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Most rule sets for mixed martial arts competitions have evolved since the early days of vale tudo. As the knowledge about fighting techniques spread among fighters and spectators, it became clear that the original minimalist rule systems needed to be amended. As rules evolved and regulations added, different branches of mixed martial arts have emerged, with differences between the different rulesets dictating different strategies. Similarly, shoot wrestling organizations, such as Shooto, expanded their rulesets to integrate elements of vale tudo into their sport. However, for the most part, fighters accustomed to one rule set can easily acclimate to the others.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that allows striking and grappling, both standing and on the ground, using techniques from various combat sports and martial arts. The first documented use of the term mixed martial arts was in a review of UFC 1 by television critic Howard Rosenberg in 1993. The term gained popularity when newfullcontact.com, then one of the largest websites covering the sport, hosted and republished the article. The question of who actually coined the term is subject to debate.
Vale Tudo is an unarmed, full-contact combat sport with relatively few rules. It became popular in Brazil during the 20th century. It uses techniques from many martial arts. Vale Tudo is the precursor of mixed martial arts.
Shoot wrestling is a combat sport that has its origins in Japan's professional wrestling circuit of the 1970s. Professional wrestlers of that era attempted to use more realistic or even "full contact" moves in their matches to increase their excitement. The name "shoot wrestling" comes from the professional wrestling term "shoot", which refers to any unscripted occurrence within a scripted wrestling event. Prior to the emergence of the current sport of shoot wrestling, the term was commonly used in the professional wrestling business, particularly in the United Kingdom, as a synonym for the sport of catch wrestling. Shoot wrestling can be used to describe a range of hybrid fighting systems such as shootfighting, shoot boxing and the styles of mixed martial arts done in the Shooto, Pancrase and RINGS promotions.
The most prevalent rule set in the world being used currently is the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, adopted by all state athletic commissions in the United States that regulate mixed martial arts and is used most notably in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The Unified Rules are the de facto rules for mixed martial arts in the United States, and have been adopted by other promotions and jurisdictions worldwide. Other notable sets include Shooto's, which were the first to mandate padded gloves, and Pride rules, after PRIDE Fighting Championships, which were also adopted by UFC
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is an American mixed martial arts promotion company based in Las Vegas, Nevada, that is owned and operated by parent company William Morris Endeavor. It is the largest MMA promotion company in the world and features the highest-level fighters on the roster. The UFC produces events worldwide that showcase twelve weight divisions and abide by the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. As of 2018, the UFC has held over 400 events. Dana White serves as the president of the UFC. White has held that position since 2001; while under his stewardship, the UFC has grown into a globally popular multi-billion-dollar enterprise.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.
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Some main motivations for these rule changes included:
Weight classes emerged when knowledge about submission holds spread. When more fighters became well-versed in submission techniques and avoiding submissions, differences in weight became a substantial factor.
Mixed martial arts weight classes are weight classes that pertain to the sport of mixed martial arts.
Headbutts were prohibited because it was a technique that required little effort and could quickly turn the match into a bloody mess. Headbutting was common among wrestlers because their skill in takedowns allowed them to quickly transfer bouts to the ground where they could assault opponents with headbutts while not being required to alter their position. There has been some criticism that techniques banned from Mixed martial arts, including headbutts, are actually very effective fighting techniques.
A headbutt is a targeted strike with the head, typically involving the use of robust parts of the headbutter's cranium as the area of impact. The most effective headbutts strike the most sensitive areas of an opponent, such as the nose, using the stronger bones in the forehead or the back of the skull. It can be considered a quick, very effective but risky maneuver, as a misplaced strike can cause greater injury to the person delivering the headbutt than to the person receiving it. A headbutt does not have to be against another person's head, although this is usually the nearest and easiest target.
Small, open-finger gloves were introduced to protect fists in punches while still allowing for effective grappling. Gloves were first mandatory in Japan's Shooto league, but are now mandatory in matches for nearly every promotion. Although some fighters may have well conditioned fists, others may not. The small bones in an unprotected and unconditioned fist are prone to break when it hits a torso or forehead with power. Gloves also reduce the occurrence of cuts (and stoppages due to cuts) and encourage fighters to use their hands for striking, both of which enable more captivating matches.
MMA gloves or grappling gloves are small, open-fingered gloves used in mixed martial arts bouts. They usually have around 4–6 oz of padding and are designed to provide some protection to the person wearing the glove, but leave the fingers available for grappling maneuvers such as clinch fighting and submissions.
