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MMA AMATEUR Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts:

The 10 point must system is defined as follows:
All bouts will be evaluated and scored by three judges. The 10-Point Must System will be the
standard system of scoring a bout. 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 an even round, which is scored (10-10).
**** as of 2019 Unified Rules ****
Effective Striking/Grappling shall be considered the first priority of round assessments. Effective
Aggressiveness is a ‘Plan B’ and should not be considered unless the judge does not see ANY
advantage in the Effective Striking/Grappling realm. Cage/Ring Control (‘Plan C’) should only be
needed when ALL other criteria are 100% even for both competitors. This will be an extremely
rare occurrence.
Effective Striking/Grappling“Legal blows that have immediate or cumulative impact with the potential to contribute towards
the end of the match with the IMMEDIATE weighing in more heavily than the cumulative impact.
Successful execution of takedowns, submission attempts, reversals and the achievement of
advantageous positions that produce immediate or cumulative impact with the potential to
contribute to the end of the match, with the IMMEDIATE weighing more heavily than the
cumulative impact.” It shall be noted that a successful takedown is not merely a changing of
position, but the establishment of an attack from the use of the takedown. Top and bottom
position fighters are assessed more on the impactful/effective result of their actions, more so
than their position. This criterion will be the deciding factor in a high majority of decisions when
scoring a round. The next two criteria must be treated as a backup and used ONLY when
Effective Striking/Grappling is 100% equal for the round.
Effective Aggressiveness
“Aggressively making attempts to finish the fight. The key term is ‘effective’. Chasing after an
opponent with no effective result or impact should not render in the judges’ assessments.”
Effective Aggressiveness is only to be assessed if Effective Striking/Grappling is 100% equal for
both competitors.
Fighting Area Control
“Fighting area control is assessed by determining who is dictating the pace, place and position
of the match.” Fighting Area Control” shall only to be assessed if Effective Striking/Grappling
and Effective Aggressiveness is 100% equal for both competitors. This will be assessed very
10–10 Round
“A 10 – 10 round in MMA is when both fighters have competed for whatever duration of time in
the round and there is no difference or advantage between either fighter.” A 10 – 10 round in
MMA should be extremely rare and is not a score to be used as an excuse by a judge that
cannot assess the differences in the round. A 10 – 10 round in MMA is a necessity to have for
the judge’s possible score, mainly due to scoring incomplete rounds. It is possible to have a
round where both fighters engage for 5 minutes and at the end of the 5-minute time period the
output, impact, effectiveness and overall competition between the two fighters is exactly the
same. It is possible, but highly unlikely. If there is any discernable difference between the two
fighters during the round the judge shall not give the score of 10 – 10. Again, this score will be
extremely rare.
10–9 Round
“A 10 – 9 Round in MMA is where one combatant wins the round by a close margin.” A 10 – 9
round in MMA is the most common score a judge assesses during the night. If, during the
round, the judge sees a fighter land the better strikes, or utilize effective grappling during the
competition, even if by just one technique over their opponent, the judge shall give the winning
fighter a score of 10 while assessing the losing fighter a score of 9 or less.
It is imperative thatjudges understand that a score of 9 is not an automatic numerical score given to the
losing fighter of the round. The judge must consider: Was the fighter engaged in offensive actions
during the round? Did the losing fighter compete with an attitude of attempting to win the fight,
or just to survive the offensive actions of their opponent? A score of 10 – 9 can reflect an
extremely close round or a round of marginal domination and/or impact.
