Doug Crosby has come under fire in recent weeks for scorecards he returned while judging fights in both Bellator and the UFC but now he’s responded for the first time.
The veteran official, who was the dissenting judge in the split decision handed down between Raufeon Stots and Danny Sabatello at Bellator 289, claims he can’t directly address scorecards handed down for any one particular fight. Crosby says athletic commissions have rules in place when it comes to judges and he won’t defy those rules to defend or explain any scorecard including the 50-45 decision he gave Sabatello.
The same goes for Crosby’s scorecard for the controversial decision between Paddy Pimblett and Jared Gordon at UFC 282, although he was joined by two more judges that night — Ron McCarthy and Chris Lee — who also returned the same 29-28 decision, although the three officials differed in rounds handed to each fighter.
“There is a system and protocols in place for officials to comment on fights that they have judged and I respect that,” Crosby said on Chael Sonnen’s You’re welcome podcast. “There’s a process in place for any fighter who’s interested in information about how their fight was judged. That information is based upon the officials using the scoring criteria and any fight, not just this past weekend, or any fighter is welcome to contact the administrators and ask them about that process.
“As far as commenting on particular fights right now or maybe ever, that is up to the discretion of the administrators. That’s not me trying to duck out of answering hard questions about judging fights but there is a process and I respect the process.”
Crosby’s 50-45 scorecard for Sabatello was the first time in the history of the scoring database where a losing fighter has swept all rounds from a judge.
In the Pimblett vs. Gordon fight, Crosby gave both rounds 1 and 2 to the Liverpool native with only round 3 going to his opponent, which matched the scorecard handed down by McCarthy as well.
While he couldn’t address anything in particular with either fight, Crosby detailed how the scoring criteria in mixed martial arts has evolved — the latest set of rule changes took place in 2017 — where effective offense from striking or grappling outweigh anything else that happens.
“Over the last 15 years when you talk the fighters, the overarching comment — and I’m not going to call it a complaint, I’ll call it a comment or a concern — is that effective grappling is not given enough weight in the scoring criteria,” Crosby stated. “Recently, I don’t know how recently, but the scoring criteria has been modified and updated so that effective striking and effective grappling are considered equal.
“If effective grappling is considered the equal of effective striking, and then you look at any of my scores through that newly grounded mental lens, the scores may become easier to understand. But that has to do with reaching and understanding the criteria and I don’t know who does that and who doesn’t.”
Crosby admitted that judges are asked to hand down a score between rounds with very little time to contemplate what just happened, especially in a sport like MMA where there are so many different techniques in both striking and grappling.
“You’ve got to assign a numerical value to what you just saw and on average you get about 15 seconds to turn that score in,” Crosby said. “If you write off about five of those seconds for the time it takes to write it, that leaves you about 10 seconds to make a decision about who won a round and who lost a round, in the most sophisticated, dynamic sport featuring the best athletes in the world.
“As a judge that’s what you are doing. I do everything I can to avail myself of whatever knowledge and insight I can get from the fighters, first and foremost, from the fighters.”
Crosby was also asked to respond to the recent change made by California Athletic Commission executive director Andy Foster after he made a new rule in his state that would prevent any judge from working an event on one night and then potentially flying cross country to work another event on the very next night.
That’s exactly what happened with Crosby after he worked the Bellator 289 card on Friday and then flew to Las Vegas to serve as a judge for UFC 282 just 24 hours later. As part of Foster’s new rule, judges can only work back-to-back nights in California if traveling no further than a nearby state like Nevada.
“I can’t comment on any resolution or decision by any administrators because I don’t know anything about that right now,” Crosby said. “Anyone who criticizes people for working, you can probably look into the data of people who criticize working class people and find some commonalities. One of the commonalities you will probably find is that the people making those criticisms are not members of the working class. Anyone involved in MMA who would criticize or complain about that, about doing what working class people do, has probably not been in the lobby of the hotel in a second tier city after at event at 2:45 in the morning after the restaurant in closed and since it’s a second tier city, there are no other restaurants. They’re sitting in the lobby of that hotel eating a power bar or a Slim Jim or whatever they found in their knapsack to eat, knowing that they’ve got to catch a 5 am shuttle to the airport. I know how that feels because I’m in that lobby, too.
“I traveled on those shuttles and I sat in those coach seats for the fighters and for the sport. You’d have to ask yourself, before you accept that as valid criticism, I would qualify the source of that criticism and say is this a working class person making that critique or is it a fabulously wealthy person making that critique? You’d have to assign a value to the criticism based upon the person doing the criticizing.”
While judging often comes under fire in combat sports, Crosby argues that officials have an impossibly tough job and constantly being bombarded with criticism will only make problems worse.
That’s why he says he largely tunes out responses to his scorecards while letting his overall resume speak for itself.
“If you want good judges and good judging, they cannot fear the lurking shadow of millionaire pundits when it comes to the decisions they make,” Crosby said. “They can’t fear the lurking shadow of members of the media and I have great respect for genuine members of the MMA media. They think I’m some hostile boogeyman but we’re not supposed to talk to the press and any reporter who comes up to me at a show and wants to just talk about judging philosophy or any of the things that people should take into account, any one [can come talk to me].
“A lot of the people in the MMA media already have a preconceived notion and they’re only going to take out of whatever you tell them confirms that bias. That’s called confirmation bias. That’s an old trick and it works too often.”
It’s unclear who Crosby was addressing when mentioning “millionaire pundits” but that was a common them in his retort while offering to speak to anybody privately about his approach towards judging fights.
“Any member of the MMA media can come up and talk to me,” Crosby said. “I have great respect for a lot of those guys, the ones who do the work and have their boots on the ground … can ask me anything at any time.
“The millionaires who second guess everybody and snipe from their mansions, not so much. But this is the world we live in.”