At this year’s Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports annual conference changes to the unified rules of MMA were agreed to, namely up to 5 minutes of recovery time after eye pokes and clarity on the kind of joint coverings that can be used.
The ABC has now published the updated version of their unified rules incorporating these changes. The rules now read as follows:
Note: These are the Official Unified Rules of MMA. Any other form of these rules may not be
called the “Unified Rules of MMA” and shall be referred to by the name of the commission
sanctioning the/an event.
- Each round shall consist of a five (5) minute duration (professional), with a one (1) minute rest
period between rounds.
a. No contests shall exceed five (5) rounds and/or twenty-five (25) minutes.
b. Bouts may consist of one (1), two (2), three (3), four (4), or five (5) rounds, with a five
(5) minute duration.
c. No contestant shall exceed competing more than five (5) rounds and/or twenty-five
(25) minutes of fighting in a twenty-four (24) hour period.
- The referee is the sole arbiter of a bout and is the only individual authorized to stop a contest.
This shall not preclude a video or other review of a decision under the procedure of the
applicable regulatory authority if a protest is filed claiming a clear rule violation.
a. The authority of a referee begins when the inspector(s) exit the cage/ring and does
not end until the inspector(s) re-enter the cage/ring, upon conclusion of the fight.
- Instant replay may be used to review a “Fight Ending Sequence” and shall only be used after a
fight has been officially stopped. Once instant replay has been used to review a fight ending
sequence, the fight shall not be resumed.
- All fighters are required to wear a mouthpiece during competition. The round cannot begin
without the mouthpiece. If the mouthpiece is dislodged during competition, the referee will call
time and have the mouthpiece replaced at the first opportune moment, without interfering with
the immediate action. Points may be deducted by the referee if he/she feels the mouthpiece is
being purposefully spit out.
- If an MMA bout is being conducted in a ring and is a fighter is knocked out of the ring, the fighter
must return to the ring unassisted by spectators or his/her seconds. If assisted by anyone, the
fighter may lose points or be disqualified with such a decision being within the sole discretion of
the referee. Once knocked from the ring, the competitor will have five (5) minutes to return to
fighting surface, similar to an accidental foul, but shall be examined by the ringside physician
before returning to action.
- The reapplication of petroleum jelly or another similar substance, to the face, may be allowed
between rounds and shall only be applied by an approved cutman or licensed cornerman.
7.. Hand Wraps.
a. A maximum of one roll (no more than 2” wide by 15 yards in length) of white, soft, cloth
gauze is permitted per hand. The gauze may not exceed the wrist of the competitor’s glove.
The exposed thumb is an option to be protected.
b. A maximum of one roll (no more than 1.25” wide by 10’ in length) of white athletic tape is
permitted per hand. The tape may not exceed the wrist of the competitor’s gloves. Tape may
be placed through the fingers but may not cover the knuckles. The exposed thumb is an option
to be protected.
c. A single layer of elastic or flex-type tape is allowed to be applied over the completed wrap.
d. Approved tape/gauze of all brands may be allowed.
- Joint/Body Coverings.
a. Other than the competitor’s hands (as previously listed), there will be no taping, covering or
protective gear of any kind on the upper body. This includes but is not limited to: joint sleeves,
padding, any form of brace or body gauze/tape.
b. A competitor may use soft neoprene type sleeves to cover only the knee or ankle joints.
Approved sleeves may not have: padding, Velcro, plastic, metal, ties or any other material
considered to be unsafe or that may create an unfair advantage. Tape and gauze or any
materials other than the approved sleeves are not permitted on the lower body.
The sleeves must be Black in color, with the exception of matching the athletes
Commission assigned corner with sleeves being Red or Blue in color as appropriate.
