Here’s something that would have been a lot more controversial had Gilbert Melendez won on Saturday night: one of the judges for his fight against Benson Henderson is a part of the same team. Judge Wade Vierra is a member of the Gracie Fight Team under Cesar Gracie and runs a Cesar Gracie affiliate school. He was also the judge that scored the fight for Melendez 48-47 (rounds 1,4, and 5).
Now I’m not about to go full conspiracy and say Vierra was corrupt and gave the fight to Melendez because of their association. But this is EXACTLY WHY commissions are supposed to make sure the judges involved in fights (especially title fights) don’t have any connections, real or imagined, to the fighters involved. Even the appearance of a potential bias is supposed to be enough to keep someone out of the judges’ seat. Because otherwise you end up with shit like this. “The guy who gave the fight to Gil is closely connected to his coach,” sounds bad. Really bad.
So bad that it’s ridiculous that Vierra didn’t recuse himself from the fight in the first place. Equally bad that the California commission didn’t do something about it either. And just another area where I guess you just can’t expect a commission to do their job properly. Now California looks bad. Vierra and Cesar Gracie look bad. And the sport looks a little less legit than it did yesterday.
Commissions are responsible for a number of important functions in combat sports, and as more time goes on it sometimes seems like they’re getting worse and not better at these. Refs that blow calls or let fights carry on for too long aren’t reprimanded or retrained. Judges can make blatant scoring errors that result in the wrong person winning and be back in the same seat the next week. We also trust these people with the medical well being of our athletes. Why, when they can’t seem to get anything else right, should we assume they’re doing a good job here?
(pic by Kyle Terada for USA TODAY)