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Enough’s Enough: UFC VP Marc Ratner to Request Changes to MMA’s Two Most Bullshit Rules

(I don’t see a downed opponent. I see a damn *fool*!)

It’s one of the strangest, most arbitrary double-standards of MMA’s Unified Rules — you get five minutes to recover from a strike to the groin, but if you can’t immediately continue after an eye-poke, the fight is over. Considering that the eyes are the balls of the face, it’s a shame that both sets of organs aren’t given equal protection under the law.

Gian Villante was the latest victim of the eye-poke technicality at UFC 159, when he lost a technical decision to Ovince St. Preux after getting gouged 33 seconds into the second round of their prelim scrap. As he explained afterwards, “I couldn’t see for a second. I just blinked my eye to try to get some fluid back in there. I would have been fine 30 seconds later. I thought I had five minutes. All I needed was 10 seconds. But they ended it…I don’t know what was I supposed to say. And if I did know what to say, I’m in the middle of a fight. I’m not going to think, ‘What is the exact rule on what to say when you get poked in the eye?’ I’m going to say exactly how I feel. I can’t see for this second, but give me a second, and I’ll be all right.”

Instead, referee Kevin Mulhall stopped the fight, and the judges scored the action up to that point, giving Villante a loss in his UFC debut. On the bright side, that disappointing moment might have been the last straw in the UFC’s tolerance for some of the sport’s most controversial rules. According to an MMAJunkie report, UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner will make a formal request to change MMA’s eye-poke protocol at the Association of Boxing Commissions’ annual conference in late July. (The ABC is responsible for maintaining the Unified Rules of MMA, and providing uniform standards for MMA among the state and tribal athletic commissions.)

As Ratner puts it: “What we want the referees to do is don’t make a medical decision. Call time. Don’t ask the kid if he can see or not. Bring the doctor in and let the doctor make the determination…Now obviously, if any fighter can’t see, you want the fight stopped. But here’s a case where if you go through the mechanic and bring the doctor in, it will give them a chance to see if in fact the eye clears up and he can fight…I think by bringing the doctor in, just the whole operation will take a couple of minutes, and I think that should alleviate most of the pain and give us enough time to make sure the guy can fight.”

Alright, so it’s not as simple as “five minutes for eye-pokes too,” but the reasoning makes sense; give a fighter a chance to blink a few times before asking him if he can see, and let a doctor make the final decision about whether a match can continue.

Ratner also plans to propose a change to the definition of a “grounded opponent.” In the current incarnation of the Unified Rules, having a hand down on the mat gives a fighter “grounded” status, meaning that their opponent isn’t allowed to kick or knee them in the head. But fighters like Quinton Jackson and Paul Buentello have blatantly exploited this rule in the past, intentionally putting their hands on the mat to avoid trouble — and Ratner isn’t a fan of that either:

We really believe this ‘three-point stance rule,’ where a fighter is just placing his hand on and off the mat so he won’t get hit, needs to be addressed. That’s not what the rule is for. That has to be looked at…If you’re going against the intent of the rule, and that’s what’s being done with some fighters, then we’ve got to change it.”

We wish Mr. Ratner luck in his quest to add a little bit of common sense to the Unified Rules. And once he has success with fixing the eye-poke and grounded-fighter rules, we hope he can help revise MMA’s other bad rules, like lifting the ban on 12-to-6 elbows, and prohibiting non-English-speaking fighters from taking us through the replay.

Are there any other MMA rules that you’d like to see changed?

