Chris Leben, a popular retired former pro MMA fighter, will make his Nevada debut as a judge Saturday on the UFC Fight Night card, sources told ESPN on Friday.
Leben, who fought in the UFC from 2005 to 2013, has been a pro referee and judge in California for the past four years. He had not been licensed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) until now.
Judging has been in the spotlight over the past week in MMA after a controversial result in the Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko 2 UFC title fight Saturday in Las Vegas. The bout ended in a split draw with Grasso retaining the belt.
Judge Mike Bell scored the fifth 10-8 for Grasso, though it didn't appear to be the type of dominant round that would have warranted such a score. NSAC executive director Jeff Mullen said on a training call Wednesday that he did not agree with Bell's score in that round. Had Bell scored it for Grasso 10-9, like many thought it should have been, Shevchenko would have won the fight and the title.
Some say that having former fighters work as judges could help solve scoring issues. Leben, 43, has been one of only a few fighters to make the transition to officiating after retirement. The Oregon native famously fought Anderson Silva in a UFC middleweight title eliminator in 2006, Silva's UFC debut.
UFC veteran Frank Trigg has also worked as a referee and judge in California over the past several years.