UFC Judges: Complete Guide to Understanding Their Role

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is one of the most popular sports in the world. The company now brings in more than $1 billion per year. Its pay-per-view events now draw better ratings than professional boxing and wrestling.

UFC events are hotly debated subjects on social media as well. In particular, fans love to rage about close decisions. They like to blame judges when their favorite fighter or gambling prospect loses a tight finish.

However, many fans do not understand how UFC judging works. Read on for a comprehensive guide to UFC judges. Explore topics such as UFC judges scorecards and how MMA judges fulfill their duties.

How to Become a UFC Judge?

Before diving into UFC scorecards, it is important to understand how judges get their start. There is no shortage of qualified and quality judges in MMA. It is exciting for prospective judges to be so closely involved with a high-octane sport like UFC.

There is tight competition to get UFC judging opportunities. This means that only the best of the best are selected for the most visible UFC events.

It all starts with a formal training program. Many choose to sign up for instruction with the Association of Boxing and Combative Sports (ABC).

Each state commission has different requirements for certification. These requirements are going to guide your training path. Prospective judges also spend a lot of time getting live practice. It all starts with shadowing inspectors and judges.


Shadowing judges involves filling out scorecards that have no bearing on the fight’s result. Instead, they are used for practice and compared to the scorecards completed by experienced judges.

The goal is to make sure that these scorecards are consistent with top-notching judging. If the scorecards are on point, then you will get selected to judge official events.

Another way to get practical experience is to referee matches and spar at local MMA gyms. Here, you can get a close-up look without the influence of crowd noise and commentary.

Being a UFC judge means continuously staying at the top of your game. Continuing education and retraining are important to keep your credentials updated.

What Happens in UFC Fights?

A judge is responsible for scoring a UFC fight between two opponents. Scoring rules and guidelines may vary based on the MMA organization or state where the fight takes place.

In general, the UFC follows the guidelines set by the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts (URMMA). The UFC does not assign judges for an event. Instead, the state commission where the fight is taking place does.

Three judges are assigned to the fight. Each judge is responsible for their own scorecard.

At the end, all the scorecards are declared to the fighters. If all three judges reach the same conclusion, it is considered a unanimous decision. If one judge disagrees with the others, it is a split decision.

There is a potential for a draw if the judges cannot determine a winner. A majority decision draw occurs when one judge selects a winner while the other two judges cannot.

A split decision draw is another possible outcome. This is when one judge selects a winner, another judge selects his or her opponent, and the final judge is undecided.

How Do UFC Scorecards Work?

Each round is scored separately. The round’s winner receives 10 points.

The fighter on the losing side of the round receives between 7 to 9 points. This range depends on how close or one-sided the fight is.

A round score of 10-7 is uncommon. This indicates a level of dominance that usually results in a knockout (KO) or technical knockout (TKO).

A 10-8 round score occurs when one fighter dominates the entire round. They control the round while executing grabbling maneuvers or landing powerful blows.

A 10-9 round is a closer contest. This indicates that one fighter was the clear round winner, however, did not control the action for the entire round. The round loser may land some blows or engage in effective grappling.

Depending on the nature of the bout, the fight may have 3 or 5 rounds. Each round’s score is summed up at the end of the fight to determine the winner.

If a fighter wins all 3 rounds, he or she will have a total score of 30. A back-and-forth fight is naturally going to have a closer score with the potential for disagreements between the judges. The Mad Lab offers great fight breakdowns that explain judge’s scoring and other interesting things that go down in UFC fighting.

What Is the UFC Judging Criteria?

The scoring system for the UFC is subjective based on the judge’s perception of the fight. There are three categories they look for when determining the round scoring.

A fighter’s aggression is one thing the judges are looking for. Control of the cage is another factor under consideration.

Lastly, MMA judges are looking for fighters to land effective strikes or successfully grapple with their opponent. For example, landing punches or knees is going to influence a judge’s view.

Inflicting damage is part of the calculation for effective strikes. Like boxing, drawing blood via an effective strike will sway the judges.

Also considered is the volume of strikes landed. Judges may also consider how many strikes are landed compared to the number thrown.

Taking down an opponent is also important. Multiple takedowns are indicative of cage control and effective grappling.

However, a fighter on top of their opponent for a long time does not necessarily mean they are winning. Defensive grappling is also considered and negating an opponent’s attempts at submission weighs on the judges as well.

Your Guide to UFC Judges and Their Responsibilities

You now have a basic understanding of what goes into the UFC judging process. UFC fights are fast-paced and feature complicated grappling moves.

It takes an experienced professional to accurately judge a contest. Even then, there are disagreements amongst these professionals.

The good news is that the best judges are assigned to UFC fighting. They are thoroughly trained and have vast experience scoring fights. If you have any questions about UFC judges and their responsibilities, contact us today to learn more.

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