- Cage/Ring Attire.
a. All mixed martial artists will be required to wear such protective gear as deemed necessary
by the Commission.
b. Male contestants shall not wear any form of clothing on their upper body.
c. Male and female mixed martial artists shall wear the appropriate trunks, mouthpiece, and
gloves. Male mixed martial artists shall also wear the appropriate groin protection.
d. Female mixed martial artists shall wear a short sleeved (above the elbow) or sleeveless
form fitting rash guard and/or sports bra(s). No loose-fitting tops and/or breast protectors shall
be allowed. Female competitors will follow the same requirements for bottom covering as the
male competitors, minus the requirement for groin protection.
e. The hem of the trunks may not extend below the knee.
f. Fighting shorts/trunks shall not have exposed Velcro, pockets, or zippers.
g. Mixed martial artists in the same match, contest, or exhibition may wear different color
trunks or be designated by glove taping and/or glove coloring to the corner they are assigned.
h. Mixed martial artists shall not wear shoes in the cage or ring.
i. When deemed necessary by the referee all mixed martial artists shall have their hair secured
in a manner that does not interfere with the vision and safety of either contestant.
i. No object can be worn to secure the contestant’s hair which may cause injury to either
j. The wearing of jewelry will be strictly prohibited during all contests.
k. Wearing body cosmetics shall be prohibited during all contests. Wearing facial cosmetics
shall be at the discretion of the commission and/or referee.
- Butting with the head;
a. The head may not be used as a striking instrument in any fashion. Any use of the head as a
striking instrument whether head to head, head to body or otherwise is illegal.
- Eye gouging of any kind;
a. Eye gouging by means of fingers, chin, or elbow is illegal. Legal strikes or punches that
contact the fighter’s eye socket are not eye gouging and shall be considered legal attacks.
- Biting or spitting at an opponent;
a. Biting in any form is illegal. A fighter must recognize that a referee may not be able to
physically observe some actions and must make the referee aware if they are being bit during
an exhibition of unarmed combat.
- Fish Hooking;
a. Any attempt by a fighter to use their fingers in a manner that attacks their opponent’s mouth,
nose or ears, stretching the skin to that area will be considered “Fish hooking”. Fish hooking
generally is the placing of fingers into the mouth or your opponent and pulling your hands in
opposing directions while holding onto the skin of your opponent.
- Hair pulling;
a. Pulling of the hair in any fashion is an illegal action. A fighter may not grab a hold of his
opponent’s hair to control their opponent in any way. If a fighter has long hair, they may not
use their hair as a tool for holding or choking in any fashion.
- Spiking the opponent to the canvas onto the head or neck (pile-driving);
a. Any throw with an arc to its motion is to be considered a legal throw. It does not matter if the
opponents head hits the canvas. A pile driver is considered to be any throw where you control
your opponent’s body placing their feet up in the air with their head straight down and then
forcibly drives the opponents head into the canvas or flooring material. It should be noted when
a fighter is placed into a submission hold by their opponent, if that fighter is capable of
elevating their opponent, they may bring that opponent down in any fashion they desire
because they are not in control of their opponent’s body. The fighter who is attempting the
submission can either adjust their position or let go of their hold before being slammed to the
- Strikes to the spine or the back of the head;
a. The back of the head starts at the Crown of the head with a one (1) inch variance to either
side, running down the back of the head to the occipital junction.
b. This area stretches out at the occipital junction (nape of the neck) to cover the entire width
of the neck. It then travels down the spine with a one (1) inch variance from the spine’s
centerline, including the tailbone.
- Throat strikes of any kind and/or grabbing the trachea;
a. No directed throat strikes are allowed. A directed attack would include a fighter pulling his
opponents head in a way to open the neck area for a striking attack. A fighter may not gouge
their fingers or thumb into their opponent’s neck or trachea in an attempt to submit their
opponent. If during stand-up action of a fight a strike is thrown and the strike lands in the throat
area of the fighter, this shall be viewed as a clean and legal blow.
- Fingers outstretched toward an opponent’s face/eyes;
a. In the standing position, a fighter that moves their arm(s) toward their opponent with an open
hand, fingers pointing at the opponent’s face/eyes, will be a foul. Referees are to prevent this
dangerous behavior by communicating clearly to fighters. Fighters are directed to close their fists
or point their fingers straight up in the air when reaching toward their opponent.
