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Judge Derek Cleary releases statement after UFC London backlash

UFC Fight Night - The O2 Photo by Kieran Cleeves/PA Images via Getty Images

UFC London this past weekend (Sat., March 19, 2022) was one for the ages as many new potential stars were born after producing some unforgettable finishes. In the few fights that went to the judges’ scorecards, however, there was still some controversy.

In one of the earlier fights of the night, Strawweight prospects Cory McKenna and Elise Reed battled it out with Reed taking the split decision nod at the fight’s end. With two judges scoring the bout 29-28 in her favor, the outlier belonged to long-time judge Derek Cleary, who went 30-27 in favor of McKenna.

The mixed martial arts (MMA) community collectively lambasted the scorecard, which was enough to see the judge of more than 550 fights (per MMADecisions.com) offer up a response.

“As an MMA official, one thing you will not learn in your training is how to handle the mental pressure after having a so-called “bad” night at the highest levels of the game,” Cleary said via Instagram story. “Being crucified by fans and media can be brutal and you either pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and move forward or you don’t. It is how you get up and move forward is what counts. That can be very difficult, especially if you are right back on the main event of a UFC fight the next event.

“Anyone who says it doesn’t bother them is either lying or they simply do not care and are in the sport for the wrong reasons, to begin with,” he continued. “We are all human but refs and judges are expected to get it “right” every single time but that’s not a realistic expectation (although we do strive for perfection). If you made a mistake as an official, be honest with yourself, learn from it, and move on.”

Of the 75 fan scores submitted to MMADecisions.com, 72 percent of the voters believed Reed won the fight with the most common score being 29-28 from 46.7 percent of the votes.Fourteen of the 16 media scores also gave the fight to Reed with the two for McKenna going 29-28 rather than 30-27.

Cleary’s resume as a judge on record dates back to UFC 145 in 2012. He’s judged five events in 2022 thus far with three total dissenting scores in split decisions. Some of his most notable cards over the years include 29-28 Stephan Bonnar over Tito Ortiz, 29-28 Raquel Pennington over Holly Holm (in their first fight), 48-47 Alexander Gustafsson over Daniel Cormier, 49-46 Alex Caceres over Yair Rodriguez, and 29-28 Yan Xiaonan over Marina Rodriguez.