What is MMA and what are the rules?

MMA rules are not necessarily known to all. But here is the opportunity to take a closer look. Unlike the now-famous “Octagon, no rules, no referees”, MMA is a well-structured sport.

MMA, what is it?

MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts. As its name indicates, this combat sport brings together several martial disciplines. Among them: boxing, grappling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, wrestling, and muay-thai.

When did the MMA come into being?

A little before the 1980s. The initial principle was to compare the disciplines to know which was the best. A competition called “Vale Tudo” (“Everything is allowed”) took place in Brazil in particular. Little by little, the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) decided to structure all this and organized fights in an octagon closed by a fence. This made it possible to determine who knew best how to use its technical specificities.

What is an octagon?

In MMA, an octagon is a cage bounded by a plastic fence. It helps protect the fighters to prevent them from getting out of this particular “ring”. In boxing, this can happen for example.

How long are MMA fights?

Fights usually last 3 rounds and they are 5 minutes long. There is a minute of pause between rounds. But when fighting for a title, they last 5 rounds or 25 minutes.

Can everyone participate?

A fight brings together two opponents of the same weight category. There are currently 8 weight classes for men and 4 categories for women at UFC, the largest organization in the world. In men: flyweight (minus 56.7 kg), bantamweight (minus 61.2 kg), featherweight (minus 65.7 kg), lightweight (minus 70.3 kg), welterweight (minus 77 kg) ), average weight (minus 84 kg), medium weight (minus 93 kg), heavy weight (minus 120.2 kg). In women: strawweight (minus 52 kg), flyweight (minus 57 kg), bantamweight (minus 61 kg), featherweight (minus 66 kg). As in boxing, the weighing is done the day before or the morning of the fight.

Does a fight end inevitably in a KO?

No, the fight is well supervised by a referee who is there to monitor the fighters’ health. A duel can end in a KO (unconscious opponent), TK-O (referee stops the fight because an opponent is no longer able to fight), by submission (the opponent gives up because he is blocked), surrender at the corner or by disqualification. If the fight is over, it is the three designated judges who will decide between the two opponents on points.

MMA rules and regulations

In MMA everything is well regulated. Fighting with hands, legs, elbows, knees are accepted in the MMA. As well as ground projections, submission techniques, submission keys and ground strikes. According to MMA rules and regulations, some moves are illegal.

  • Hit the opponent in the groin area;
  • Pulling hair or biting;
  • Putting fingers in the eye or punching the eye of an opponent;
  • Strikes in the throat, neck, spine, kidneys, and joints;
  • Put fingers in the nose, mouth or ears of an opponent;
  • Headshots;
  • Kicking or kneeling an opponent on the ground;
  • Pinching or scratching;
  • Ground projections knocking the opponent over the head;
  • The projection out of the ring or the octagon;
  • The seizure of equipment shorts, jersey, gloves, bandage, etc.
  • Verbal attacks to the opponent, to his corner or referees and officials;
  • Spit on an opponent;
  • Giving a shot while the referee has meant a stop;
  • Failure to comply with the instructions of the referee.

The different possible outcomes of an MMA fight


The goal of this sport is to win the fight. There are different ways to achieve this, whether before or after the final gong:

KO: This is the Knockout found in most boxes. One of the two opponents loses consciousness to his opponent, and the referee is obliged to stop the fight.

TKO: This is the technical knockout. The opponent is not unconscious, but the referee, the doctor or the fighter’s corner feels that he is no longer able to continue fighting. The TKO can occur in different situations, especially if one of the two opponents is hit but not retaliated.

A fight may also be stopped by the event’s doctor if one of the fighters has an injury or cut too deep. The corner can decide to throw in the towel by sending a towel to the ground, because the level gap is too great, and they feel that the fighter takes dangerous shots without hopes of winning the fight.

Submission or technical submission: A fighter may decide to stop a fight by tapping 3 times with the flat of his hand on his opponent. This is the case if he is no longer able to support a throttle or a key.

The technical bid comes when the referee considers that a fighter cannot get out of a throttle or a key and that he is not able to tap 3 times. The referee then decides to stop the fight.

Technical Decision: Here, it is the judges with the support of the referee, who decide to put an end to the fight. It happens when one of the two fighters is unintentionally injured, for example, if there is a head clash between the opponents and one of the two got a big cut requiring care. The judges can then indicate a draw or designate a winner if they believe that one of the boxers deserves the victory.

Disqualification of a fighter: If one of the fighters does not comply with the rules mentioned above, then he may be simply disqualified.

The judges’ decision: finally, if the fight comes to an end, then the 3 judges who counted the points will designate a winner. There may be different decision:

  • Unanimous Decision: This is the unanimous decision, the 3 judges appoint the same fighter, who will then be declared the winner. There may also be a unanimous decision to designate a tie, which is the case if the judges counted the same number of strokes for each fighter.
  • Majority Decision: Two judges appoint a winner, and the final judge considers that there is a tie. It’s enough to win a fight.
  • Split Decision: Two judges appoint a winner, while the third judge appoints the other winning fighter. Again, the one who has two judges on his side wins the fight.
  • Split Draw: This is a tie, as one judge appoints a winner, another judge appoints another winner and the third sees a tie. No one wins, no one loses either.
  • Majority Draw: In this case, two judges give a tie and the last one appoints a winner. It is a tie that is declared, there is no winner.

A little history

Men and sometimes women have always wanted to fight to demonstrate their physical dominance. Instead of going to war, fights are framed by a few rules and fighters can shake hands after a fight. Thus, there are already traces of free fighting from 2500 years ago in Greece, where the pancrace was then an Olympic sport.

At that time there were not as many rules as now, and fighters would fight for hours, sometimes until one of the two (or even both) athletes died. The pancrace was then the most popular Olympic sport, where champions from several regions competed against each other. Today, MMA is practiced all over the world, although some countries prohibit competitions.

There have been ups and downs, including bans in many states in the 90s, or more stringent rules with referees, but the UFC and MMA have stood the test of time with incredible professionalization.


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