10–8 Round
A 10 – 8 Round in MMA is where one fighter wins the round by a large margin. A 10 – 8 round
in MMA is not the most common score a judge will render, but it is absolutely essential to the
evolution of the sport and the fairness to the fighters that judges understand and effectively
utilize the score of 10 – 8. A score of 10 – 8 does not require a fighter to dominate their
opponent for 5 minutes of a round. The score of 10 – 8 is utilized by the judge when the judge
sees verifiable actions on the part of either fighter. Judges shall ALWAYS give a score of 10 – 8
when the judge has established that one fighter has dominated the action of the round, had
duration of the domination and also impacted their opponent with either effective strikes or
effective grappling maneuvers that have diminished the abilities of their opponent. Judges must
CONSIDER giving the score of 10 – 8 when a fighter shows dominance in the round even
though no impactful scoring against the opponent was achieved. MMA is an offensive based
sport. No scoring is given for defensive maneuvers. Using smart, tactically sound defensive
maneuvers allows the fighter to stay in the fight and to be competitive. Dominance of a round
can be seen in striking when the losing fighter continually attempts to defend, with no counters
or reaction taken when openingspresent themselves.
Dominance in the grappling phase can be seen by fighters taking 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
10–7 Round
“A 10 – 7 Round in MMA is when a fighter completely overwhelms their opponent in Effective
Striking and/or Grappling and stoppage is warranted.” A 10 – 7 round in MMA is a score that
judges will rarely give. It takes both overwhelming DOMINANCE of a round, but also significant
IMPACT that, at times, cause the judge to consider that the fight could be stopped. Judges shall
look for multiple IMPACTFUL blows or knockdowns that diminish the fighter, and/or grappling
maneuvers that place the fighter in dominant situations with impact being inflicted that visibly
diminishes the fighter’s ability to compete.
Fouls (with explanations where warranted):
**** as of 2019 Unified Rules ****
1. Butting with the head: 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
2. Eye gouging of any kind: 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.
3. Biting or spitting at an opponent: 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.
4. Fish Hooking: 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 “Fishhooking”.
Fish hooking generally is the placing of fingers into the mouth of your opponent and
pulling your hands in opposing directions while holding onto the skin of your opponent.
5. Hair pulling: 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
6. Spiking the opponent to the canvas onto the head or neck (pile-driving): A pile driver is
considered to be any throw where you control your opponent's body placing his feet towards the
sky with his head straight down and then forcibly drive your 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 canvas.
7. Strikes to the spine or the back of the head. The spine includes the tailbone. The back of the
head is defined as the area starting at the crown of the head and running directly down the
centerline of the head with a one inch variance to each side. The entire rear portion of the neck
is also illegal to attack starting at the occipital junction and stopping at the top of the trapezius.
From the trapezius muscle down the spine is protected to the tailbone
8. Throat strikes of any kind and/or grabbing the trachea: 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
punch is thrown and the punch lands in the throat area of the fighter, this shall be viewed as a
clean and legal blow.
9. ** Fingers outstretched toward an opponent’s face/eyes: 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.
10. Downward pointing elbow strike (12 to 6): 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.
11. Groin attacks of any kind: 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.
12. *Kneeing and/or Kicking the head of a grounded opponent: 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 thefighting 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.
13. *Stomping of a grounded fighter: 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 or heel. (Note) Axe kicks are not stomps. Standing foot stops are
NOT a foul. As such, this foul does not include stomping the feet of a standing fighter. *” A
grounded fighter is defined as: Any part of the body, other than a single hand and soles of the
feet touching the fighting area floor. To be grounded, both hands palm/fist down, and/or any
other body part must be touching the fighting area floor. It needs to be clear to all fighters that
once an opponent has become grounded, Stomps of any kind are not permitted, even to the
14. Holding opponent's gloves or shorts: 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
15. Holding or grabbing the fence or ropes with fingers or toes: A fighter may put their hands or
feet on the fence and push off of it at anytime. A fighter may place their hands or feet onto the
cage and have their fingers or 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 shall issue a one-point deduction from the offending fighters scorecard
if the foul caused a substantial effect in the fight. If a fighter grabs hold of the cage 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 after determining if a point
deduction is appropriate
16. Small joint manipulation: Fighters must grab the majority of fingers or toes for use as
defense or manipulation. Fingers and toes are small joints. Wrists, ankles, knees, shoulders and
elbows are all large joints.
