Mixed Martial Arts- An Introduction Part 2

Danial & Musawirmixed martial arts (MMA)0 Comments


Rules and Reputations of MMA:

The most prevalent rule’s set in the world is “Unified rules of Mixed Martial Arts” because it is adopted by all United States athletics commissions. These commissions regulate MMA and most importantly this rule set is followed by world largest MMA promotion called “Ultimate Fight Championship (UFC)”. Moreover there are other notable promotions which follow united rules of MMA.

Why are rules and regulations required in MMA?

Well there are obvious reasons for setting rules in MMA. First thing to understand that MMA is just a sport; it is not fight till death stuff that you see in movies like “Gladiators”. The main goal of MMA just like any other sport is to provide pure competition and entertainment to participants as well as fans. MMA is not there to find out who is the best killer and neither is it a quest survival for slaves in a Roman empire. It is just a combat sport that focuses on providing a competition between the best fighters of the world just like other sports. In order to have sports which provide pure competition as well as safety to watch and pursue, certain rules and regulations have been fixed so that the competitors and fans are truly able to enjoy the sport.

How all this started?

If we go back in 20th century we find R12 television sport show called “Meras DI RInge” where a term “Vale Tudo” was used and took the world by storm in 1959-1690. If we go back further we find out that this term was used in Brazilian circus during 1920s and example of such bouts were described in “Japanese American Courier”.

“Vale Tudo” was actually the Mixed Martial Arts of 20th century. It was a full contact combat sport and involved various martial art styles like Boxing, Muay Thai, Catch Wrestling, Sambo, Judo etc. it is considered as the precursor of MMA.

“Vale Tudo” has certain rules and once in 1990s it evolved into MMA the experts found that very few amendments were required because most of the rules were already there. This was the time when the Gracie family funded the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993. However as the sport evolved the rules and regulations also evolved. And this evolution will be discussed here.

Evolution of MMA rules

With the creation of Vale Tudo it all started and then Gracie family officially introduced in tin USA in 1990s. As the sport continued to grow its knowledge its techniques its fan-based spread and rules evolved.

With the increase in the knowledge BJJ, Sambo and Taekwondo the knowledge of submission control and submission hold increased vastly and rapidly. As more fighters become well-versed in submission defense and submission offence it was felt by certain experts that weight difference was creating problems for bigger guys in avoiding submission. This idea led to emergence of different weights classes in MMA in UFC. We have eight different weight classes as far as male competition is concerned. We have often seen the professional wrestlers, the WWE superstars, especially Roman Reign using a lot of head butt to get rid of his opponent’s hold. Come into the world of MMA with head butts and you will be disqualified immediately. Head butt was prohibited because it was very dangerous for the health and safety of fighters. Moreover head butt can quickly turn the match into bloody mess.

  UFC 200

In MMA initially there was protection for fighters head and there were rules for gloves. These lead many fighters breaking their fists while punching their opponent. As a result gloves were introduced and later they were modifies to small open finger gloves called as bare-knuckles. In order to protect fists from punches and allow effective grappling, however there are still many recent examples where fighter broke their hands while punching. Daniel Cormier broke his hand during striking Ground Prix heavy weight finale against Josh Barnett and fought the whole time with broken hand.

In the early going MMA had no time limit. The early way to end a match was to knock out your opponent by beating him unconscious or choke him out by using your submission techniques. It is important to mention that this was the time when MMA was not officially introduced to the world. This made MMA boring to watch and complicated the airing the live MMA events. Because no one know the exact duration of the match and no one bothered to watch it. Therefore time limit was established for MMA matches to make the fight interesting and action-packed.

If you go back into the earlier days of MMA and you get to watch a match between BJJ fighter and a wrestler then don’t waste your time because it is going to be boxing because both of them are too good on the ground. One a t defense and the other at offence, It is going to be the most boring fight because the wrestler will be constant to take his opponent down and the rest are just avoiding submissions which the BJJ fighter will constantly successfully defend him against ground and pound and lock force submissions.

But he good news is that you can have such a fight and it will not be boring because of the stand-up rule which gives the referee the authority to stand the fighters up as soon as he realize that fighters are not engaging or creating enough action or not advancing toward the dominant position. This makes fighter realize that they have to constantly engage and d o the worth in order to create action and keep the fight going. Hence the match becomes pure-action packed and entertaining.

MMA rules at present:

As it has been mentioned before that there are many set of rules for MMA but the most commonly set of followed rule set is “Unifies rules of Mixed Martial Arts”. There are a lot of rules behind the unified rules of MMA but the most important event ever highlighted is on April 3, 2001 “The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board” held a meeting where many rules and regulations were proposed and agreed as well as many other parties and promotions.

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On July 30, 2009 at annual meeting of the boxing commission the order was passed unanimously to adopt the rules proposed by NJSACB as the unified rules of Mixed Martial Arts. One by one we are going to discuss the unified rules of MMA in this article.

  1. Time limit:

A MMA match is of 15 minutes or it lasts 25 minutes at maximum.

