How Dis-Unified Are the “Unified” Rules of MMA?

In short, very.

Many fans understand that MMA is a patchwork of regulation. Some rules here, different rules there. These can vary from State to State, Tribal jurisdiction to Tribal jurisdiction, Province to Province and in one jurisdiction City to City.

The Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (the “ABC”) is a loose, influential but largely powerless organization of many commissions whose goals include the improved governance of the sports they regulate including mixed martial arts. Bringing consistency to the sport is one goal that is unfortunately struggling to be met. Despite publishing voted on ‘unified’ rules of MMA not all commissions adopt these. Some adopt them wholly, others partially, others not at all.

This past weekend I was watching footage from a presentation by the MMA Rules and Regulations Committee from the ABC’s last annual conference (yes, I know how to have a good time on a Saturday night!) and the extent of the current dis-unification was starkly highlighted. The Committee attempted the steer members to more consistent regulation. There is always room for disagreement but little more needs to be said to highlight just how dysfunctional things are than the simple fact that when the rules committee sought to learn the latest rules in preparation for the conference multiple members “did not respond to multiple attempts at communication“. So not just a ‘we don’t like your proposed rule changes and here’s why‘ but ‘we won’t even tell you our rules‘. That is black mark on the sport.

So how disunified are the current rules of MMA? The rules committee published the below chart. Please note this data is not current and some changes have been made (not all in the direction of more consistency) since this was published. What is clear though, is presently the unified rules are anything but and with fractioning between many ABC members there likely will not be uniformity in the sport any time soon.

I have some insight into why there is splintering among current ABC members. Some reasons are more valid than others as are some criticisms. Airing dirty laundry, however, is of little value. What can only be encouraged and hoped for is that regulators remember their reason for existing which is improving the integrity of the dangerous sports they oversee. Differences must be overcome, even it is a long and difficult process to do so, to get the sport on the same page across jurisdictional lines.


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