Ricardo Almeida is set to make his UFC debut on Saturday -- as a judge. The UFC veteran trained to be an MMA judge after retiring a year ago. With the UFC headed to his home state of New Jersey for UFC on Fox 3, Almeida is getting his first shot at judging from Octagon-side.
Almeida told ESPN that he expects to be nervous for the fights.
"It will be pretty intense, but I will be on my toes with this UFC event, because I know all eyes are going to be on me," Almeida said. "Yeah, I'm going to be nervous. It'll be like I'm walking into a fight myself. But the spotlight only makes me want to be sharper and do a better job."
He made the decision to join the judges' ranks after ending his career on a controversial decision. With a BJJ background and 18 MMA bouts on his resume, Almeida brings a different perspective to MMA judging.
MMA is full of judging controversies, as fans, media and promoters often see a different result than the people charged with calling the winner of a fight. Most recently, Carlos Condit's win over Nick Diaz was called into question. Almeida hopes to help with that problem.
"There is always going to be controversy, but the more we can get guys who understand what's going on inside the Octagon, the results are going to be a little more consistent," Almeida said.
The lack of enough quality judges to keep up with the sport's growth is one of the biggest issues facing the sport. The problem is that MMA, in the form it exists today, has not been around for generations. In other sports, officials and judges have been involved with the sport since childhood, and have done their job at lower levels before moving up to officiate the pros.
In MMA, the judges quite often come from other disciplines. Though they have learned MMA, it's not the same as having it ingrained in your mind for most of your life, or even having a pro career for 11 years, as Almeida did.
Almeida's jump to the judges table is a good start for MMA. As more fighters retire from the sport, hopefully they'll follow his lead.