UK Ref Calls For Change In MMA Rules

January 14, 2014 6:17 am by Derek Langhorn

Rich Mitchell, a UK based ref, has made public a very specific gripe he has with the Unified Rules of MMA. As he posted on The Underground MMA Forum,

To whom it may concern,

I am a practicing referee on a major multinational promotion and a lifelong fan of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

I write to suggest the re-wording of a paragraph in the fouls section of the Unified M.M.A. Rules.

I believe the word ‘illegal’ has been mistakenly used in place of the word ‘intentional’ in a paragraph of Section 15: Fouls, Article H: Fighter Fouled by other than low blow. I will give precise details below.

I have witnessed many instances of poor and inconsistent interpretation of this section of the Unified M.M.A. Rules, even at the highest levels of the sport, which were, in my opinion, the result of confusion caused by this simple mistake.

I will now quote two consecutive paragraphs from section 15. The first details time considerations when dealing with an accidental foul. I have included this paragraph because it gives context to the subsequent paragraph, which is the one I believe contains the error in question.

If a contest 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.

The following paragraph is the one I am calling into question. The first sentence contains the word ‘illegal’, which I believe should read ‘intentional’:

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. Unlike the low blow foul rule, the fighter does not have up to 5 minutes of time to use, at their discretion, and must continue the fight when instructed to by the referee.

Surely the word ‘illegal’ is used in error, as any foul blow is, by definition, illegal whether intentional or not.

If the first sentence read: ‘If a fighter is fouled by blow that the referee deems intentional…’ then the different courses of action laid out in the two consecutive paragraphs would make perfect sense – they are indeed intuitive to anyone with sufficient experience in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

In my experience, the ambiguity of meaning caused by this simple error has lead to a general consensus among referees wherein: if a fighter is accidentally fouled by anything other than a low blow and the referee determines that the ringside doctor is not needed, no time for recuperation is given to the affected fighter.

This is clearly unfair and can have serious consequences for fighters and their careers. I have personally refereed two fights very recently wherein a fighter has been accidentally fouled by other than a low blow. When the fouled fighter asked for time to recuperate, due to the aforementioned consensus among my peers, in the interests of consistency I felt duty bound to answer no, despite my firm convictions as to the correct interpretation of the Unified Rules.

This seriously impairs a fighter’s chances of winning when they have been accidentally fouled yet sportingly choose to fight on.

Therefore, in summary, I propose an amendment to section 15. Fouls article H. Fighter Fouled by other than low blow paragraph (ii) to replace ‘illegal’ with ‘intentional’.

Furthermore, for clarity and consistency, I also suggest the amendment of section 15. Fouls article H. Fighter Fouled by other than low blow paragraph (i) to replace ‘accidental’ with ‘unintentional’.

I trust you will give this matter due consideration and make amendments as you see fit.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Mitchell

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