17. Throwing an opponent out of the ring or caged area: A fighter shall not throw their opponent
out of the ring or cage.
18. Intentionally placing a finger into any orifice, or into any cut or laceration of your opponent: 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
19. Clawing, pinching, twisting the flesh: 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.
20. Timidity (avoiding contact, or consistently dropping the mouthpiece, or faking an injury:
Timidity is defined as any fighter who purposely avoids contact with his opponent,
or runs awayfrom 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
21. Use of abusive language in the fighting area. 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)
22. Flagrant disregard of the referee's instructions: A fighter MUST follow the instructions of the
referee at all times. Any deviation or noncompliance may result in points being deducted from
the fighter's scorecard, or the fighter being disqualified from the match.
23. Unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to opponent. 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.
24. Attacking an opponent after the bell has sounded the end of the period of unarmed combat.
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
25. Attacking an opponent on or during the break: A fighter shall not engage their opponent in
any fashion during a time-out or break of action in competition
26. Attacking an opponent who is under the care of the referee. 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.
27. Interference from a mixed martial artist’s corner or seconds: Interference is defined as any
action or activity aimed at disrupting the fight or causing an unfair advantage to be given to one
combatant. Corners are not allowed to distract the referee or influence the actions of the referee
in any fashion.
REMOVED AS A FOUL- Throwing in the towel during competition
A fighter's corner, at the Commission's discretion, should have the option to retire his fighter in
the quickest and most efficient manner possible, during competition. A corner person having
worked alongside a fighter may recognize and accept what their fighter's capabilities are from
past experience. It makes sense from a safety perspective to allow a corner to retire the fighter.
If there is consideration that debris in the form of a towel entering the ring or cage may
contribute to a disruption or confusion in the contest, then colored towels or special towels might
be a consideration to be used.Scoring the foul to be performed by the Scorekeeper
Fouls may result in a point being deducted by the official scorekeeper from the offending mixed
martial artist's score. The scorekeeper, not the judges, will be responsible for calculating the
true score after factoring in the point deduction.
Only a referee can assess a foul. If the referee does not call the foul, judges shall not make that
assessment on their own and cannot factor such into their scoring calculations.
Foul Procedures
If a foul is committed, the referee shall:
1. call time;
2. check the fouled mixed martial artist's condition and safety; and
3. assess the foul to the offending contestant, deduct points, and notify each corner's seconds,
judges and the official scorekeeper.
If a bottom contestant commits a foul, unless the top contestant is injured, the fight shall
continue, so as not to jeopardize the top contestant's superior positioning at the time.
1. The referee shall verbally notify the bottom contestant of the foul.
2. When the round is over, the referee shall assess the foul and notify both corners' seconds,
the judges and the official scorekeeper.
3. The referee may terminate a bout based on the severity of a foul. For such a flagrant foul, a
contestant shall lose by disqualification.
Time Considerations for Fouls
Low Blow Foul
A fighter who has been struck 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 may 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
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 stopped.
Fighter who is not fouled by low blow but another foulIf a contest or exhibition of mixed martial arts is
stopped because of an accidental foul, the
referee shall determine whether the unarmed combatant who has been fouled can continue or
not. If the unarmed combatant's chance of winning has not been seriously jeopardized as a
result of the foul and if the foul did not involve a concussive impact to the head of the unarmed
combatant who has been fouled, the referee may order the contest or exhibition continued after
a recuperative interval of not more than 5 minutes. Immediately after separating the unarmed
combatants, the referee shall inform the Commission's representative of his determination that
the foul was accidental.
If a fighter is fouled by blow that the referee deems illegal, the referee should stop the action
and call for time. The referee may take the injured fighter to the ringside doctor and have the
ringside doctor examine the fighter as to their ability to continue on in the contest. The ringside
doctor has up to 5 minutes to make their determination. If the ringside doctor determines that
the fighter can continue in the contest, the referee shall as soon as practical restart the fight.
