Colorado adopts open scoring for boxing and MMA bouts

Colorado is shaking up some of its rules for combat sports.

The Colorado State Boxing Commission (CSBC) voted Tuesday to adopt open scoring for boxing and MMA bouts, according to director Tony Cummings. Kansas is the only other state to have approved such a regulation.

Open scoring allows for everyone -- including the fighters, coaches and fans -- to know how the judges are assessing the fight in real time. After every round, the scores would be made public to anyone who wants to see them. Fighters would be able to know if they are winning or losing on the scorecards during the bout.

Open scoring is optional for promoters, Cummings said. A boxing or MMA event in Colorado does not need to use it, but open scoring would be available to the promoters if they want it.

Cummings said the idea is based on transparency in scoring. In professional combat sports, unlike many of the most popular sports in the world, the score isn't actually known to anyone until the end of the bout when the result is read. Cummings said he has been working with Kansas Athletic Commission boxing commissioner Adam Roorbach on how to implement open scoring logistically. Kansas has been doing it since February 2020.

"I've been around the industry for a long period of time from a coach's perspective, cornering fighters and stuff like that," Cummings said. "[The idea for open scoring] definitely comes from a transparency perspective. I think it applies real-time accountability. I should be answering those questions [about judging] in real time. I shouldn't be answering them two or three days later."

Open scoring is not currently part of the Unified Rules of MMA, which is overseen by the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC). But under the current system where states and provinces regulate combat sports with no national or international governance, any jurisdiction is able to implement the rules it wishes.

Also on Tuesday, the CSBC voted to require continuing education for commission referees, judges and other officials. The CSBC will mandate annual training for people in those roles, per Cummings.

Colorado has been active this year with regard to rule alterations. In July, the CSBC voted to adopt the ruleset of Asia's ONE Championship MMA promotion, which allows knees to a grounded opponent. Like open scoring, this would be optional for a promotion to use in Colorado. Otherwise, Cummings said Colorado uses the Unified Rules of MMA for events.

"I just look at it as doing something that's needed for the sports," Cumming said when asked about the state's changing regulations. "That's how I look at every rule and policy that we adopt. Does it benefit the fighters? And if it does -- from a safety perspective or transparency perspective -- we'll look at it. That's my opinion on it."

Colorado adopting ONE's ruleset as an option caused controversy. UFC vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner told reporters before his induction into the UFC Hall of Fame last month that the UFC would not be returning to Colorado due its recent decisions. Coincidentally, Colorado was the first state to host a UFC event back in 1993.

"I would tell the world that we're not going there," Ratner said of Colorado allowing a ruleset that included legally kneeing a grounded opponent in the head. "I would tell the governor that we would love to come to Colorado, but you have to have the right rules. So, I'm against that. There's no reason to have those [rules], I don't understand why they would do that."

Cummings said he could not speak to the UFC's views on the matter and he's solely focused on doing what he and the commission believes is best for Colorado and its athletes.

"I can only do what my commission wants me to do," Cummings said. "If that's their business decision, that's their business decision. I can't tell them what to do. We just move forward with our business. ... Some of these decisions might be unpopular. But my commission is investing in making this the best state to hold events."