MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) Rules

MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

MMA (mixed martial arts) is one of the world's fastest growing sports and is one of the most dynamic and exciting full contact combat sports on the planet. Mixed martial arts is essentially a sport in which fighters of any martial discipline, such as boxing, karate, jiu jitsu, wrestling and judo compete under rules that allow kicking, punching and grappling techniques, both stand-up and on the ground.

It is usually fought in a cage which is a fighting area enclosed by metal fencing, a traditional boxing ring or in amateur competitions, sometimes a simple matted area is used.

Such fighting has gone on for many years and can be traced as far back as ancient Greece where a sport known as Pankration was popular which was a combat sport that featured range of grappling and striking techniques. Similar styles of combat have existed throughout the ages but none have ever attracted worldwide attention until the advent of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the USA in 1993.

Pitting fighters of different martial arts styles against each other, it was a TV hit and began to popularise the sport of MMA across the world. Today the UFC is MMA’s largest promotion, has fight nights across the globe and is worth several billion dollars.

There is no one governing body for MMA and there is no uniform set of rules that are used the world over, and many of the hundreds of different federations, promotions and associations across the globe may all have slightly differing takes on MMA rules.

However, several state commissions across the United States of America came together to create the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts and this set of rules has been adopted by fighting promotions all across the globe, including the Ultimate Fighting Championship. By far the most widely used MMA rulebooks, even those promotions that don’t subscribe to them will almost certainly use a close variation of them.

Object of MMA

The object of the sport is to defeat your opponent utilising striking, throwing and grappling techniques. Although in the early years of MMA and particularly the UFC fighters tended to concentrate on one martial art and tended to be solely strikers and grapplers, nowadays most fighters recognise the need to cross-train to be successful in MMA.

That means fighters will often have a base style such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but will also incorporate wrestling, thai boxing and western boxing training to give them an all round fight game. Such a mix of styles in which you take the strengths of each is essential to being successful in modern MMA and consistently winning matches.

Players & Equipment

MMA is contested by two people in a cage or a ring. It is generally thought of as an adult only sport but there are more and more juniors training in MMA and they compete in competitions. However, because MMA can be a dangerous sport, matches are generally not full contact, strikes to the face are not allowed and nor are any forms of joint locks that could be dangerous to growing bones. In adult competition, the following weight classes apply:

  • Super Heavyweight over 265 pounds
  • Heavyweight over 205 to 265 pounds
  • Light Heavyweight over 185 to 205 pounds
  • Middleweight over 170 to 185 pounds
  • Welterweight over 155 to 170 pounds
  • Lightweight over 145 to 155 pounds
  • Featherweight over 135 to 145 pounds
  • Women's Bantamweight over 125 to 135 pounds
  • Bantamweight over 125 to 135 pounds
  • Flyweight over 115 pounds to 125
  • Strawweight up to 115 pounds

The ring/cage used in MMA must be between 20 square feet and 32 square feet.

Because mixed martial arts is the ultimate one-on-one combat sport, no other equipment is used apart from MMA gloves, lightweight padded gloves that allow movement of the fingers whilst also protecting the hands when punching.


In mixed martial arts matches, scoring is done in the same way as many other combat sports such as boxing. Three judges sit around the ring and score each round, giving the winner of the round in their judgement 10 points and the loser 9 points. In rounds where there is a clear winner, the loser may only receive 8 points.

If the match lasts the whole duration then the judges scorecards are added up and the winner announced. If the judges scorecards indicate that both scores are equal, then the match is declared a draw.

Winning the Match

MMA matches can be won in one of a number of ways:

  • Knockout - When one fighter causes their opponent to lose consciousness due to striking
  • Decision - If the fight lasts all of its rounds, then the outcome of the match is decided by judges, the winner being the fighter with the most points.
  • Submission - This is when one fighter places their opponent into a hold and then the opponent ‘taps out’ or, if they refuse to and the hold continues, they may lose consciousness and the referee ends the fight immediately.
  • Technical knockout (TKO) - This is when a fight is ended by the referrer, the fighter’s corner or a doctor. Reasons can include a fighter unable to defend themselves or if continuing the fight could put the fighter’s health at risk.
  • Forfeit - A fighter can forfeit the match before the fight if they are injured and unable to fight.
  • No contest - If both fighters continually break the rules of if one fighter is injured unintentionally by an illegal action, a no contest can be called

Rules of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

  • Matches shall consist of three rounds, each of which should last no more than five minutes.
  • Fights shall take place in a ring or cage that measures between 20 square feet and 32 square feet.
  • To ensure a fair fight, competitors may only fight those fighters that are in the same weight category.
  • When the contest begins, fighters should use legal strikes grappling and throwing techniques in an attempt to defeat their opponent.

Attacks that are not allowed in MMA include:

  • Strikes to the groin
  • Eye gouging
  • Biting
  • Grabbing or striking the throat
  • Manipulating the fingers
  • Hair pulling
  • Head butts
  • Striking the back of the head
  • Intentionally throwing your opponent out of the cage
  • Attacking orifices
  • Fighters must listen to the referee at all times and comply immediately with his instructions.

Fights can be won in a number of ways:

  • Knockout
  • Submission
  • Decision
  • TKO
  • Forfeit
  • No contest
  • If the contest goes the distance, the three judges shall combine the points they have awarded competitors for each round to determine the winner. If the scores are tied, then the match shall be declared a draw.