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UFC sees improvement in data from AI-inspired gloves after four events

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The UFC is seeing positive results from a pilot program that uses glove sensors to interpret real-time data from fights in the octagon.

UFC representative Amber Bowen today told the Nevada State Athletic Commission that the sensors’ accuracy has improved in key areas. She said fighters have been “extremely cooperative” during the process. They’ve also asked to see the data from their fights.

So far, the promotion has found that the sensors have improved accuracy in three areas: punch detection (6 percent), punch type application (17 percent), and whether a punch landed or missed (7 percent). But it hopes to gather more data before making any big conclusions.

“We want to be able to make it so everybody understands,” UFC vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner said. “It’s going to take time. But it’s going to be big for the sport.”

The NSAC approved the program last December after the UFC pitched it as a way to potentially improve fighter safety, including concussion protocols and training methods. It was first employed at UFC 219.

Ultimately, the promotion seeks to display more accurate stats during fight broadcasts, using analytics and artificial intelligence to interpret the data that’s gathered by the glove sensors.

The promotion’s goal is not to overwhelm viewers with statistics, Ratner said, but provide a clearer picture of what’s happening during a fight.

So far, the gloves have been used in four events, though data has only been officially recorded for two of them because the UFC needs to verify all of the measurements against video footage of fights, Bowen said.

As long as the additional information doesn’t sow confusion, the NSAC is on board. Commission chair Anthony Marnell expressed his disdain for other stat providers such as CompuBox, which he said gave “grossly inaccurate” information that was “misrepresenting how the fight would actually be scored.”

“It’s kind of like baseball,” Marnell said. “They measure the ball going out … and the velocity, and it’s interesting if the outfielder runs a perfect route. But it doesn’t change the score of the game. Whereas this information, I think would be highly controversial if it’s represented incorrectly.”

Bowen said the promotion would get commissioners acquainted with the data collection process the next time the sensors are used in Nevada, which will be at UFC 226 on July 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

As for fighters getting stats from their AI-inspired gloves, Bowen said they’re holding off until they can make sure they’re getting the most accurate information.

“We are more than willing to share with them, but right now it’s a matter of getting the algorithm set so we’re obtaining accurate data,” she said.

For more info on UFC 226, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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