Scoring, eye pokes and female fighter attire where the order of the day as the majority of US state athletic commissions gathered to discuss and vote on proposals for what is quickly being considered amongst the media and fans as the most significant change, modification or update to the unified rules of mixed martial arts since they were first officially approved back in July of 2009.

The rules of Mixed Martial Arts were given a fresh coat of paint just 24 hours ago as the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) met and voted at the 28th annual conference which was held in Las Vegas.

The proposals set forward by the ABC’s rules committee which was then followed by the vote resulting in a landslide 42-1 result in favour of passing the new set of rules for MMA. New Jersey was the lone state choosing to vote against while Mississippi and Tennessee both abstained from voting.

Every state athletic commission can implement the new set of rule changes immediately and in some cases they may need to go through their legislature which could cause a delay. They could also reject the new rules should they choose to do so.

Here are the new / updated sets of rules which have been added to the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.


Judging Criteria / Scoring

The language judges must adhere to when scoring rounds have been amended. Essentially effective striking / grappling are now higher priorities for judging rounds and determining the winner of the round. Only if those two areas of the fight are deemed to be fairly identical would a judge then take aggression and ‘fight area control’ or cage control into account.

What defines a 10-8 round has also been loosened to some extent where the new rules ask judges to look at dominance, length of time and impact. If a fighter is deemed to have succeeded in two of those featured in the round then a 10-8 must be considered and if a fighter succeeds in all three then a 10-8 absolutely must be awarded.


Grounded fighter

A grounded fighter is defined as: Any part of the body, other than a single hand and feet touching the fighting area floor. To be grounded, both hands and feet, palm/fist down, and/or any other body part must be touching the fighting area floor. At this time, kicks or knees to the head will not be allowed.


Extended fingers

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 in the air when reaching toward their opponent.


Female clothing

Female competitors must wear a short-sleeved (above the elbow) or sleeveless form-fitting rash guard and/or sports bra. No loose-fitting tops are allowed. Female competitors will follow the same requirements for bottom coverings as the male competitors, minus the requirement for groin protection.



The new definition of a grounded fighter is very welcomed as we’ve seen some fighters in the past ‘play the game’, opting for the 3 point stance. While this could lead to more finishes this will also ensure fighters are proactive as possible trying to avoid head strikes. The female clothing rule change will be music to the ears of Valerie Letourneau who vented her frustration following her loss to Joanne Calderwood a few months ago, took to Instagram and explained how uncomfortable she felt in the Reebok fight kit and how it affected her performance.

The final take away from yesterday’s events is where this leaves the New Jersey State Athletic Commission. Do MMA promotions like the UFC, Bellator, WSOF and the like hold events in New Jersey if they don’t comply and adopt these new rule changes? The rule changes could take a while before every state adopts them but what yesterday proved is that the sport is in a state of constant evolution and the right people are meeting to ensure debated rules and such are at the very least being discussed for review.