Time limits were established to avoid long fights on the ground with little perceivable action. No time limit matches also complicated the airing of live events. Similar motivations produced the "stand up" rule, where the referee can stand fighters up if it is perceived both are resting on the ground or are not advancing toward a dominant position.
In April 2000, the California State Athletic Commission voted unanimously in favor of regulations that later became the foundation for the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. However, when the legislation was sent to California's capital for review, it was determined that the sport fell outside the jurisdiction of the CSAC, rendering the vote superfluous.
The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) regulates amateur and professional boxing, amateur and professional kickboxing and professional mixed martial arts (MMA) throughout the State by licensing all participants and supervising the events.
In September 2000, the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board began to allow mixed martial arts promoters to conduct events in New Jersey. The intent was to allow the NJSACB to observe actual events and gather information to establish a comprehensive set of rules to effectively regulate the sport.
On April 3, 2001, the NJSACB held a meeting to discuss the regulation of mixed martial arts events. This meeting attempted to unify the myriad of rules and regulations which have been utilized by the different mixed martial arts organizations. At this meeting, the proposed uniform rules were agreed upon by the NJSACB, several other regulatory bodies, numerous promoters of mixed martial arts events and other interested parties in attendance. At the conclusion of the meeting, all parties in attendance were able to agree upon a uniform set of rules to govern the sport of mixed martial arts.
The rules adopted by the NJSACB have become the de facto standard set of rules for professional mixed martial arts across North America. All state, provincial, & municipal athletic commissions that regulate mixed martial arts have assimilated these rules into their existing unarmed combat competition rules and statutes. For a promotion to hold mixed martial arts events in a sanctioned venue, the promotion must abide by the commission's body of rules.
On July 30, 2009, a motion was made at the annual meeting of the Association of Boxing Commissions to adopt these rules as the "Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts". The motion passed unanimously.
Every round is five minutes in duration with a one-minute rest period in-between rounds. Non-title matches must not normally exceed three rounds, but the governing commission can grant dispensation for non-title five round bouts. Title matches can be sanctioned for five rounds.
All competitors must fight in approved shorts, without shoes or any other sort of foot padding. Shirts, gis or long pants (including gi pants) are not allowed. Fighters must use approved light gloves (4–6 ounces) that allow fingers to grab. A mouthguard and protective cup (in the case of men) are also required and are checked by a State Athletic Committee official before being allowed to enter the cage/ring.Furthermore, approved leg and chest (in the case of women) protectors must be provided by the contestant.
The ten-point must system is used for all fights. Three judges score each round with ten points to the winner and nine points or fewer to the other fighter. In New Jersey, the fewest points a fighter can receive is 7.If the round is even, both fighters receive ten points. Penalty points (usually one point for each offence, occasionally two points) decided by the referee are deducted from each judge's score for that round for the offending fighter.
At the end of the fight, each judge submits their total score for all rounds for each fighter, to determine the result by the following criteria.
There are 11 classes of weight for fighters:
As set out by the Association of Boxing Commissions:
When a foul is charged, the referee in their discretion may deduct one or more points as a penalty. If a foul incapacitates a fighter, then the match may end in a disqualification if the foul was intentional, or a "no contest" if unintentional. If a foul causes a fighter to be unable to continue later in the bout, it ends with a technical decision win to the injured fighter if the injured fighter is ahead on points, otherwise it is a technical draw.
Historically, PRIDE's rules differed between main PRIDE events and Bushido events.However, it was announced on November 29, 2006, that Bushido events would be discontinued. When holding events in the US, PRIDE abided by the Unified Rules, but added the prohibition against elbows to the head.
The first round is ten minutes in duration and the second and third rounds are five minutes in duration. There is a two-minute rest period between each round. Grand Prix matches are two rounds in length if more than one round is scheduled on one night.
PRIDE allowed fighters some latitude in their choice of attire, most notably the allowance of a gi or amateur wrestling shoes, but open finger gloves, a mouthguard, and a protective cup were mandatory.
If the match reaches its time limit then the outcome of the bout is determined by the three judges. The fight is scored in its entirety and not round-by-round. After the conclusion of the bout, each judge must decide a winner. Matches cannot end in a draw. A decision is made according to the following criteria in this order of priority:
If a fight is stopped on advice of the ring doctor after an accidental but illegal action, e.g., a clash of heads, and the contest is in its second or third round, the match will be decided by the judges using the same criteria.
PRIDE allowed the following techniques:
In addition to the common fouls, PRIDE Fighting Championships considers elbow strikes to the head and face to be fouls.