- Downward pointing elbow strike (12 to 6);
a. The use of a linear “straight up straight down” elbow strike is prohibited. Any variation of this
straight up and down linear elbow strike makes the strike legal. Any arc, or any angle change
from straight up to straight down makes the strike legal. Any variation of position does not alter
the legality of the strike.
- Groin attacks of any kind;
a. Any attack to the groin area including, striking, grabbing, pinching or twisting is illegal. It
should be clear that groin attacks are the same for men and women.
- Kneeing and/or Kicking the head of a grounded opponent;
a. A grounded fighter is defined as: Any part of the body, other sole of the feet touching the
fighting area floor. To be grounded, the palm of one hand (a flat palm) must be down, and/or
any other body part must be touching the fighting area floor. A single knee, arm, (not fingers)
makes the fighter grounded without having to have any other body part in touch with the
fighting area floor. At this time, kicks or knees to the head will not be allowed.
- Stomping of a grounded fighter;
a. Stomping is considered any type of striking action with the feet where the fighter lifts their
leg up bending their leg at the knee and initiating a striking action with the bottom of their foot
b. Axe kicks are not stomping. Standing foot stops are NOT a foul. As such, this foul does not
include stomping the feet of a standing fighter.
- Holding opponent’s gloves or shorts;
a. A fighter may not control their opponent’s movement by holding onto their opponent’s shorts
or gloves. A fighter may hold onto or grab their opponent’s hand as long as they are not
controlling the hand only by using the material of the glove, but by actually gripping the hand of
the opponent. It is legal to hold onto your own gloves or shorts.
- Holding or grabbing the fence or ropes with fingers or toes;
a. A fighter may put their hands on the fence and push off of it at any time. A fighter may
place their feet onto the cage and have their toes go through the fencing material at any
time. When a fighter’s fingers or toes go through the cage and grab hold of the fence
and start to control either their body position or their opponent’s body position it now
becomes an illegal action. A fighter may not grab the ropes or wrap their arms over or
under the ring ropes at any time. The fighter may not purposely step through the ropes.
If a fighter is caught holding the fence, cage or ring rope material the referee may issue
a one-point deduction from the offending fighters scorecard if the foul caused a
substantial effect in the fight. If a point deduction for holding the fence occurs, and
because of the infraction, the fouling fighter ends up in a superior position due to the
foul, the fighters should be re-started by the referee, standing in a neutral position.
- Small joint manipulation;
a. Fingers and Toes are small joints. Wrists, Ankles, Knees, Shoulders and Elbows are
all large joints. Grabbing the majority of fingers/toes at once is allowed.
- Throwing an opponent out of the ring or caged area;
a. A fighter shall not throw their opponent out of the ring or cage.
- Intentionally placing a finger into any orifice, or into any cut or laceration of your Opponent;
a. A fighter may not place their fingers into an open laceration in an attempt to enlarge
the cut. A fighter may not place their fingers into an opponent’s, nose, ears, mouth, or
any body cavity.
- Clawing, pinching, twisting the flesh;
a. Any attack that targets the fighter’s skin by clawing at the skin or attempting to pull or
twist the skin to apply pain is illegal.
- Timidity (avoiding contact, or consistently dropping the mouthpiece, or faking an injury;
a. Timidity is defined as any fighter who purposely avoids contact with his opponent or
runs away from the action of the fight. Timidity can also be called by the referee for any
attempt by a fighter to receive time by falsely claiming a foul, injury, or purposely
dropping or spitting out their mouthpiece or other action designed to stall or delay the
action of the fight
- Use of abusive language in the fighting area;
a. The use of abusive language is not allowed during MMA competition. It is the sole
responsibility of the referee to determine when language crosses over the line to
abusive. It should be clear that fighters can talk during a match. The mere use of
auditory language is not a violation of this rule. Examples of abusive language would be
(Racially motivated or Derogatory language).
- Flagrant disregard of the referee’s instructions;
a. A fighter MUST follow the instructions of the referee at all times. Any deviation or
non-compliance may result in the fighter’s disqualification.
- Unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to opponent;
a. Every athlete competing in the sport of MMA is expected to represent the sport in a
positive light emphasizing sportsmanship and humility. Any athlete that disrespects the
rules of the sport or attempts to inflict unnecessary harm on a competitor who has been
either taken out of the competition by the referee or has tapped out of the competition
shall be viewed as being unsportsmanlike.
- Attacking an opponent after the bell has sounded the end of the period of unarmed combat;
a. The end of a round is signified by the sound of the bell and the call of time by the
referee. Once the referee has made the call of time, any offensive actions initiated by
the fighter shall be considered after the bell and illegal.
- Attacking an opponent on or during the break;
a. A fighter shall not engage their opponent in any fashion during a time-out or break of
action in competition.
- Attacking an opponent who is under the care of the referee;
a. Once the referee has called for a stop of the action to protect a fighter who has been
incapacitated or is unable to continue to compete in the fight, fighters shall cease all
offensive actions against their opponent.
- Interference from a mixed martial artist’s corner or seconds;
a. Interference is defined as any action or activity aimed at disrupting the fight or
causing an unfair advantage to be given to a corner’s combatant. Corners are not
allowed to distract the referee or influence the actions of the referee in any fashion.
A. Intentional Fouls
- If an intentional foul causes an injury, and the injury is severe enough to terminate the bout
immediately, the fighter causing the injury shall lose by disqualification.
- If an intentional foul causes an injury and the bout is allowed to continue, the referee shall
notify the authorities and deduct two (2) points from the fighter who caused the foul. Point
deductions for intentional fouls will be mandatory.
- If an intentional foul causes a laceration and/or swelling and the bout is allowed to continue,
and the injury results in the fight being stopped in any round after ½ of the scheduled rounds,
of the fight has been completed, by either another legal or illegal strike, the injured fighter will
win by TECHNICAL DECISION if they are ahead on the score cards; and the bout will result in
a TECHNICAL DRAW if the injured fighter is behind or even on the score cards.
- If the fighter injures himself/herself while attempting to intentionally foul their opponent, the
referee will not act in their favor, and this injury shall be the same as one produced by a fair
- If the referee feels that a fighter has conducted themselves in an unsportsmanlike manner,
they may stop the action of the fight to deduct points or stop the bout to disqualify the fighter.
B. Accidental Fouls
1.If an accidental foul causes an injury severe enough for the referee to stop the bout, the bout
will result in either a NO CONTEST or DISQUALIFICATION if stopped before:
• A completed 2 rounds of a scheduled 3 round bout or
• A completed 3 rounds of a scheduled 5 round bout
- If an accidental foul causes an injury severe enough for the referee to stop the bout after
• A completed 2 rounds of a scheduled 3 round bout or
• A completed 3 rounds of a scheduled 5 round bout
The bout will result in a TECHNICAL DECISION awarded to the fighter who is ahead on the
score cards at the time the bout is stopped. Partial or incomplete rounds will be scored. If no
action has occurred, the round should be scored as an even round. This is at the discretion of
- If a fighter, during the course of a round, visibly loses control of bodily function (vomit, urine,
feces), the fight shall be stopped by the referee and the fighter shall lose the contest by a
Technical Knockout (TKO) due to Medical Stoppage.
i. In the event a loss of bodily function occurs in the rest period between rounds, the
ringside physician shall be called in to evaluate if the combatant can continue. If the
combatant is not cleared by the ringside physician to continue, that combatant shall lose
by a Technical Knockout (TKO) due to Medical Stoppage.
ii. If fecal matter becomes apparent at any time, the contest shall be halted by the referee, and
the offending combatant shall lose by a Technical Knockout (TKO) due to Medical Stoppage
C. Foul Procedures: If a foul is committed, the referee shall:
- Call Time;
- Check the fouled mixed martial artist’s condition and safety; and
- Assess the foul for potential point(s) deductions and/or time considerations.