However, unlike the low blow foul rule, the fighter does not have up to 5 minutes of time to use
at their discretion.
For a foul other than a low blow, the fouled fighter is not guaranteed 5 minutes of recovery time.
If deemed not fit to continue by the referee or ringside physician, the referee must immediately
call a halt to the bout. If the fighter is deemed not fit to continue by the referee or ringside
physician but some of the five minute foul time is still remaining, the fighter cannot avail himself
of the remaining time.
If the referee stops the contest and employs the use of the ringside doctor, the ringside
physician's examinations shall not exceed five minutes. If five minutes is exceeded, the fight
cannot be re-started and the contest must end.
Scoring of incomplete rounds
There should be scoring of an incomplete round. If the referee penalizes either contestant, then
the appropriate points shall be deducted when the scorekeeper calculates the final score for the
partial round.
Verbal tap out
1.Submission by Tap Out:
When a contestant physically uses his hand to indicate that he or she no longer wishes to
continue; or
ii. Verbal tap out: When a contestant verbally announces to the referee that he or she does not
wish to continue or makes audible sounds such as screams indicating pain or discomfort
COMBAT AREA ( Ring / Cage )
All MMA contests will take place in either a Cage or a Ring that has been approved by the
The Cage or Ring will meet the requirements set forth by each Commission andalso be subject to inspection prior to each
event by a Commission representative such as areferee.
The ring specifications for mixed martial arts must meet the following requirements:(1) The ring
may be no smaller than twenty feet square and no larger than thirty-two feet square within the
ropes;(2) One of the corners must have a blue designation, the corner directly across must have
a red designation;(3) The ring floor must extend at least eighteen inches beyond the ropes. The
ring floor must be padded with ensolite or a similar closed-cell foam, with at least one inch layer
of foam padding. Padding must extend beyond the ring ropes and over the edge platform, with a
top covering of canvas, duck or similar material tightly stretched and laced to the ring platform.
Material that tends to gather in lumps and ridges may not be used;(4) The ring platform must no
be more than four feet above the floor of the building and must have suitable steps for the use
of the contestants;(5) Ring posts must be made of metal, not more than three inches in
diameter, extending from the floor of the building to a minimum height of fifty-eight inches above
the ring floor, and must be properly padded in a manner approved by the commission. Ring
posts must be eighteen inches away from the ring ropes;(6) There must be five ring ropes, not
less than one inch in diameter and wrapped in soft material. The lowest rope must be no higher
than twelve inches from the ring floor;(7) There must not be any obstruction or object, on any
part of the ring floor.
The fighting area canvas shall be no smaller than 18 feet by 18 feet and no larger than 32 feet
by 32 feet. The fighting area canvas shall be padded in a manner as approved by the
Commission, with at least one inch layer of foam padding.
Padding shall extend beyond the fighting area and over the edge of the platform. No vinyl or
other plastic rubberized covering shall be permitted.
The fighting area canvas shall not be more than four feet above the floor of the building and
shall have suitable steps or ramp for use by the participants. Posts shall be made of metal not
more than six inches in diameter, extending from the floor of the building to a minimum height of
58 inches above the fighting area canvas and shall be properly padded in a manner approved
by the Commission. The fighting area canvas area shall be enclosed by a fence made of such
material as will not allow a fighter to fall out or break through it onto the floor or spectators,
including, but not limited to, vinyl coated chain link fencing. All metal parts shall be covered and
padded in a manner approved by the Commission and shall not be abrasive to the contestants.
The fence shall provide two separate entries onto the fighting area canvas.
RULE MEETINGS ( General Guidelines )
In many jurisdictions, group rule meetings have been commonplace in the reviewing of rules,
fouls and other considerations. It is recommended that individual meetings between the bout
supervising referee and each competitor in the contest be conducted backstage in the locker
room or another appropriate location.
