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The Case for Replay in MMA

03_ufx7_Alcantara_Nobre_05MMA prides itself on being a fast-paced and dynamic sport that provides the possibility of exciting finishes no matter where the bout lands. While this is often the case, the sport also tries to protect fighter safety with the sport’s referees entrusted with this duty.

For the most part, the referees usually succeed in this goal but the times they make mistakes are amplified ten fold with viewers being privy to replays after the fact. Some commissions, like New Jersey, have instituted the use of instant replay in the case of these questionable fouls or tough situations but the practice is not universal. MMAFrenzy takes a look at the UFC on FX 7 situation and the history and future of replay in MMA.

If you watched the UFC on FX 7 preliminaries, you were no doubt privy to one of the more frustrating situations you will see in MMA. Yuri Alcantara was in the middle of a dominant display against late replacement Pedro Nobre when referee Dan Miraglotta warned Alcantara for punches to the back of the head and then suddenly stopped the bout after Alcantara threw three more strikes that Miraglotta perceived to be illegal. Only it turns out that the strikes were legal, and had Miraglotta had the benefit of replay he would have been to rule the bout a victory for Alcantara.

Replay has been effective in states like New Jersey and I talked to Nick Lembo from the New Jersey Athletic Control Board about that very subject. New Jersey was the first state to use replay in MMA at a 2008 amateur bout, put on by New Breed Fighters, involving a missed tap by an official. Lembo was called to review the issue via a ringside monitor and was able to find the missed tap, and overturned the previous decision.

With the process being that simple, what exactly is the issue with establishing replay? Lembo stated that it really comes down to a few things like venues and cost, “with the bigger venues you have to deal the higher costs of union labor and at the smaller events there’s the issue of filming the fights.” There is also the issue of officially adding replay to the commission rules. In order to make an official addition to a state’s regulations you have to follow the same procedures you would to write a new state law involving multiple meetings and votes by the respective state’s legislature before the motion can be a part of the state code.

The problem with this is that states often have more pressing issues to deal with, something Lembo understands, “We [combat sports fans] love combat sports and want things done, but the Governor and Attorney General have other things to deal with,” he continued, “so it may sit on the desk until it’s too late to pass [that year].”

Replay is not something that is expressly forbidden by athletic commissions, so rather than changing the regulation itself, it is sometime better to appeal to the commission for the use of replay. While some traditionalists may fear replay slowing down fights, Lembo counters that argument by saying you can limit the use of replay much like the state of Nevada does. The Nevada State Athletic Commission allows for the use of replay only when the incident directly affects the end of the bout, something Lembo fully endorses.

Ultimately, it is up to the officials to try their best to get the call right in the cage as the action happens. Replay would not be able to prevent all bad calls in MMA, however it is certainly a useful tool that needs to be pushed for in order to prevent mistakes like what happened in the Alcantara fight from happening in the future. One group that needs to push for replay, is the UFC itself. The UFC is the leading brand in combat sports and if the company were to lobby commissions for replay it could help the progress of replay use in MMA. Until then, only a select few states will have the ability to correct bad calls.


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