Is it really a fight if no one gets hurt? Can a sport built upon the premise of human beings beating the daylights out of each other be both cautious and entertaining? The very definition of mixed martial arts, taken directly from UFC’s official website, is “unarmed combat involving the use, subject to any applicable limitations set forth in these Unified Rules and other regulations of the applicable Commission, of a combination of techniques from different disciplines of the martial arts, including, without limitation, grappling, submission holds, kicking and striking.” Sound violent? Of course it does. Fortunately, the UFC has a number of rules and regulations in place that are designed to prevent serious injury to its fighters!
This is such an inherent part of UFC fights that its value as a safety measure is often overlooked. Weight classes help to ensure an evenly matched set of competitors as well as a bout that’s entertaining to watch. Is it always a fair fight? Not necessarily, but these divisions keep it as close as possible!
In UFC, the Octagon is designed not only to be an effective battlefield but also relatively forgiving. The UFC requires that the floor extend at least 18 inches beyond the fence, and that the floor must be padded with at least a 1-inch layer of padding. Octagon posts must be properly padded in a manner approved by the Commission, and ropes must be at least 1-inch in diameter and wrapped in soft material.
Believe it or not, the UFC has very specific rules regarding handwrapping and bandages. Bandages on each hand are restricted to soft gauze cloth, can’t be more than 15 yards long by 2 inches wide, and must be held in place by no more than 10 feet of surgeon’s tape (how many different units of measurement can we use in one sentence?). Gloves must be approved by the Commission and must weigh no less than 4 ounces, but no more than 6 ounces (unless approved prior to the match).
All contestants are required to wear a mouthpiece during the bout. Contestants are also required to wear MMA shorts (board shorts), biking shorts, kick-boxing shorts or other Commission-approved shorts. Males are not allowed to wear shirts, but females must wear shirts (approved by the Commission, of course). Footwear is strictly prohibited during the match.
Fighters are not allowed to wear jewelry or piercing accessories, and their hair must not present a hazard to themselves or their opponent.
Rules for stoppages are in place to ensure that fighters don’t suffer unnecessary injury. Referees are trained to issue warnings and recognize when a fighter is unable to "intelligently defend" himself – they will stop the match at that point. Doctors are available ringside to keep an eye on the action and identify when an injury has occurred (or will soon occur) that would disable a fighter.
Though the MMA style of fighting incorporates maneuvers from a number of different fighting disciplines, there are definitely moves that will get a fighter penalized or potentially even disqualified. Keeping a consistent set of rules helps to ensure that the matches are as clean as possible. Some examples of fouls are:
- Butting with the head
- Eye gouging of any kind
- Spitting at an opponent
- Hair pulling
- Clawing, pinching or twisting the flesh
- Kicking the head of a grounded opponent
- Kneeing the head of a grounded opponent
Head injuries aren’t uncommon in the UFC; boxing moves are prevalent when fighters go on the offensive. What does UFC president Dana White say about concussions in the sport?
Concussion is a huge dilemma right now for the NFL. Here's the difference between the UFC and the NFL as far as concussions are concerned. First of all, if you get a concussion, if you get knocked out or you get hurt whatsoever in the UFC, three months suspension. You are on suspension for three months and you cannot come back until you are cleared by a doctor. You can't have any contact whatsoever. In the NFL, you're not going to lose Tom Brady for three months, man. You lose Tom Brady for three months and your whole season is wiped out. So, the UFC, listen, we don't hide from it, it's a contact sport and that's what these guys do, (is) much safer. In the 20-year history of the UFC, it will be 20-years in November, there has never been a death or a serious injury. Never been a death or serious injury in 20 years because we go above and beyond when it comes to the safety of these guys. When you know you have two healthy athletes getting ready to compete, they get the proper medical attention before and after, it's the safest sport in the world, fact.
We’re not ready to jump on board the "safest sport in the world" ship with White, and no precaution is foolproof, but it’s encouraging to know that the UFC has a number of measures in place to protect its fighters while still keeping the sport as entertaining as possible.
Click here for a complete list of official UFC rules and regulations!
Witness All the Action LIVE at UFC® 193!
If you see one UFC fight for the rest of this year, it should be 193. Female title fights will dominate the headlines as Ronda Rousey battles it out with Holly Holm in the bantamweight division and Joanna Jedrzejczyk defends her strawweight belt against Valerie Letourneau! Be there with the UFC VIP Experience and get your tickets packaged together with behind-the-scenes access and VIP extras you can't get anywhere else!
Images courtesy of UFC.com.