Update July 22, 2021 – Today Colorado’s Office of Combative Sports replied to my open records request. They confirm that One Championship rules have been approved in the State which indeed clear the way for the promoter to hold an event with knees to a grounded opponent.
Below is the full reply of the commission’s Executive Director –
In response to your questions:
1. On June 25, 2021, the Director of the Colorado Combative Sports Commission completed a rule review on the One Championship Cageside rules.
Per Commission rule 1.4, a Director Recognized Sanctioning Organization is defined as “A nationally, internationally, regionally, state or tribal organization approved by the Director that may rank participants within each weight class or sanctions and approves contests or bouts in those weight classes.”
After review, the Director granted One Championships request to become a Director Recognized Sanctioning Organization under Rule 1.4. However, the Director determined that One would need to file the appropriate permits with the Commission before conducting any events.
2. The Director approved the Cageside One Championship Global Ruleset.
One Championship, an established MMA promotion in Asia, has long been rumoured to be trying to break into the US market.
The promotion operates with a ruleset largely familiar to North American MMA fans with several but one particularly notable rule difference. The promotion, which self regulates events in Asia, allows knees to the head of a grounded opponent. This is not allowed under MMA’s unified rules.
A barrier One Championship needs to navigate in North America is to either adopt their promotion to the local ruleset (which can vary a bit from jurisdiction to jurisdiction) or to find a jurisdiction that is ok with their own unique rules. Enter Colorado.
While I am still waiting formal confirmation of this via an open records request, it is rumored that The Colorado Office of Combative Sports has recently cleared the way for One Championship to promote bouts in the State using their own ruleset. How can this occur? Just as rules vary from State to State and Province to Province so does the legal landscape at play designating what is and is not permitted,
In May, 2021 Colorado adopted a new set of Combative Sports rules. For mixed martial arts these rules default to the ABC’s Unified Rules. However under section 1.4(H)(2) of these rules the Commission enjoys the ability to designate a ‘recognized sanctioning organization‘ and allow that organization to implement their own unique rules for combative sports events.
The full section reads as follows
Combative sports events, contests or bouts not sanctioned by an organization recognized
as a National Olympic Committee by the International Olympic Committee must submit
the organization’s by-laws and rules for review by the Director. If approved by the
Director, the organization will be deemed a Director Approved Sanctioning Organization
and may apply for a permit. A Director Recognized Sanctioning Organization does not
meet the definition of tough-person fighting under section 12-110-104(16)(a), C.R.S. It is
the responsibility of the organization to notify the Director of any changes to the
organization’s rules and re-submit them for the Director’s review 30 days prior to any
permitted event, contest or bout.
This section gives broad rule review powers to the Commission and is flexible enough to approve something like One Championship’s desired ruleset. Colorado is one of the more progressive jurisdictions that allows Muay Thai bouts to proceed with traditional rules such as the 12-6 elbow which is prohibited by many North American jurisdictions. Allowing One Championships rules would not be far off from such a precedent.
Although I cannot confirm this as of yet it does appear One Championship is coming to Colorado and with the promotion will come their full ruleset as well. I will update this story as more details come to light.