What are the rules of an MMA fight?

What are the rules of an MMA fight?

The following article was submitted to Fight Quality by Max, a writer from Speak MMA.

MMA is a rapidly growing sport, and is often touted as the fastest growing sport in the world. With this growth has come a lot of evolution in the rules of the sport. As mixed martial arts grew its audience and began being broadcast as a legitimate sport on TV, it needed a proper set of rules to govern itself.

Nowadays, major MMA promotions like the UFC & Bellator use the Unified Rules of MMA to govern their events. These rules dictate things like; which moves are illegal, what judging criteria should be used for fights, weight classes, prohibited substances etc.

Speak MMA, an MMA blog, have put this guide together to help you understand the rules of fights in major MMA promotions.

How long do fights last?

MMA fights usually last for a duration of 3 rounds, with each round being split into 5 minutes. If the fight is for a Championship title then 2 additional “Championship rounds” are added onto the length of the fight. Taking the maximum competition time to 5, 5 minute rounds. 

An MMA fight may also be set to last 5 rounds if the match is of particular importance to the MMA organisation. The UFC started making 5 round non-title fights at UFC 138 in 2011. Since then it has become quite common for UFC main event fights to last 5 rounds.

The clock starts at the beginning of every round when the referee is happy for the fighting to start / re-commence. In between each round, fighters are given a 60 second rest where they can go back to their side of the cage, receive treatment and advice from their cornermen, and rest. When the 60 seconds are up, both fighters must immediately get up and prepare to fight again.

If a fighter tries to get more rest time by not standing up to fight, or if the fighter’s corner do not exit the cage quickly, then the fighter may be deducted a ‘point’, and in extreme cases, the fighter could even be disqualified.

What are points?

Fights can end in several ways. Most commonly, a fight can end by KO / TKO (which are classed as knockouts), or by submission, disqualification, or by decision.

Points are important for fights which go to a decision. This means that both competitors are still conscious and willing to continue fighting when the final round has ended. The winner is then decided by the judges who have been hired to judge the contests during that particular event.

Judges score fights on a round by round basis. The 10 point must system is used by these officiators to judge each round. If the round was a draw, both fighters receive 10 points. If one fighter won the round, a judge will score the round 10-9 to the round winner. If a round was very dominant for one fighter, then a judge may even award a 10-8 round. In extremely rare cases, it is possible for a fighter to win a round 10-7, this means that one fighter was overwhelmingly dominant and his opponent was pretty much useless for that round.

At the end of the fight, these scorecards are added up to decide a winner. Therefore, being deducted a point for violating the rules of the fight is a big deal, and it will likely lose the round for the fighter.

Are there illegal moves?

As in the name, mixed martial arts allows for a broad range of techniques, moves and tactics to be used to win a fight. Whether you’re a wrestling pro, a former kickboxing champion, or a Sambo world champion, you can use your skill set in an MMA fight.

However, this is a sport, and like with any sport, there are moves which are illegal as they are either not fair or give a competitor an unfair advantage.

In a sanctioned fight, you can strike, grapple or wrestle. Moves which could easily cause long-term damage to a competitor are outlawed. This includes things such as; eye-gouging, punching to the back of the head, fish-hooking, throat punching or groin attacks.

Trying to skirt the rules is also illegal. This can include tactics such as taking too much time to rest between rounds, ignoring the instruction of the referee, punching someone after the end of the round, grabbing onto the fence, hiding hard material in your gloves or greasing up your body before a fight.

There are different penalties given to fighters who ignore the rules. They usually depend on the severity of the rule break and how often they break them. The minimum punishment is a warning by the referee, which usually happens when fighters grab the fence. However, it can cost fighters their place in an organisation, like when Paul Daley punched Josh Koscheck after the end of their fight, and was released from the UFC.

Hopefully you’ve learnt something new about MMA through this article!

Speak MMA

The Speak MMA website started in 2020 and is a place for fans of mixed martial arts to learn more about the sport they love.

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This article was submitted to Fight Quality on behalf of Speak MMA.

The views and opinions in this article are those of the guest author and are not necessarily representative of Fight Quality’s own views. We welcome guest posts from knowledgeable and passionate writers, but have no affiliation with the author or connected companies/products.

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