When it comes to the various rulesets in MMA, Rich Franklin is a man whose opinion should carry plenty of weight. The former UFC middleweight champion and Hall-of-Famer has fought under the unified rules, competed in Japan, and since 2014 – he’s been the vice president at ONE Championship.
Rulesets have been a hot topic in MMA recently, particularly after Petr Yan lost the UFC bantamweight title via DQ for kneeing Aljamain Sterling when he was grounded. In contrast, Adriano Moraes retained his ONE flyweight title in April by knocking out Demetrious Johnson with a knee when DJ was grounded.
Back in July, ONE’s ruleset was approved in Colorado. Franklin described that breakthrough as the “starting point” that ONE Championship needed to get the momentum going in the US in terms of having a show there.
In an exclusive interview with BJPenn.com, the Ohio native also questioned the reasoning behind other rulesets banning knees to a grounded opponent.
“Our ruleset isn’t that different as far as performance goes really, from any other ruleset,” said Franklin. “The main difference that you see in our ruleset is that we allow knees to the head of a grounded opponent. It’s a big thing – particularly on this side of the planet. People aren’t used to seeing it here in the States. We do allow 12-6 elbows. But even in the unified rules now I think they’re reexamining that rule.”
Asian MMA has traditionally celebrated more permissive rulesets than in the western hemisphere. Although the early days of the UFC had a virtually ‘anything goes’ approach, the promotion famously ‘cleaned up’ the sport in the early 2000’s to make it a more palatable product for the masses as well as sponsors. And while the US audience may not be as accepting of knees to a grounded opponent, Franklin argues that standing knees – which re permitted, likely cause more damage.
“Kneeing an opponent on the ground – I don’t really see how you can really generate more force doing that,” Franklin reasoned. “I would actually like to see some data on the force that you can generate standing and kneeing somebody in the face when you have the ability to pull their head towards your knee – generating more momentum in both directions, versus on the ground,” he continued.
It’s not just in terms of rulesets that Franklin believes ONE Championship has the superior approach. ‘Ace’ also argued that his organisation is better in terms of fighter safety and entertainment value.
“We do our hydration protocol which is cutting edge. There’s no other organisation in the world that does things the way that we do things with our weigh-ins. We also do things like fight week CT scans and that’s a cost that the organisation absorbs,” said Franklin. “I think the other big thing for us is our judging criteria. We look at the whole fight. There’s no stealing rounds or any of that kind of stuff. I’m a big fan. I wish I had that as an athlete. Between the hydration and rule system are two of the major elements as to why we have an 80% finishing rate,” Franklin added.
Franklin suggested that ONE’s first show in the US is likely to be next year. Meanwhile, the organisation is gearing up for its 10th anniversary show in December – ONE: ‘X.’ The card will feature some of the organisation’s biggest stars including a special rules fight between Demetrious Johnson and Rodtang, Bibiano Fernandes defending his bantamweight title against John Lineker, and Thanh Le defending his featherweight strap against Garry Tonon.
Johnson’s fight will be a mix of Muay Thai and MMA and will be his first bout back in action since losing to Moraes. Interestingly, Johnson defended the use of grounded knees in the wake of that fight and said that he’s a fan of the rule.
Do you think knees to a grounded opponent should be more widely accepted in MMA?
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