ABC Overhauls “Grounded” Fighter Definition in Hopes to Re-Unify Rule

The definition of a grounded fighter in MMA is important as knees and kicks to the head of such an opponent are prohibited.  In 2016 the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (the “ABC”) softened the rule with the belief that some fighters were gaming the system by changing from standing to grounded by simply placing a finger on the canvass.

The 2016 change was not unanimously agreed to and led to significant fragmentation of the rules in place across North American jurisdictions.   Fighter safety was the primary reason behind jurisdictions that did not adopt the new rule as they were hesitant to expand the circumstances in which fighters could absorb head trauma.

With a view to re-unifying the rule this year’s ABC annual conference saw a unanimous vote passing 42-0 to overhaul the definition yet again.  As first reported by Jason Floyd the ABC adopted the following definition

The illegal action of kicking or kneeing the head of a grounded opponent: A grounded fighter is defined as: Any part of the body, other than the soles of the feet (excluding fingers) touching the fighting area floor. A fighter will be considered grounded if the palm or closed fist of one hand, and/or any other body part, is touching the fighting area floor.

The hope is that all jurisdictions will adopt this definition by July 1, 2020.  Floyd reports that the adoption of the new rule is conditional on the following terms:

After all commissions have made the changes to become unified, and have provided written verification of compliance to the ABC Board of Directors, the new unified rules will become effective by July 1, 2020. In addition, this rule modification is contingent on all commissions returning to the ABC and being present on the process. The end goal for this rule change per the ABC is to have the sport have a unified rule set in all states and tribal commissions to help the fighters have a single rule set.

Regardless of what the ABC wishes each jurisdiction will make a stand alone decision about whether to adopt the rule or not with widely varying timelines.  This new language appears to be a sensible compromise and hopefully can indeed reunify the splintered landscape.


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