  1. Round:

MMA matches comprise of 5 minutes round in a 25 minutes match or there are 5 minutes round in 15 minutes match. There is one minute rest period between the match. Title fights are sanctioned for the 5 minutes round, 25 minutes.

Non-title fights are usually sanctioned for 5 minutes, 3 rounds. However special permission can be granted by regulatory body for 5 round non-title fight.

  1. Attire:

When a MMA warrior enters the cage he is approved short, short open finger gloves, mouth guard and protective cup(for men). Fighters are checked by regulatory body officials before entering the cage and Vaseline is applied to their faces. For women approved chest and leg protectors are must.

Nothing else is allowed inside the cage.

  1. Judging/Scoring criteria:

The ten-point system is used for all fights. The winner of one round gets 10 points while the loser gets 9 points in that round. If a round goes completely one-sided then the winner gets 10 points while the loser’s points may drop to even 8 or 7. However the least number of points a fighter gets is 7.

Sometimes in case of an illegal action from the fighter the referee may deduct one or two marks from each judge’s score. These are called penalty points. This is how each round is scored and eventually these results are compiled to get the final decision by the judge. There are 3 judges usually for scoring a fight.


Following situations and results are when a fight goes to judge’s decision:-

  • Unanimous decision win- All three judges announce the same winner
  • Unanimous draw- All the three judges score it even for both fighters.
  • Majority decision win- Two judges have the same winner while the third one scores a draw.
  • Majority draw- Two judges score it a draw while the third one has a winner
  • Split decision win- Two judges have the same winner while the third one has the other.
  • Split draw- Two judges have different winner while the third one has a draw.
  1. Weight Classes:
  • Super heavy weight- No upper weight limit
  • Heavy weight- From 205lb to 265lb
  • Lower heavy weight- From 185lb to 205lb
  • Middle weight- From 170lb to 185lb
  • Welter weight- From 155lb to 170lb
  • Lighter weight- From 145lb to 155lb
  • Feather weight- From 135lb to 145lb
  • Bantam weight- From 125lb to 135lb
  • Fly weight- From 115lb to 125lb

For Winners:

  • Bantam weight- From 125lb to 135lb
  • Fly weight- From 115lb to 125lb
  • Straw weight- up to 115lb
  1. Fouls/illegal offense:
  • Grabbing the fence
  • Head-butting
  • Hair-pulling
  • Grabbing opponent’s short
  • Biting or spitting at opponent
  • Fish hooking- inserting a finger into the mouth or nostrils of a person and pulling away or tearing the surrounding tissue apart. It may use permanent facial damage.
  • Eye-pokes
  • Downward elbow strikes- Twelve to six elbow strikes
  • Small joint manipulation- twisting, pulling or bending fingers or toes to break or dislocate the joints
  • Strikes to the back of the head or spine
  • Hard kicks to kidney
  • Threat strikes
  • Clawing, pinching, twisting the flesh
  • Soccer kicks- kicking the head of grounded opponent
  • Striking the head of an opponent with a Knee
  • Use of abusive language
  • Attacking on opponent during a break
  • Attacking on opponent when it is under the care of referee
  • Throwing an opponent out of the cage or ring
  • Disregard of referee’s instructions
  • Dropping an opponent in such a way that his head or neck or leg breaks
  • Attacking an opponent after the bell has sounded
  1. Penalties for fouls:
  • Deduction of one or maximum two points from each judge’s score
  • The fighter who commits a foul can be disqualified in case of committing very serious foul again and again
  • If the foul is intentional then the fight ends in “NO CONTEST”
  • If the injured fighter is ahead on the score card and is unable to continue after the injury due to foul he gets a technical decision win.
  • If the injured fighter is not ahead in the score card and is unable to continue after the injury due to foul, the fights ends in a technical draw
  1. Match outcome:
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Match may end via:

  • Knockout- When a fighter gets unconscious due to effect of the strike.
  • Technical knockout- if a referee or a ring side doctor or a fighter’s corner decides that it is not safe for a fighter to continue a fight and stops a fight. It is called a technical knockout for the opponent.
  • Submission- if a fighter taps the mat or his opponent or submits verbally, the referee stops the fight and the opponent is declared winner by submission. If a fighter does not tap or submit but falls unconsciously or is about to get a severe injury the referee stops the fight and declare the opponent winner by technical submission.
  • Judges Decision- When a fight goes the distance the judges declare the winner by judging criteria that has already been mentioned.
  • Disqualification- When a fighter commits an intentional foul causing serious damage to his opponent he is disqualified usually in the opponent’s victory
  • Forfeit- surrounding due to reasons besides injury, resulting in the opponent’s victory.
  • No contest- when a fighter suffers an injury due to unintentional illegal strike and there is not a sufficient number of rounds to be judged or the injured fighter is not ahead on the cards or both fighters are unable to complete or a fighter tests positive for banned substances after the fight. The fight results in a “NO CONTEST”


This piece of writing is part two of the series “Mixed Martial Arts- An introduction” which discusses the introduction and origin of MMA rules and evaluation of MMA rules.

In part 3 of the series we shall discuss the medical requirement and prohibited substances in MMA. In later portion of part three we shall take a look at UFC and its role in the rise of MMA

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