In the event that a fighter is injured by illegal actions, then at the discretion of the referee and ring doctor, the round is resumed after enough time has been given for the fighter to recover. If the match cannot be continued due to the severity of the injury then the fighter who perpetrated the action will be disqualified.
PRIDE Bushido events instituted distinct variations to the full PRIDE rules:
PRIDE discontinued Bushido events in late-2006 and their rules were last used for lightweight and welterweight fights at PRIDE Shockwave 2006.As the lightweight and welterweight divisions will now be on the main PRIDE shows, the rules for the lighter classes are also changing to reflect standard PRIDE rules.
ONE Championship uses the Global MMA Rule Setwhich blends a combination of Best Practices from Asian and Non-Asian Rules.
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MMA is often referred to as "cage fighting" in the US as it is associated with the UFC's octagonal caged fighting area. Most major MMA promotions in the US, Canada and Britain use the "cage" as a result of directly evolving from the first UFC events. There are variations on the cage such as replacing the metal fencing with a net, or using a different shape for the area other than an octagon, as the term "The Octagon" is trademarked by the UFC (though the 8-sided shape itself is not trademarked). In Japan, Brazil and some European countries such as the Netherlands an area similar to a standard boxing ring is used, but with tighter ropes and sometimes a barrier underneath the lowest rope to keep grappling athletes from rolling out of the ring. The usage of the ring in these countries is derived from the history of Vale Tudo, Japanese pro-wrestling and other MMA related sports such as kickboxing.
The choice of cage or ring is more than aesthetic, however, as it impacts the type of strategies that a fighter can implement. For example, a popular and effective strategy in a cage is to pin an opponent into the area where the fence meets the mat, and then pummel him with strikes. Randy Couture is well known for this tactic. Defensively, the cage is often used as support to fend off take-down attempts, or as a support to get from underneath an opponent (known as "walking up the cage"). These positions are not possible in a roped ring. On the other hand, the roped ring can result in entangled limbs and fighters falling through the ropes, requiring the referee to sometimes stop the fight and reposition the fighters in the center, as well as carrying the possibility for either fighter to sustain an injury. In either a cage or ring, a fighter is not allowed to grab the fence or ropes. Some critics[ who? ] feel that the appearance of fighting in a cage contributes to a negative image of MMA in popular media.
The following table shows what each MMA organization uses:
|Organization||Cage or Ring||Primary Event Location|
|Bellator FC||Circular cage|
|Cage Rage||9-sided cage|
(8-sided cage for Cage Impact series)
|Extreme Fighting Championship||6-sided cage|
|Jungle Fight||8-sided cage |
(Has used ring)
|Cage Warriors||6-sided cage|
|King of the Cage||8-sided cage|
|Invicta Fighting Championships||8-sided cage|
(Has used circular cage)
|ONE||Circular cage |
(also uses a ring when there are kickboxing and/or Muay Thai bouts in the card)
(Has used ring)
|Pacific Xtreme Combat||Circular cage|
|Rizin Fighting Federation||Ring|
|Road FC||8-sided cage|
|Full Contact Championship||6-sided cage|
|Super Fighting League||8-sided cage |
(Has used 6-sided cage)
|World Series of Fighting||10-sided cage|
|Superior Challenge||8-sided cage|
|One Pride MMA||8-sided cage|
|Organization||Cage or Ring||Primary Event Location|
|Art of War FC||Ring|
(Had used 6-sided cage)
|EliteXC||8-sided cage |
(Had used circular cage)
(Had intended to use 6-sided ring)
|Legend FC (Hong Kong)||Ring|
|WEC||8-sided cage |
(Had used 5-sided cage)
|World Victory Road||Ring|
FILA promotes amateur MMA with its own set of rules.
Competitors shall wear FILA approved head guards, gloves, knee pads and shin-instep guards of their assigned red or blue colour. They shall also wear personal groin and mouth guards. Female competitors may wear a chest protector. Protection gear may not contain any metal part whatsoever. The protection gear shall be in a generally clean and serviceable condition and the padding shall not be displaced, broken or imperfect in any way.
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In the U.S., state athletic and boxing commissions have played a crucial role in the introduction of safety rules because they oversee MMA in similar ways as they do for boxing. Small shows usually use more restrictive rules because they have less experienced fighters who are looking to acquire experience and exposure that could ultimately lead them to getting recruited into one of the larger, better paying promotions. In Japan and Europe, there is no regulating authority over MMA competitions, so these organizations have greater freedom in rules development and event structure. In general, a balanced set of rules with some organization-specific variances has been established and is widely used, and major rule changes are unlikely, allowing for fighters in one organization to transition to others easily.
