Back Talk returns from a week’s hiatus to answer the latest inquiries from the venerable Sherdog forums and beyond. However, before I answer the latest crop of questions, I need a few minutes to stand on the soapbox, break out the megaphone and express some thoughts on a topic that has resulted in countless headlines in recent weeks: judging in mixed martial arts.
UFC 247 in Houston was not an outlier in the long and often grotesque history of MMA judging. The problem has plagued the industry for as long as it has existed. Sadly, in a sport that has evolved and improved exponentially over the last 20 years, what happens on the scorecards too often leaves fighters, fans and media flabbergasted. The country’s athletic commissions are a fractured set of 50 governing bodies with different rules, policies and leadership, so it seems unlikely that MMA’s administrative matters will eventually coalesce into something that is organized and makes sense across the board. That’s why I wonder aloud about what could serve as a possible fix for this problem.
Several tweets after UFC 247 suggested that those from within the industry need to take it upon themselves to become judges. I agree with that notion 100 percent. Now, I don’t mean people like Joe Soliz—the conflicted Texas judge with a legitimate Brazilian jiu-jitsu background who bungled several rounds in fights on the card. While I respect his grappling achievements, MMA should be judged by people who have competed in, trained in or studied the sport for years.
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight Ricardo Almeida took steps to get a judging license in New Jersey once his fighting days were over. The story earned some media buzz at the time, but it did not start a trend. It needs to start one now. In a world where civic duty is often lacking, I say to you, MMA supporters, if you can’t do it for your country, then do it for your favorite sport. Fighters, trainers, agents and even journalists who are qualified to get a judging license in their home state should perhaps step up, make a few bucks and help remedy a major problem in MMA.
Now to the mailbag:
TeepToTheJunk on Twitter Asks: “Should Bellator MMA book Michael Page versus Lorenz Larkin in a No. 1 contender bout alongside English Rugby star James Haskell’s debut in London? Since Haskell and Page train at London Shootfighters, the London card feels like the place for it, right? Or is Page-Larkin a fight Dazn wants exclusively for a United States card?”
Burgos: That is a timely question since Haskell’s MMA debut was announced for the Bellator card on May 16 in London. Dazn has been getting a lion’s share of the major fights for the company over the last year. However, those have often been bouts in the heavyweight, welterweight and featherweight grands prix. With this being a regular top-contender scrap, I don’t believe Dazn would necessarily get the right of first refusal. With that said, Dazn just carried the Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz rematch in Saudi Arabia, proving again that the company follows the money. Page and Haskell on the same London card makes a lot of money sense, so why not go all in, have both of them compete in front of their countrymen and air it on Dazn as an exclusive? As long as it’s not part of a European Series show, I think we’re good.
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Natural Order Asks: “What will it take to rescue Diego Sanchez from Joshua Fabia?”
Burgos: First guess would be a young priest and an old priest to help exorcise the “self-awareness” demon out of him, then a very small southern woman who works in purifying haunted houses to ask one question: “Is this house clear?” Aside from that, your guess is as good as mine. What makes this situation all the more befuddling is that Sanchez actually found someone more eccentric than him. However, Fabia’s earth-child eccentricities seem blended with that of street pusher, and he has Sanchez hooked on his product. It’s sad to watch, because Sanchez’s days in the UFC are numbered. It’s going to be unfortunate if he wastes those last slivers of relevance as a follower to the guru of the School of Self-Awareness United States. Sanchez probably has some fun brawling moments left in him, but in the end, blame has to fall on him. At 38, he should know better.
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CraigAllenFnP Asks: “Is three the magic number of Bellator MMA cards in a 24-hour span?”
Burgos: For those of you who don’t know Craig Allen, he’s the talented co-host of the “Fight Night Picks” podcast and stalwart guest on “Between the Links” on the Loudmouth MMA channel. He is a funny man with a dry wit that I truly adore. Is three the magic number? I don’t really know. The three events to which he is referring are Bellator 239, Bellator 240 and Bellator Dublin, all of which go down February 21-22. I guess that three could be the magic number, but why not four or five? Since two of those cards are in the same arena on the same day, why not double or triple up on the back-to-back day events? The unfortunate thing here is it feels like Bellator is choosing quantity over quality. I respect the promotion’s initiative to push the European Series angle, but there has to be better ways to do it. From my experience interviewing a whole bunch of Bellator fighters, the constant complaint involves the inconsistent schedule. Even at the highest levels of various divisions, many of Bellator’s best fighters want to compete more often. Bellator has the talent pool to put on far more enticing top-to-bottom cards. Is the fan base kicking down the door for Will Fleury-Justin Moore or Dylan Logan-Callum Murrie? No disrespect to those men, but probably not. Maybe the magic number is just one—one good card every month that maximizes what is arguably the second-best roster in the sport.