For boxers and mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, leaving the result of a fight to a decision that is at the mercy of judges is always a slight risk. Unpredictable knockouts are a reason why MMA remains so exciting and part of the reason that the sport has established itself so strongly since the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was established in 1993. However, like boxing, the sport has encountered instances of poor judging, where fighters have been robbed of victories over bizarre scoring decisions.
The most recent example of this occurred at UFC 282 on December 10, when rising English star Paddy Pimblett took on Jared Gordon in the UFC’s crowded lightweight division. Pimblett has become an extremely marketable and recognized star due to his humor and honesty, as well as a string of knockout wins since he began competing in the organization.
Despite the fact that Pimblett is still unranked within the division, his name is already big enough within the sport that his bout against Gordon was second to last on the card. While the majority expected Pimblett expected to defeat Gordon comfortably, the fight went to a decision, with Pimblett awarded the win. However, onlookers were baffled as to how the judges could have gotten things so wrong, with almost everyone in the media and social media agreeing that Gordon won the fight comfortably and the result prompting accusations of corruption.
Results of fights like this have severe ramifications for fighters within the UFC. Winners tend to get paid more for their performances, which means a loss can be financially bruising for a fighter. Some fighters within the roster have noted that their pay sometimes barely covers all of their training costs. Additionally, losing a fight automatically removes a fighter from the chance to win a bonus award for performance of the night, which some could argue Gordon deserved for his dominant display.
Dana White has already come under fire in the last several years for how little fighters in the UFC get paid compared to other organizations. Only a few names get paid significant pay packets for their fights, and this is often due to their star power and the marketing strength of their name. For example, Conor McGregor will be paid more than almost any other UFC fighter for the rest of his career due to the fame he generated during his rise, even though he hasn’t won a fight since January 2020.
While many of the organization’s fighters have spoken out about the poor pay, the situation is unlikely to improve given the lack of a fighter’s union and White’s indifference to the entire situation. Pimblett appeared on Dana White’s podcast around the time of the fight defending White and praising him on the topic of fighter pay. Many saw Pimblett’s appearance on the podcast as a way of currying favor with White, who ultimately decides everyone’s paychecks.
MMA fans believe the pay situation is incredibly unfair given the risk that fighters put themselves at every time they step into the octagon. While the financial implications for a loss like Gordon’s are immediate, it could also harm him more in the long term. Rising fighters are ripe for sponsorship opportunities, with Pimblett himself being an excellent example, having signed three deals during 2022 estimated to be worth an approximate total of $400,000. The more fights a fighter loses, the more likely they are to be cut from the UFC and the lower the chances are of signing deals like this.
The judge at the center of the controversy, Douglas Crosby, was already under scrutiny for a fight that took place the night before UFC 282. At Bellator’s main event on December 9, Crosby sensationally scored the main event entirely in favor of losing fighter Danny Sabatello, who had lost on the other two scorecards. It’s the first time in Bellator’s history a losing fighter has received a 50-45 scorecard, which is made even more remarkable given that this score implies Sabatello won every round. Mike Mazzuli, the head of the Association of Boxing Commissions and the Mohegan Tribe Commission has stated that the situation is ‘very serious’, which implies that Crosby could potentially be sanctioned for his judging. Whatever happens, decisions like this, which may be forgotten by the average viewer after a few days, have genuine consequences for Jared Gordon and other fighters, and the implications can be serious.
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