Capital of the World" for a very significant, and historical, money-making reason.
He was utterly bent, claiming that it was about "damage," even though the unified 10-point must MMA scoring system would seem to suggest otherwise. In fact, it's about winning rounds, regardless of how lopsided each round is at its conclusion.
In other words, even though Hendricks destroyed St. Pierre in rounds two and four, while "Rush" merely won rounds three and five (see scorecards here), the bout was, for all intents and purposes, even. The first round, clearly, was the deciding vote, and (un) naturally, open to controversial (or maybe not?) interpretation.
Nonetheless, with a few days to clear his head, White attempted to re-inform the masses that, while he may have been a bit over-the-top initially, he still feels that major change is required to preserve the integrity of a sport that, to this day, still struggles to maintain widespread mainstream acceptance.
His plea (via "UFC Tonight," transcribed from video above):
"One thing that I wanted everything to understand that night -- because people don't understand -- I wanted to make it absolutely clear that we in no way, shape or form --- have any input whatsoever on the judges or the referees. We don't pick them, we have nothing to do with them, it's the complete opposite. And, obviously, I was a little fired up on Saturday night. But, I wanted to make it absolutely clear to everybody out there watching that we have nothing to do with judges and/or refs … the athletic commission does, which is the government.... I don't think you should be judging or reffing a fight unless you've actually rolled and know what a submission feels like. And how about knowing what a submission is, know what that is first? How about you know what a submission is, much less mixed marital arts."
When pressed about what White can do, besides publicly demanding an inquiry and/or potential overhaul, he took the well-traveled political road:
"Can't do it [ourselves] … we're sanctioned," he said. "I'm one of the guys who fought for sanctioning for mixed martial arts -- it's a good thing. It's not rocket science, we all know what needs to be done, it just needs to be done."
Unfortunately, not everyone knows what "needs to be done." Human judging, as well as perceived -- and real -- corruption, has not just made boxing all but obsolete (sans Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao), but it has cast a dark shadow over major worldwide events such as the Olympic games.
For decades ... maybe even centuries.
In short, there is no easy solution to this problem, whether White is in Las Vegas or Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. After all, UFC to this day, still handpicks judges and referees who are licensed in the United States -- and finances them (travel, lodging, food, etc.) -- to score and officiate international events in locations that often lack government-sponsored athletic commissions.
And that's more than likely to keep a consistent cloak of legitimacy, even if UFC has better ideas about how to train and assign the decision makers who can, and might ultimately, make or break its booming business.
However, we still haven't heard or seen them (concrete, black and white improvements), unless "having rolled" and "felt a submission" is all that it will take in White's eyes to engender meaningful change.
If that's the case, then good fucking luck.