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Association of Boxing Commissions amend Unified Rules of MMA

The Association of Boxing Commissions amended the Unified Rules of Combat for mixed martial arts on Thursday at a conference in Montreal. The amendments were drafted by the following people:  the ABC’s MMA Chairman Dale Kliparchuk, New Jersey State Athletic Control Board Deputy Attorney Nick Lembo, ABC President Timothy Leuckenhoff and veteran referee “Big” John McCarthy.

It will now be up to each independent athletic commission in each state to adopt the new unified rules and we could see them implemented in Nevada as early as 2009 according to Nevada State Athletic Commission head honcho Keith Kizer in comments made to MMA Junkie.

Thanks to Fight Opinion, the full document for the new rules can be downloaded here. Notable rule changes include:

  • Clarification to the “back of the head” rule, which is now clearly defined as the “Mohawk” definition and not Herb Dean’s “headphones” definition. The “Mohawk” definition is as follows: “crown of the head down the centerline of the skull into the spine, with a one-inch variance to each side.”
  • “12 to 6″ downward elbow strikes are now legal, as long as they are not to illegal areas of the opponent
  • Smothering, which is defined as cupping your hand over your opponents’ mouth, is now considered a foul.
  • And finally, the ABC has defined new weight classes, which are listed here with thanks to Fight Opinion:


Flyweight (Up to 105 pounds)
Super Flyweight (Over 105.1 to 115 lbs)
Bantamweight (Over 115.1 to 125 lbs)
Super Bantamweight (Over 125.1 to 135 lbs)
Featherweight (Over 135.1 to 145 lbs)
Lightweight (Over 145.1 to 155 lbs)
Super Lightweight (Over 155.1 to 165 lbs)
Welterweight (Over 165.1 to 175 lbs)
Super Welterweight (Over 175.1 to 185 lbs)
Middleweight (Over 185.1 to 195 lbs)
Super Middleweight (Over 195.1 to 205 lbs)
Light Heavyweight (Over 205.1 to 225 lbs)
Heavyweight (Over 225.1 to 265 lbs)
Super Heavyweight (Over 265.1 pounds)


Flyweight (95 lbs. and below)
Bantamweight (95.1-105 lbs.)
Featherweight (105.1-115 lbs.)
Lightweight (115.1-125 lbs.)
Welterweight (125.1-135 lbs.)
Middleweight (135.1-145 lbs.)
Light Heavyweight (145.1-155 lbs.)
Cruiserweight (155.1-165 lbs.)
Heavyweight (165.1-185 lbs.)
Super Heavyweight (185.1 and above)

My thoughts on the new rule changes after the jump.

I love the fact that we now have a clear definition of the “back of the head” rule. The fact that it was misunderstood by referees across the board in all of MMA was a problem. The “Mohawk” definition, like it or not, at least provides us with a consistent ruling on what constitutes a strike to the back of the head. Great job by ABC to recognize that this was something that needed to be addressed.

The downward elbow strikes are also another plus. “12 to 6″ elbows are now considered legal and they should always have been legal. The original rule was in place to stop people from performing the “12 to 6″ elbow strikes to the back of the spine. The back of the spine is now considered an illegal area on an opponent’s body, so it’s a wash. Downward elbow strikes are a way to end the fight and inflict damage. There’s nothing different about the downward elbow than there is about the horizontal elbow to an opponent from the bottom position. They’re the same motion, so why was one legal and one illegal in the first place? It’s all semantics and again, solid job by ABC to realize that this rule was in need of being changed.

“Smothering,” is an old wrestling tactic that’s made its way into MMA and has been perfected by guys like Dan Henderson and Randy Couture. While I don’t think it’s ever been a real problem in MMA, it is somewhat of a cheap move but it’s not as if it can’t be defended. I don’t feel one way or the other about this rule change but I’m sure guys like Henderson, Couture, and Matt Lindland would all have something to say about it.

And finally, the weight classes. The men’s weight classes are a little confusing to me. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The current weight classes aren’t a problem. For instance in the welterweight division, do we really want someone who’s weighing in at 165 lbs. to be facing off against a guy like Georges St. Pierre, who cuts roughly 20 lbs. to get down to 170 lbs.? I really don’t understand the weight class changes and I wonder if the commissions will be able to adopt the new unified rules without adopting the new weight classes.

As for the women’s weight classes, I feel that this is something that’s been needed for awhile now. Clearly defined women’s classes gives the women an opportunity to know where they need to be, cut to a certain weight, and perfect the cut. No more jumping from 135 lbs. to 140 lbs. 145 lbs. Just because women fighters are women fighters doesn’t mean they should be jumping all over the place to fight one another. Clearly defined weight classes allow for women to fight where they are most effective as well as allow them to get used to and perfect the proper weight cut.

What are your thoughts on the new unified rules?

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