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SCHIELKE: My path to becoming a sanctioned MMA judge

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Apr 6, 2010 - 6:22:28 PM

By: Jason Schielke, MMATorch Contributor

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It never fails. Whenever there is a close decision in a MMA bout, there will be keyboard warriors who will gripe about the judging. Granted, there have been some matches where the judging was just downright wrong, but in many cases a sound argument can be made for either fighter winning. However, this does not matter to the keyboard warrior; the fighter they thought won got robbed and the judges are dumbasses.

I have been guilty of this myself, but what does pissing and moaning do? It’s definitely not going to change the outcome of the fight and it’s just going to cause the keyboard warriors to get into a never ending urinating match (yes, I’m referring to the Sherdoggers).

So what can you do about decisions that don’t go the way you thought they should have gone? You can either A) Call the judges stupid, B) Whine endlessly, C) Both A and B, D) Accept the fact that judges see fights in different ways or E) Step up and work your way up to be one of those judges.

I choose the last option.

About a week and a half ago, I got in contact with Chuck Wolfe, who is an official with the ISCF (ISCFMMA.COM) to see if he could give me a seminar to become an ISCF sanctioned judge. In order to become a sanctioned judge with the ISCF, you have to attend a seminar held by an official who is certified to give one in the position you are seeking, then you have to “shadow judge” an event.

Basically, you fill out dummy scorecards and at the end of the event, the ISCF representative overseeing the event compares your scorecards with the scorecards of the sanctioned judges who actually judged the event and critiques your scoring. April 2 ended up being the date that worked out best for me; we could do the seminar that afternoon, then I could go shadow judge an amateur event that was being held later that night. Considering that I would have to go to Kansas City to do everything, I was pretty happy that I wouldn’t have to take two trips up there.

So the morning of the 2nd, I picked up my kids, took them to my mom’s house, and took off on my three hour trip to Chuck’s house in Kansas City. By the time I got on the 71, I got pretty bored of what was on my iPod, so I decided to check out the newest columns and articles on the Torch’s iPhone app (note to app users: please do not use the app while going 85 down the freeway. Do as I say, not as I do.)

I got the pleasure of reading Rich Hansen’s debut column... as I was wearing my Randy Couture UFC 109 Affliction walk-out shirt... Affliction jeans... with an Affliction hoodie lying in my passenger seat. Damn, I’m such a douchebag. But for the record, I have to look sideways in the mirror to see what my last name is, and if I need to ever initial anything I’m screwed since that’s on my back. Does anyone know a good tattoo remover? But I digress.

I got to Chuck’s house around 3. He took me to the basement of his house and showed me his gym. I have to say I was pretty impressed. He had everything you needed to train a fighter, from heavybags to weight machines, and even a sparring ring. He had enough kickboxing and MMA memorabilia on his walls and in glass cases for me to write an entire column about.

Our seminar was two hours long. About an hour and 45 minutes of that time was spent talking about recent boxing and MMA bouts and him clarifying a few questions I had about unintentional fouls and 9-9 rounds. The other 15 minutes were spent filling out paperwork and going over the ISCF rules. I had studied these before I went up there, but there was one rule I missed: knees to the head of a grounded fighter are LEGAL in all pro bouts and are legal in amateur bouts at the promoter’s discretion. He then informed me that knees to a grounded fighter were legal at the event I would be at shortly. This should be interesting...

Before I left, I changed into my uniform and met his son Chris and wife Paula who would both be working the event. All three of them were incredibly nice people and I could tell that we would all get along great should we were ever all work the same event, if I get the chance to work a future event.

After stopping to grab a sandwich, I headed out to Whisky Tango’s, the facility where the event was being held. After fighting rush hour traffic in K.C., I finally make it there. From the outside, the place looked pretty nice, but I was afraid of messing up my new Nike Air Max’s in the huge mud puddle, a.k.a. Whisky Tango’s parking lot. I got there about two hours before the event was scheduled to start and there were already at least 70-80 cars in the mud puddle, uh... I mean parking lot. I had no idea an amateur event would be this popular.

I just wandered around the place for a little bit until Chuck got there. Once I met up with him, he told me to follow him around. He introduced me to the promoter of the event, the ringside doctors and some of the fighters that he knows that weren’t fighting on the card that night. We then went to the fighter’s locker room where he helped his son, who was in control of running the event, get all the paperwork for the fighters in order and dubbed me the “locker room inspector”. Basically I went around telling people who had brought alcohol into the locker room to get the hell out. I got asked more times than I can remember “Who the hell are you?” After I told them that I was the “official locker room inspector”, they were like “Oh, ok, I’m sorry, my bad.” Hahahaha!!!! This is already fun.

The event was getting ready to kick off, so I took my seat right in front of the cage. I met the judge I would be shadowing, Bill, and we hit it off real quick once we started comparing tattoos. I guess tattoos and MMA go hand-in-hand. Then I looked at the fight card for the first time. There were 10 MMA bouts, three kickboxing matches, and 2 grappling bouts.

I honestly had no idea I would be scoring any kickboxing or grappling matches, but I know enough about each of them to score them, so I was cool with it. By this time, there were easily 800-1,000 people packed into the place. I looked to my right and saw two Kansas City Chiefs players, and then I noticed that Rick Sutcliff was sitting at a table behind me. However, my football team is the Chargers and my baseball team is the Cardinals, so needless to say I didn’t really care.

The fights themselves were, well, typical amateur fights. I saw multiple “tricep stretch” submission attempts from the mount, a fighter tap to a forearm choke, a fight that looked like one of those backyard fights on Youtube, and someone tapout for no reason. Seriously, even Chuck, who was the referee for the event, wasn’t sure why he tapped until he asked the fighter. Besides that, there were some very good fights. However, there was one that got the crowd all up in arms.

To keep it simple, let’s just say there was fighter A against fighter B. To me, it was very clear that fighter A won rounds one and two. I also believed that fighter A took the third round. Fighter A won a split decision with the scores of 30-27, 30-27, 28-29. The fans got so mad at the decision that a fight broke out in the crowd. The fat guy won by knockout at 0:47 of the first round.

After the event, Chuck compared my scores to those of the official judges. I was dead on with them on every round on every fight, with the exception of the aforementioned fight. Chuck thought that I gave the decision to the right fighter, but he thought that it should have been scored 29-28. He asked me why I scored it 30-27. I explained to him that even though fighter B had the mount for the better part of the round, he did nothing with it. In fact, he was seriously hurt and almost knocked out twice by the fighter he had mounted!

He said he saw where I was coming from and could see how I could score the fight the way I did. And I thought that taking debate my freshman year of high school would never benefit me later in life. He then went to the judge who scored the fight for fighter B and asked “What effin’ fight were you watching???” I couldn’t help but to snicker.

So now we got down to business. I asked him how I did. He told me to make sure that I didn’t plan anything for May 8 because I’ll be working an event that night. Also, if he has an opening, I’ll be working an event in the Kansas City area between now and then.

So there you have it. I am now an ISCF sanctioned judge. Granted judging an amateur event isn’t glamorous by any means, but I’ll be getting paid to watch MMA from the best seat in the house while I get experience needed to move on to bigger things.

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