Unified MMA Rules Could Be Changing For The Better

By Rich Bergeron
John Dodson Vs. Demtrious Johnson
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The annual Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) meeting ended on Wednesday, the same day a discussion on changing the recognized MMA rule book was set to take place. The main bone of contention is in regard to fighters who put their hands or fingers on the mat to appear officially “grounded.”

Much like “flopping” in the NBA, where a player drops to the court feigning injury to draw a foul, some MMA fighters seem to be taking advantage of the current rules, which only require limited hand-to-mat contact for a fighter to be considered grounded.

“Intentional grounding” is a penalty in the NFL, and it may soon become punishable by legal knees to the head in mixed martial arts if the ABC discussion on the subject bears any fruit. The ABC is made up of members of state and tribal athletic commissions across the U.S. and Canada, and the organization provides the framework and oversight for MMA and boxing rules and regulations.

The rule change suggestion is co-authored by Nevada’s Keith Kizer, Ohio’s Bernie Profato, and New Jersey’s Nick Lembo. The change is aimed to suppress instances where a fighter purposely attempts to draw a foul by placing a hand or a few fingers on the mat while standing, only to then absorb an illegal knee that their opponent would be penalized for under normal circumstances.

If the rule passes, it would be clearly explained to fighters at future rules meetings.

The situation occurs enough in MMA for the rule to make a significant impact on the sport. One of the most relevant recent occurrences happened in a January, 2013 UFC flyweight title fight. During that bout, Demetrious Johnson delivered a knee to the head of John Dodson just a few seconds after Dodson put his hand on the mat.

Action was stopped for Dodson to recover from the blow, but the referee did not deduct a point for the infraction. Under the proposed new rule, the referee could have ruled the knee legal and let the fight continue.

It may not bring back the old PRIDE soccer kicks to the head of downed opponents that fans enjoyed so much, but it does address a problem without posing that much of a risk to fighters. Kudos to the authors of this rule change for recognizing an issue and taking it on head-first.

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