Photo: James Law/GLORY Sports International

Last May at GLORY 41 in Den Bosch, Netherlands, GLORY reintroduced open scoring at an event for the first time since GLORY 9. And at GLORY 50 in Chicago, Ill. earlier this month, it returned to the U.S.

Open scoring allows the judges score cards to be revealed after each round as opposed to at the end of the fight. It can change the strategy for a fighter, who will be made aware if he is winning or losing, and also alter the viewing experience of a fan. The drama is basically eliminated as viewers are made privy to the scores each round, making for less excitement as the scores are read after a close fight.

“We wanted to test it out in Europe,” former GLORY CEO now chief development officer  Jon J. Franklin told MMA Plus after GLORY 41. “As you know, the rules and regulations for open scoring vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Right now the thought is that we will do it where we can. As some people pointed out, in every other sport you can see how you are doing. In baseball, basketball, football, everybody knows what the score is all the time. And you can adjust your strategy and your forward plan based on what the score is.”

Fast forward to GLORY 50, which took place on February 16, where both open scoring and the use of five judges were for approved for a U.S. event via the Illinois State Athletic Commission. GLORY has been using five judges for quite some time now, but only for fight cards outside the U.S. So it was a big surprise to hear ring announcer Tim Hughes read off five scores after the first fight that went the distance that evening.

However, if you attended the event at the UIC Pavilion in person, or were covering the event like MMA Plus, you had no knowledge of open scoring being used. And that’s because the ISCA would only allow it under the condition that the results would be shown on the broadcast only and not inside the arena.

Cory Schafer, the president of the ISKA, which regulates GLORY kickboxing events over seas, and in conjunction with State athletic commissions in the U.S., shed some light on how both were approved for GLORY 50, with limitations placed on open scoring.

“GLORY asked me to petition the Illinois State Athletic Commission in favor of open scoring and the use of five judges,” Schafer told MMA Plus. “They approved the use of five judges, and they approved limited open scoring where as the scores for each round would be provided to the television truck, and that could be broadcast to the television audience, but not to the live audiences or the officials in house.”

The executive officer of the ISAC, Nancy Illg, set the parameters on open scoring as follows: One person from GLORY’s production team sat at her ringside table and received the judges scores after each round, then communicated those to the television truck, which provided them to the broadcast.

Schafer, who provided the ISAC with five-judge score sheet, explained the reasoning behind that commission refusing to allow open scoring inside the arena, which is how it is done overseas.

“The biggest concern and the biggest perceived regulatory negative impact of open scoring is that it will affect the judges’ score,” he explained. “In other words, if you and I are judges and at the end of round one they announced that I scored a 10-9 for the black corner, and you scored a 10-9 for the white corner, all of a sudden I’m second guessing.”

Another byproduct of five judges is the increase in split decisions. If four judges rule in favor of one fighter, and the fifth rules in favor of the opposing fighter, it’s a split decision, which has been very odd to grasp for many fans and media.

As with any athletic commission in the U.S., certain rules, regulations and policy vary from state to state. So just because the Illinois commission approved open scoring and the use of five judges does not mean another commission will. Schafer said GLORY would be pitching open scoring and the use of five judges to other State commissions, starting with the California State Athletic Commission. GLORY is set to return stateside on March 31 with GLORY 52 taking place at The Pacific Room at Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, Calif.

But the use of open scoring won’t be happening at that event.

MMA Plus was informed by Andy Foster, the executive officer of the CSAC, via email that CSAC will not be approving the use of open scoring at GLORY 52. MMA Plus is still waiting on confirmation as to whether or not the use of five judges will be permitted at that event.

On the differences between certain events using open scoring and five judges and others not using them, Schafer told MMA Plus last year that “everything is always evaluated.” He also mentioned some concerns that he and GLORY would discuss in regards to inconsistencies between events.

“How important is it to do things exactly the same everywhere we are going to promote?” Schafter said last year after GLORY 41. “Because certain things will be accepted by the American commissions and certain things will not. I would also be interested in the fight teams perceptions as to the value of this. The ups or the downs. All of those things have to be considered.”

For the immediate future, though, many events will continue to be run differently, as GLORY’s next event, GLORY 51, which takes place on March 3 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, will be using open scoring and five judges, according to Schafer. So GLORY fighters and fans will have to continue to educate themselves on the differences and inconsistencies between events in the U.S. and overseas going forward.