Many times contestants will ask questions of the officialwhen the rules are covered individually in private,
when they would have been hesitant to ask
the same question in front of their competitor. This also provides the referee to observe any
peculiar idiosyncrasies of the fighter, such as an odd speech pattern, nervous ticks, or different
eye colors. This does not supersede the ability of the Commission to have a general rules
meeting about the requirements and also discuss items such as a fighter's time to report, the
location, interaction with the inspectors, available liquids and foods, taping requirements and so
on, with all the fighters gathered en masse.
Weight Classes
The generally accepted weight classes in mixed martial arts are:
Flyweight up to 125 lbs.
Bantamweight over 125 to 135 lbs
Featherweight over 135 to 145 lbs
Lightweight over 145 to 155 lbs
Welterweight over 155 to 170 lbs
Middleweight over 170 to 185 lbs
Light Heavyweight over 185 to 205 lbs
Heavyweight over 205 to 265 lbs
Super Heavyweight over 265 lbs.
It is recommended that the unwritten custom of the one pound allowance for non-title bouts be
continued, but only if provided for in the written bout contract or by regulation.
Commissions may also approve catch weight bouts, subject to their review and discretion. For
example, the Commission may still decide to allow the contest if it feels that the contest would
still be fair, safe and competitive if a set catch weight is set in advance at 163 pounds, for
In addition, if one athlete weighs in at 264 pounds while the opponent weighs in at 267, the
Commission may still decide to allow the contest if it feels that the contest would still be fair and
competitive. This would be despite the fact that the two athletes weighed in at differing weight
Commissions should establish and make known to promoters the maximum allowable weight
differences for contestants for each weight class.
HandwrapsAll mixed martial arts contestants shall be required to gauze and tape their hands prior to all
contests. In all weight classes, the bandages on each contestant's hand shall be restricted to
soft gauze cloth not more than 10 yards in length and two inches in width, held in place by not
more than 10 feet of surgeon's tape, one inch in width, for each hand. Surgeon's adhesive tape
shall be placed directly on each hand for protection near the wrist. However, as opposed to
boxing wraps, the tape may cross the back of the hand twice and extend to cover and protect
the knuckles when the hand is clenched to make a fist. The bandages shall be evenly
distributed across the hand. Bandages and tape shall be placed on the contestant's hands in the
dressing room in the presence of the inspector and, if warranted, in the presence of the
manager or chief second of his or her opponent.
Under no circumstances are gloves to be placed on the hands of a contestant until the approval
of the inspector is received. Substances other than tape and gauze shall not be utilized. For
example, prewraps should not be used.
Females competitors should be allowed to compete in five-minute rounds, three rounds for
non-title bouts and five rounds for title bouts.
All contestants shall wear glove which are at least 4 ounces and are approved by the
Commission. The language should not place a limit on 6 ounce gloves. The discussion by the
group was prompted by the introduction of triple XL or five XL gloves which, due to the
additional material, may weigh over 6 ounces.
Gloves should be supplied by the promoter and approved by the commission. No contestant
shall supply their own gloves for participation.
Use of Vaseline and other similar substances
Absolutely "no" body grease, gels, balms, lotions oils, or other substances may be applied to
the hair, face or body. This includes the use of excessive amounts of water "dumped" on a
contestant to make him/her slippery. However, Vaseline may be applied solely to the facial area
at cage side or ringside in the presence of an inspector, referee, or a person designated by the
commission. Any contestant applying anything other than Vaseline in an approved fashion at
the appropriate time could be penalized a point or subject to loss by disqualification.
Double Knockout Situations The referee shall stop a contest or exhibition of unarmed combat at any stage if the referee
determines that both unarmed combatants are in such a condition that to continue might subject
the unarmed combatants to serious injury. If a contest or exhibition is stopped pursuant to this
subsection, the decision shall be deemed to be a technical draw.
Fighter Appearance
It is recommended that a Commission inspector or referee bring a clipper and a file to each
event and check the fingernail length of all contestants.



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