Cagepotato Comments

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RearNakedSpoon- May 2, 2013 at 3:31 am
I've still got some reservations but I don't want to be making another wall of text.
Thanks for taking the time to explain your views anyway. I don't think either of our opinions are inherently wrong and polar opposite, just slightly conflicting. So it would be a very fine balancing act to bring in a new rule like that and keep everyone happy.
Get Off Me- May 1, 2013 at 3:15 pm
I've suggested this rule so many times over and over, left out some details in re reading what I wrote here though.
Here's what I would want.
If a fighter does not advance past full guard inside of sixty seconds, the fight is to be stood up... example if you take me down, I establish full guard, you cannot get to half guard or better, we get stood back up. If you make it to half guard all bets are off and the fight continues, because you have shown that you are grappling effectively, not just holding me down. If a single punch is not thrown the whole time that is ok as long as you can at the very least improve your position. If you take me down and you land in side control, all bets are off, fight is not interrupted, same for any other position we fall into other than full guard. The lay n pray line was created based on fighters who simply stay stagnant in their opponents full guard. The idea stems from BJJ full guard actually not be a disadvantageous position as it is perceived to be today(case and point Silva/Sonnen 1, Anderson was losing a fight from the same position he won the fight from). Would you rather give Steve mazzagatti a fucking card to walk around with in his pocket or somebody outside the ring telling him "hey fucko that's sixty seconds stand them up no advancement from full guard". What is Kim Winslow going to do with a card....again this is about taking interpretation away, it's like a shot clock in basketball, after time is up it's up no interpretation no questions, simple as that. Striking, aggression are not part of this rule, have nothing to do with it. Look at what Jorgensen did to Stone from full guard, Jones did to Vera+Hammill from full guard, you can finish a fight from there or damage an opponent enough to pass within 60 seconds if you are looking to improve your position and finish the fight, not take a rest on top of your advisory. It will eliminate the ambiguity, right now we see Belfort/Johnson get stood up inside 20 seconds, in Bellator that Doug Marshall guy negotiated with the referee to stand the fight up after being on his back for 15 seconds(he went on to win the fight in one of the most embarrassing ref/judged fights I can remember)....Then on the flip side fighters can stay in that position for 4 minutes without being interrupted. I think JJ is gravely underscored in mma, if a fighter jumps and pulls full guard on his opponent, he is losing the fight in the eyes of the judges because he is on his back, to me this rule kinda levels the playing field and acknowledges that maybe the guy on top is not winning if he can't advance past full guard. Fighter inside full guard, striking+agression+octagon control aside, for 60 consecutive seconds, fight get's stood's already being done, but there is nothing but the opinion of the incompetent refs as to when this happens, I am just trying to propose a timeframe to work with so that we take more interpretation out of the referees will help the judging as well long term.
crappiefloper- May 1, 2013 at 12:20 pm
Same day weigh ins and 15 min with no rounds would be a fight I would tune into fer sure. I would bet you would see better ground time limit there wouldn't be," I'll thro up a Shitty whatever attempt, even though I'm almost assured it will fail due to lack of the positional dominance it was designed to be attempted from. But I'll throw it up to try to look active,score points, and since there's 21 seconds left in the round ill bee alright".
JayJitsu310- May 1, 2013 at 10:46 am
lol, all of a sudden everybody is for Pride rules now. And when did Frank Shamrock fight Titio Ortiz? j/k I know you meant Ken, Spoon.
JayJitsu310- May 1, 2013 at 10:47 am
Yes I spelled his name like Titty-O
JayJitsu310- May 1, 2013 at 11:08 am
And yes I know they fought once, at UFC 22.
RearNakedSpoon- May 1, 2013 at 2:44 pm
Well after my typo's in the first comment I felt the need to keep up the continuity of my stupidity :P
RearNakedSpoon- May 1, 2013 at 10:08 am
Sorry for the wall of text haha
RearNakedSpoon- May 1, 2013 at 10:07 am
I appreciate that but he never advanced to mount during that time which could how people read it. If the rule is that you have to advance then you have to advance from a full guard only?
Even at that there are some fighters who can stop fights from a full guard like Tito and Jones.
Inactivity is in the eye of the ref as well and you can't trust them to have perfect judgement all the time or to keep count of when positions change and the clock.

Tito vs Shamrock II was deemed an early stoppage and Tito was in Franks full guard for 50 seconds. Tito vs Shamrock III came around because of the controversy which ended after over 100 seconds of Tito being in Frank's full guard...

Is it 60 seconds with no strikes, 60 seconds with no damage or 60 seconds with no advancing of position? Either way it's a very ambiguous rule and the last thing you want is for more uncertainty in the sport.

Yellow cards for lack of aggression is a better direction but i'd be afraid of it destroying intelligent game plans like GSP saying he had Penn up against the fence in R1 to force more blood into his arms and slow his striking.
In my opinion that's effectively damaging your opponent in the same way that leg kicks hinder footwork but i'm sure many felt it was stalling.
JayJitsu310- May 1, 2013 at 10:55 am
Good point about stalling, but it's like in Boxing where an opponent leans on a guy to tire him out. It's not fighting, it's cheating by using a loophole. And I've been about same day weigh-ins since day one, that would really separate MMA from sports like Boxing, and Wrestling, and show who is truly the "Ultimate Fighter" I can't believe people cry about Fallon Fox, but say nothing about 6 foot, 190 pound guys cutting weight, then bulking up to fight 5 1/2 foot, 160 pund guys, that's some bitch ass shit right there.
Get Off Me- May 1, 2013 at 7:48 am
Half guard is not full guard, precisely my point, lesnar was able to advance out of frank's full guard to a position where he could do damage. If lesnar would have stayed in full guard for 218 secs or 75 seconds then stand them up... I am referring to the instances where a fighter sits inside full guard of his opponent without advancing into full guard, side control, full mount etc... to me being inside full guard or having an opponent inside full guard is like a "cat's game" position, nobody is winning, sadly the one on top wins 99% of the time when this is the case. Again look at the damage Lesnar was able to do to Mir from half guard, not full guard....I am completely for grappling, just active grappling from both parties. In both cases you mention, the fight was stopped due to activity on the ground, not lack thereof.
RearNakedSpoon- May 1, 2013 at 4:05 am
@Get Off Me
Lesnar vs Mir II, Brock was in Mir's half guard for 218 seconds during the first round, huge damage was done during that time but not enough for a stoppage and a stand up would have been totally unfair. In the second round he was in Mir's half guard for 75 seconds before the fight was finished, again a 60 second standup would have been too soon and unfair.
If heavyweights can do significant damage for much longer than 60 seconds without a finish then the lighter divisions are less likely to finish in that time.