- During all time out procedures, there shall be no coaching of a contestant permitted.
D. Time Consideration:
A fighter who has been stuck with a low blow is allowed up to five minutes to recover from the
foul as long as in the ringside doctor’s opinion the fighter my possibly continue on in the
contest. If the fighter states that they can continue on before the five minutes of time have
expired, the Referee shall as soon as practical restart the fight. If the fighter goes over the five
minutes time allotment the fight cannot be restarted and the contest must come to an end with
the outcome determined by the round and time in which the fight was stopped.
A fighter who has received an eye poke as called by the referee is allowed up to five minutes
to recover from the foul as long as the ringside doctors confirms the fighter may possibly
continue in the contest once recovered. If the fighter states they can see and wish to continue,
and confirmed by doctor, the referee shall as soon as practical restart the fight. If the fighter
goes over the five-minute time allotment the fight cannot be restarted and the contest must
come to an end with the outcome determined by the round and time in which the fight was
A. Judging Criteria
a. All bouts will be evaluated and scored by a minimum of three (3) judges.
b. The 10 Point Must System will be the standard of scoring about.
i. Under the 10-Point Must Scoring System, 10 points must be awarded to the winner of
the round and nine points or less must be awarded to the loser, except for a rare even
round, which is scored (10-10).
c. Judges shall evaluate Mixed Martial Arts techniques, such as effective
striking/grappling(Plan A), effective aggressiveness(Plan B),and control of the fighting
area(Plan C).Plans B and C are not taken into consideration unless Plan A is weighed as
d. Evaluations shall be made in the specific order in which the techniques appear in
(c)above ,giving the most weight in scoring to effective striking/grappling, and effective
aggressiveness, and control of the fighting area.
e. Effective striking is judged by determining the impact/effect of legal strikes landed by a
contestant solely based on the results of such legal strikes. Effective grappling is assessed by
the successful executions and impactful/effective result(s)coming from: takedown(s),
submission attempt(s), achieving an advantageous position(s) and reversal(s).
f. Effective aggressiveness means aggressively making attempts to finish the fight.
g. Fighting area control is assessed by determining who is dictating the pace, place and
position of the bout.
1.Thefollowing objective scoring criteria shall be utilized by the judges when scoring a round:
(i) Around is to be scored as a 10-10 Round when both contestants have competed for
whatever duration of time in the round and there is no difference or advantage between either
(ii)Around is to be scored as a 10-9 Round when a contestant wins by a close margin; where
the winning fighter lands the better strikes or utilizes effective grappling during the round;
(iii)A round is to be scored as a 10-8 Round when a contestant wins the round by a large
margin by impact, dominance, and duration of striking or grappling in a round.
(iv)A round is to be scored as a 10-7 Round when a contestant is completely dominated by
impact, dominance, and duration of striking or grappling in a round.
- Impact: A judge shall assess if a fighter impacts their opponent significantly in the round, even
though they may not have dominated the action. Impact includes visible evidence such as swelling
and lacerations. Impact shall also be assessed when a fighter’s actions, using striking and/or
grappling, lead to a diminishing of their opponent’s energy, confidence, abilities and spirit. All of these
come as a direct result of impact. When a fighter is impacted by strikes, by lack of control and/or
ability, this can create defining moments in the round and shall be assessed with great value.
- Dominance: As MMA is an offensive based sport, dominance of a round can be seen in striking
when the losing fighter is forced to continually defend, with no counters or reaction taken when
openings present themselves. Dominance in the grappling phase can be seen by fighter staking
dominant positions in the fight and utilizing those positions to attempt fight ending submissions or
attacks. Merely holding a dominant position(s) shall not be a primary factor in assessing dominance.
What the fighter does with those positions is what must be assessed. In the absence of dominance in
the grappling phase, as set forth in paragraph 3 of the promulgated rules, to be considered dominate,
there must be a singularly or in combination, some types of submission attempts, strikes, or an
overwhelming pace which is measured by improved or aggressive positional changes that cause the
losing fighter to consistently be in a defensive or reactive mode
- Duration: Duration is defined by the time spent by one fighter effectively attacking, controlling, and
impacting their opponent; while the opponent offers little to no offensive output. A judge shall assess
duration by recognizing the relative time in a round when one fighter takes and maintains full control
of the effective offense. This can be assessed both standing and grounded.