Pride Fighting Championships was a Japanese mixed martial arts promotion company. Its inaugural event was held at the Tokyo Dome on October 11, 1997. Pride held more than sixty mixed martial arts events, broadcast to about 40 countries worldwide. Pride held the largest live MMA event audience record of 91,107 people at the Pride and K-1 co-production, Shockwave/Dynamite, held in August 2002, as well as the audience record of over 67,450 people at the Pride Final Conflict 2003. For ten years PRIDE was one of the most popular MMA organizations in the world.
Gilbert Ramon Yvel is a Dutch professional mixed martial artist. A professional competitor since 1997, Yvel competed in the PRIDE Fighting Championships, Affliction, the UFC, Road FC, the RFA, RINGS, M-1 Challenge, Cage Rage, K-1, and Showtime promotions. He is the former RINGS Openweight Champion.
A soccer kick, also known as a soccer ball kick or PK in puroresu and shoot fighting, and as tiro de meta in vale tudo, is a reference to a kick that is similar to kicks used in association football. It is the colloquial term for a kick performed against a prone, kneeling, rising or supine opponent by a fighter who is in a standing or semi-standing position, to any part of a downed opponent. The technique is banned under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts however other rulesets, including the ones used by Pride Fighting Championships do permit them. Soccer kicks have been regularly discussed as to potential damage. There has been a regular debate on the usage of them within MMA. Some MMA fans and fighters support them while a fight doctor and politicians have opposed them.
Cage Rage Championships, also known as Cage Rage, was a United Kingdom-based, mixed martial arts promotion that premiered on 7 September 2002 in London. Cage Rage went into liquidation and is now no longer trading. Cage Rage had been owned and managed by Elite XC until that company ceased operating, and the British promoters behind Cage Rage formed a new organization and withdrew all the old Cage Rage titles. Matchmaker and on-screen personality Dave O'Donnell was also a minority shareholder in the company. Fellow on-screen personality and co-promoter Andy Geer also owned a minority stake until he left the promotion in 2008. Cage Rage events were replayed on Nuts TV, along with their own weekday show on The Fight Network until these channels closed down. Every Cage Rage event and bout is now archived as part of the UFC FIGHT PASS library.
Maximum Fighting Championship is a Canadian mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion based in Edmonton, Alberta. MFC’s former home, in Canada, is the River Cree Resort and Casino in Enoch, Alberta, located just outside Edmonton, Alberta but has also held events at the Edmonton Expo Centre. MFC events are broadcast on The Fight Network, AXS TV in North America and most recently TSN2. MFC is known to be the biggest MMA promotion in Canada and one of the top MMA shows in the World. MFC has notable Canadian fighters, such as Ryan Jimmo, Graham Spencer, Tom Watson and Douglas Lima, plus MMA veterans, such as Jason MacDonald, Thales Leites, Jay Silva, Trevor Prangley, and Paul Daley.
A ring announcer is an in-ring employee or contractor for a boxing, professional wrestling or mixed martial arts event or promotion, who introduces the competitors to the audience.
The Art of War Fighting Championship is a Chinese professional mixed martial arts promotion based in Beijing, China. The Chinese title "英雄榜" literally translated means "Gathering of Heroes." Art of War FC has no relation to the defunct US MMA promotion Art of War Undisputed Arena Fighting Championship. Art of War I was held at the Beijing Sports University on November 6, 2005. The inaugural event made it the first professional mixed martial arts contest in the People's Republic of China. To date, AOW has held 15 events in mainland China. Its largest event was Art of War 12 - Invincible, held at the National Olympic Sports Center Auditorium in Beijing on May 23, 2009 to an audience of around 6,000 fans. The event attracted many international guests, including former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia, renowned ring announcer Michael Buffer, and experienced referee "Big" John McCarthy.
Universal Reality Combat Championship (URCC) is the first professional mixed martial arts event based in the Philippines. Its inaugural event was held at the Casino Filipino Amphitheater in Parañaque, Philippines on November 23, 2002. The URCC is under the supervision of the Games and Amusements Board (GAB), the government agency that sanctions games such as billiards, boxing and basketball. The URCC was founded in 2002 by Filipino BJJ Black belt Alvin Aguilar. The matches and events of the URCC are currently aired on ABS-CBN Sports and Action and ABS-CBN Sports and Action HD, URCC's official broadcast partner.
The New York State Athletic Commission or NYSAC, also known as the New York Athletic Commission, is a division of the New York State Department of State which regulates all contests and exhibitions of unarmed combat within the state of New York, including licensure and supervision of promoters, boxers, professional wrestlers, seconds, ring officials, managers, and matchmakers. In 2016, the NYSAC was authorized to oversee all mixed martial arts contests in New York.
