In case you have missed it, UFC has ran into problems since the beginning of the year after a new set of rules, including what is defined as a grounded fighter, was approved by the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC). While some athletic commissions have adopted these new rules in accordance with ABC’s changes, others have not. This has caused massive confusion for not only UFC, but more importantly the fighters, who have been competing under different rule sets from one fight to another.
Up until now, UFC hasn’t truly commented on the matter. It is a pressing concern considering some fighters, and even some referees for that matter, are unaware if the new ABC changes are in effect for the state they’re competing in. It’s a confusion that must be fixed before it damages the sport even further.
“It’s been very tough for us, running around the country and having to talk to each commission and saying, ‘We’re using new rules, we’re not using the rules,’” UFC senior vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner said last week at the ABC Conference at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut (h/t Joe Leonard). “It’s actually made a mockery, in a lot of ways, of the sport, which I really, really hate.”
While Ratner is clearly calling for complete unification across the MMA board, there’s a reason why some commissions have been reluctant to conform. The biggest rule change has been the definition of a grounded fighter. In the past, a fighter needed just one hand on the canvas to avoid strikes to the head. Now, the ABC rule requires a fighter to have both palms flat on the ground. Some state athletic commissions, like New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia and Maryland, are unwilling to adopt to the two-handed rule because it could result in more strikes to the head.
“I love boxing and I love MMA,” Ratner said. “They’re both really good. But for me to have to defend the rules makes it very, very tough. It’s not fair to the fighters, it’s not fair to the officials and it’s just uncomfortable. We’re getting hurt by the media. These television networks, they actually kill us. Every time I listen to all these broadcasts and they always say, ‘What’s wrong with this state or why haven’t we done this?’”
In Ratner’s defense, UFC has had to address the rule change on every single one of its broadcasts, informing fans of which rule set is in place for that specific state. If UFC, and MMA as a whole, want to evolve into a combat outlet that is respected by all, it must do everything in its power to make sure every state is the same. It’s a confusing issue that hurts the business more than it helps it, even with the cry for more fighter safety.
“The time has come for reconciliation and unification,” Ratner said. “That’s my little soapbox. It’s the elephant in the room.”