Association of Boxing Commissions to Review Definition of ‘Grounded Opponent’ In MMA

July 29, 2013 11:32 am by Christopher Murphy

The ‘Unified Rules and Other MMA Regulations’ state very clearly that it is deemed a foul if a fighter knees or kicks the head of a grounded opponent.  What exactly determines a grounded opponent, however, has been left vague.  Members of the Association of Boxing Commission will be seeking to alter that rule in the hope of increasing the excitement of MMA while maintaining its safety.


By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA


Representatives for the various boxing commissions will be presenting to the Association of Boxing Commissions this week to make a case for altering the concept of a downed opponent in MMA.


Nick Lembo of New Jersey, Bernie Profato of Ohio, and Keith Kizer of Nevada will present at the ABC meeting in San Antonio, Texas this Wednesday.


The standard rules that govern most MMA events is the ‘Unified Rules and Other MMA Regulations.’  This document first served to regulate MMA events in New Jersey, and it has become a standard to which most other athletic commissions base their own.  In 2009, the Association of Boxing Commissions unanimously voted to adopt these rules.
Now, the three representatives of various commissions are looking to make a change to the rules regarding grounded opponents.  In a letter to the commission, a copy of which was obtained by, the group stated, “Recently, some concern has arose over fighters who are taking punishment (usually thru knees) while both fighters are standing.  The fighter then begins to bring his or her finger(s) down and up again, and then down again as a strike is being delivered.  In certain situations, it appears as if the ‘touching down’ fighter is attempting to draw a foul and benefit from the foul.’


A change to address this issue would need to change the notion of a downed opponent.  Generally speaking, a fighter is considered to be downed or grounded when he/she is either not on his/her feet or he/she has more than two points of contact with the ground.  That has meant that a fighter who is getting kneed from the clinch can place a hand on the ground and he/she can no longer be kicked or kneed in the head.


The commission representatives hope that referees will have the discretion to decide when a fighter is using the hand for balance or an attack, or if he/she is looking to draw a foul.


Referees should instruct the fighters that they may still be considered a standing fighter even if they have a finger or portion of the hand (or entire hand) on the canvas.  In the discretion of the referee, a fighter who has a finger or hand on the canvas may still be legally struck in the head with knees and kicks.


The referee may decide that  downed fighter is placing his or her figner or hand down without doing so for an offensive or countering maneuver in an attempt to advance or improve their position.  The referee may decide that the downed fighter is instead simply trying to draw a foul.  If the referee decides that the fighter is ‘touching down’ simply to benefit from a foul, the referee may consider that fighter a standing fighter and decide that no foul has occurred.


Additionally, a referee may penalize, via warning or point deduction, the offending fighter for timidity.”


More than trying to ‘benefit from a foul,’ it seems fighters are inclined to place a hand on the mat in the clinch so that their opponent will cease to kick or knee them in the head.  While the intention behind the change is understandable, there simply is too much gray area surrounding this issue to make a definitive change.  If a fighter were to get rocked by a knee from his/her opponent and needs to use a hand for balance, what should the referee call?  Is the fighter stalling or simply trying to remain on his/her feet?  Whether or not this addendum finds success remains to be seen.

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