Dream was a Japanese mixed martial arts (MMA) organization promoted by former PRIDE FC executives and K-1 promoter Fighting and Entertainment Group. DREAM replaced FEG's previous-run mixed martial arts fight series, Hero's. The series retained many of the stylistic flourishes and personnel from Pride FC broadcasts, including fight introducer Lenne Hardt. In America, the promotion was aired on HDNet. They promoted over 20 shows highlighting some of the best Japanese and international MMA talent, establishing or enhancing the careers of top ranked fighters such as Shinya Aoki, Gesias Cavalcante, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Ronaldo Jacaré, Eddie Alvarez, Jason Miller, Kazushi Sakuraba, Gegard Mousasi and Alistair Overeem.
Eric Scott Esch, better known by his nickname "Butterbean", is an American retired professional boxer, kickboxer, mixed martial artist, and professional wrestler who competed in the heavyweight division. He is also a television personality, having appeared in several programs and been referenced by many others. Esch transitioned to professional boxing in 1994 following a successful stint on the Toughman Contest scene and went on to capture the World Athletic Association (WAA) heavyweight and IBA super heavyweight championships. Beginning in 2003, he began fighting regularly as a kickboxer and mixed martial artist, most notably in K-1 and the Pride Fighting Championships. Butterbean's combined fight record stands at 97–24–5 with 67 knockouts and 10 submissions.
BAMMA is a mixed martial arts promotion based in the United Kingdom. It premiered on June 27, 2009 and was shown on the television channel Bravo. BAMMA events was shown live on ITV4 in the UK and Ireland, KIX in Asia, VEQTA Digital Broadcast Sports Network in India, Kwese in Africa, DAZN in Germany & Russia, FITE TV and UNILAD (Online). BAMMA events stream live on the UNILAD Facebook Page (Prelims) and ITV4 (UK) & Fite.tv (US). BAMMA 29 was shown on free to air broadcaster Dave, and BAMMA 30 was also shown there on 7 July 2017 as was BAMMA 31. BAMMA 33 was shown on ITV4 on December 15 2017.
Titan Fighting Championship is an American mixed martial arts promotion based out of Pompano Beach, FL. Their shows were originally run in and near Kansas City and have since expanded to include venues all over North America and eventually, international locations. Since July 2015, Titan FC events are broadcast on the UFC online streaming service UFC Fight Pass, which also showcases a library of the organization's previous events.
The Warrior Xtreme Cagefighting (WXC) is the largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion company in Michigan that hosts most of the top-ranked fighters in the state and is looking in 2019 to produce events Nationwide. Based in the United States, the WXC has eight weight divisions and enforces the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. Norbert Pasztor serves as the president of the WXC.
World Series of Fighting (Canada) formerly Aggression Fighting Championship, Aggression MMA and Armageddon Fighting Championship is a Canadian Mixed Martial Arts promotion based out of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The promotions made their debuts in 2009. Armageddon Fighting Championship and Aggression MMA merged in 2012 to create Aggression Fighting Championship. In September 2013, World Series of Fighting purchased the Aggression Fighting Championship organization to enter the Canadian market, but it was later found out the AFC executives closed down the company to join a new organization WSOF Canada.
World Series of Fighting formerly Omega MMA is a Nicaraguan Mixed Martial Arts promotion based out of Managua, Nicaragua. The promotion made its debut on May 3, 2013. In the Summer of 2013, Omega MMA was quietly purchased by WSOF, and was rebranded as World Series of Fighting: Central America. The promotion held its first event on July 27, 2013, headlined by former boxing world champion Ricardo Mayorga.
Rumble on the Rock is an American mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion company in promotion with K-1 and operated by Fighting and Entertainment Group and Rumble World Entertainment. Headquartered Hawaii, Rumble on the Rock was formed in 2002 and enforces the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts with events structured around tournaments.
Road Fighting Championship is a South Korean-based mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion which was officially launched in 2010. Prior to December 2016, Road FC has held 52 events in three countries - South Korea, Japan, and China.
The Federation of Mixed Impact Martial Arts R-1 is a promotional organization aimed at mixed martial arts "R-1" development and popularization in Russia. The R-1 Federation unites various aspects of martial arts. R-1 rules are based on research into preferences of tournament participants and spectators. The rules are intended to guarantee maximum entertainment. A related product called Combat Time R-1 emerged on the world professional sports arena.