- Scoring of Incomplete Rounds: There should be scoring of incomplete rounds. If the referee
penalizes either contestant, then the appropriate points shall be deducted when the scorekeeper
calculates the final score for the partial round
B. Types of Decisions
a. Submission by:
i. Tap Out: When a contestant physically uses of their body to indicate that he or she no longer
wishes to continue; or
ii. Verbal Tap Out: When a contestant verbally announces or voluntarily/involuntarily screams
in pain or distress to the referee that they do not wish to continue;
iii. Technical Submission: When a legal submission act results in unconsciousness or
b. Technical Knockout (TKO) by:
i. Referee Stoppage: the referee stops the contest because the combatant IS NOT
INTELLIGENTLY DEFENDING HIMSELF/HERSELF;
- Corner Stoppage
- Did Not Answer the Bell
ii. TKO due to Medical Stoppage;
- Doctor Stoppage
- Loss of control of bodily function.
c. Knockout (KO) by:
i. Referee Stoppage: the referee stops the contest because the combatant CANNOT
INTELLIGENTLY DEFEND HIMSELF/HERSELF.
- Due to Strikes
i. When an injury sustained during competition as a result of an intentional foul is severe
enough to terminate the contest, multiple fouls have been assessed, and/or there is flagrant
disregard for the rules and/or referee’s commands.
e. No Contest:
i. When a contestant is prematurely stopped due to accidental injury and a sufficient amount of
time has not been completed to render a decision via the score cards.
i. Unanimous Decision: When all three judges score the bout for the same contestant;
ii. Split Decision: When two judges score the bout for one contestant and one judge scores for
the opponent; or
iii. Majority Decision: When two judges score the bout for the same contestant and one judge
scores a draw;
iv. Technical Decision: When a bout is prematurely stopped due to injury from an accidental
foul and a contestant is leading on the score cards;
i. Unanimous Draw – When all three judges score the bout a draw;
ii. Majority Draw – When two judges score the bout a draw; or
iii. Split Draw – When all three judges score differently and the score total results in a draw;
iv. Technical Draw – When an injury is sustained during competition as a result of an intentional
foul and the bout is allowed to continue, then later the injury requires stoppage from either a
legal or illegal strike to the affected area after:
• A completed 2 rounds of a scheduled 3 round bout or
• A completed 3 rounds of a scheduled 5 round bout
If the injured contestant is even or behind on the score cards at the time of stoppage, the
decision is a Technical Draw.
Weight Class Weight
Atomweight up to and including 105 lbs.
Straw Weight over 105 to 115 lbs.
Flyweight over 115 to 125 lbs.
Bantamweight over 125 to 135 lbs.
Featherweight over 135 to 145 lbs.
Lightweight over 145 to 155 lbs.
Super Lightweight over 155 to 165 lbs.
Welterweight over 165 to 170 lbs.
Super Welterweight over 170 to 175 lbs.
Middleweight over 175 to 185 lbs.
Super Middleweight over 185 to 195 lbs.
Light Heavyweight over 195 to 205 lbs.
Cruiserweight over 205 to 225 lbs.
Heavyweight over 225 to 265 lbs.
Super Heavyweight over 265 lbs.
a. Allowances within Division: there are no allowance restrictions if both combatants weigh-in
within the same contracted division.
b. Weight Miss Catch Weight: If a person misses the contracted weight and the two competitors are
in different weight classes, the heavier opponent shall not exceed five (5) lbs. of the lower weighing
c. Contracted Catch Weight(s): there is no weight spread allowance between contracted catch
weight fighters, so long as both competitors are below the contracted weight. Commissions may deny
Catch Weight fights if they see the weight differential as a large enough disparity to the safety of
either of the fighters.