(Poor Dana. He has his good days and his bad days. / Photo via MMA in Asia)
A strange and unprecedented thing happened during the UFC Fight Night 48: Bisping vs. Le prelims on Saturday. After the first two fights ended in split-decisions, UFC president Dana White grabbed veteran judge Howard Hughes and told him to get lost:
“He was involved in the first fight and the second fight,” White said. “I told the guys to go let him grab some beer and some popcorn and go sit down and start watching some fights, not judging them.”
To clarify, Hughes was only singled out because he worked both fights, not because his scorecards were significantly worse than anybody else’s. In the opening bout between Milana Dudieva and Elizabeth Phillips, Hughes was one of the two judges to score it for Dudieva — a result that White said he actually agreed with — and in the next bout between Royston Wee and Yao Zhikui, Hughes was one of the two judges to score it for Wee. White did not agree with that decision, and it sent the UFC prez into “a pretty bad meltdown.”
While it’s kind of refreshing to see a bad judge get pulled off the mound like a nervous pitcher, the incident prompted a storm of criticism from MMA journalists including Kevin Iole and Ben Fowlkes, who felt it was a tremendous conflict of interest for a UFC executive to remove a judge when he doesn’t agree with the results — especially in locales without athletic commissions, where the UFC arranges virtually all of the officiating itself.
The UFC brass must have come to the same conclusion, because the following statement was just published on UFC.com:
After an internal review, the UFC organization announced today that a breach of its independent regulatory protocol occurred on Saturday night during UFC FIGHT NIGHT MACAO.
After the second fight of the night, UFC President Dana White requested that Howard Hughes, one of the event’s five assigned judges, be removed from working any further bouts. Pursuant to UFC’s protocol, neither White nor any other UFC executive possesses such authority. Nevertheless, protocol was breached and Hughes did not work further bouts on Saturday night.
The UFC organization has always been in support of government regulation and oversight. Additionally, the UFC has established a protocol when required to self-regulate events due to the lack of an official athletic commission, federation or other regulatory body. In those instances where UFC holds events in locations without a regulatory body, the UFC’s protocol dictates that the organization’s internal regulators will handle all commission functions independently and without interference by company executives or employees.
The UFC remains committed to maintaining the strictest regulatory environment for competition and vows that no similar breach of protocol will happen again.
Both White and the UFC apologize to Mr. Hughes for calling his professional judgment into question. Hughes has judged more than 25 UFC fight cards and the UFC looks forward to him working on its events again in the future.
Kudos to the UFC for acknowledging the incident and apologizing for it. The UFC has suspended Dana White for six months, and he must pass a drug test before promoting another event. Okay, not really, but wouldn’t that be great?