The Legal Framework For Dustin Poirier’s UFC 211 No Contest Appeal

After being struck by illegal knees to the head at UFC 211 Dustin Poirier was unable to continue and his bout with Eddie Alvarez was ruled a no-contest by referee Herb Dean.

Dean declared that the knees, while illegal, where not intentional fouls, leading to the no-contest decision.

Poirer has now stated his intention to appeal hoping to overturn the result to a victory by way of disqualification.

Here are some legal points worth noting in this appeal.

While people often think of the so-called unified rules of MMA after controversy arises, when legal scrutiny of a bout occurs these are of zero value.  Instead, the parties must turn to the actual laws and regulations on the books of the jurisdiction where the bout took place.  For UFC 211, this brings us to the Lone Star State.

Texas’ laws provide appellate rights including allowing the final decision of the commission to be scrutinized by judicial review.

Section 61.111 of Texas’ Administrative Rules of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation set out the actual rules of the contest.

Kneeing to the head of a grounded opponent” is prohibited but the question then is what remedies are available when this foul occurs?

Section 61.41(e) states “If a contestant is accidentally fouled, including a head butt but can continue, the referee may stop the bout for a reasonable time, and inform the judges and the contestant’s second of the accidental injury.

Section 61.41(n), which presumably was drafted with boxing in mind but applies to MMA bouts, imposes the following duty on a referee where an accidental foul is deemed –

If during the first four rounds a contestant is accidentally injured, and is unable to continue, or is pushed, knocked or falls out of the ring, and is injured by the fall and unable to return, the referee shall declare the bout a no decision. If such injury occurs during later rounds, all completed rounds and the partial round in which the bout is terminated shall be scored and the contestant ahead on points shall be declared the winner by technical decision.

Section 61.111(s) gives a referee discretion to disqualify an opponent or deduct points following a foul.

Appeals based on referee discretion are hard pressed to succeed.  Dean chose not to disqualify Alvarez and that is his right.

Section 61.111(t) only allows the following results for MMA contests –

(t) The determination of the winner shall be as follows:

(1) by submission, either verbally or by tapping two or more times on the mat, ropes, ring corner or the opponents body;

(2) by knockout;

(3) by being down on the map for a ten count;

(4) by the referee disqualifying a contestant through a technical knockout;

(5) by the referee stopping a match based upon a ring physician’s advice;

(6) by a contestant’s corner stopping the bout;

(7) by the referee disqualifying a contestant for a violation of these rules; or

(8) by the judges decision based upon technique and aggressiveness minus the number of penalties.

Yes, that’s a 10 count you see there!  Leaving this relic aside, the framework exists to justify the end of this contest.

Since Dean did not disqualify Alvarez under subsection (7) the only justification for the end of the bout will be subsection (5) ie – a doctor’s stoppage.  From here we default back to  section 61.41(n) which requires a “no-decision” result.

Unless Dean is prepared to fall on his sword and say he was wrong in calling the knees unintentional, or unless the commission is prepared to say that such a use of discretion is clearly wrong, Poirer will be hard pressed to succeed on this appeal.

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