If fighters are circling and jabbing for more than 60 seconds should the ref put them on the ground?

We should want the guy on the bottom trying to hit sweeps, submissions and get up, not just instantly turtle up and holding the other guy in the same position for 60 seconds so the ref can save him. The Bald Father said it before and Condit vs Hendrix is the poster fight for how well rounded and hard working MMA fighters should be these days.
Drewimus- April 30, 2013 at 10:30 pm
No rounds. This is fighting, not boxing. Additionally, with the extra time that is saved, non-title fights will be 20 minutes, and title fights will be 30 minutes.
cman- April 30, 2013 at 8:40 pm
Can you imagine big country without a frying pan?
RSparrow- April 30, 2013 at 5:50 pm
No time limit at all... and after 15 or 20 minutes with no winner, small and weird objects start being thrown in the cage that can be used as weapons... like staplers, or a broom.
RSparrow- April 30, 2013 at 5:56 pm
Can you imagine Big Country running around with a frying pan
Mr_Misanthropy- April 30, 2013 at 3:10 pm
Howzabout this?

We'll change the first round so that it's ten minutes long and then we'll have a normal five minute second round and we'll get rid of the third round. Then we'll legalize kicks and knees to the head of a downed opponent and if anybody stalls we'll just take some of their money immediately to light a fire under their ass. We'd better outlaw elbows on the ground though, those aren't safe. Just to fuck with people they will get paid in the ring in giant cardboard checks that are only redeemable in Yen.

Pretty nuts, huh?!?
Mr_Misanthropy- April 30, 2013 at 3:12 pm
PS- Six foot tall trophies, bouquets of roses, and country fair ribbons will be awarded to all winners of championship matches.
Get Off Me- April 30, 2013 at 3:27 pm
you forgot the customary streamers and confetti cannons when the fighter introductions are going down.
Get Off Me- April 30, 2013 at 3:06 pm
@RNS If the damage is truly significant chances are the fighter will advance position naturally or the fight will come to an end.
@Cman All aspects of a fight should be scored, takedowns need to be given consideration, it is aggressive by nature to takedown an opponent, establishing ground and pound leaves too much to interpretation(what is effective ground n pound to a referee and judge) of the already incompetent individuals ruining this sport.
What we have now(clear examples available from 159) is one referee standing fights up and another referee not standing fights up while fighters essentially are in the same position doing the same thing, that's a bigger problem for the legitimacy of the sport than anything else. No cards(interpretation left in the hands of the ref=bad), No not scoring or scoring takedowns based on extra criteria(interpretation left in the hands of the judges=bad) Just a simple clock that the referee must respect(have a referee by the octagon, like they do in boxing when a fighter gets knocked down, who keeps record of time once a fight goes to the ground until when it is stood up due to no advancement on the mat by either fighter) which will allow the fighter landing takedowns to land more takedowns and generally promote more action in the fight overall.
RearNakedSpoon- April 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm
What about someone not advancing position but still doing significant damage?
Does accelerating your opponents exhaustion count as damage?
Should submission attempts be scored but advancing positions be ignored?
cman- April 30, 2013 at 2:18 pm
Length of fights is contractual, not regulated.
Same day weigh ins. Or limit the day of weight gap between combatants.
Required title defenses a year.
Takedowns not being scored unless position is advanced or ground and pounds established.
Aggression better defined or removed from scoring.
Get Off Me- April 30, 2013 at 12:17 pm
The most important rule...fighters who do not advance on the ground inside 60 seconds get stood up...this rule will make the sport appeal to the masses(those two arena event staff members backstage at 159 represent how many non fans/potential new fans of the sport feel) and force the fighters to work(aka "action" from pride referees) as well as offer much more clarity as to who won and lost a given round. The other rule changes are nice that Ratner is proposing, but effect much fewer fights than the rule I would like to see implemented. 15 or 25 minute rounds will not save the audience from anything we see now as long as fighters can stay inside their opponents guard without the certain threat that they will be stood up if they do not advance(we will just get 10 straight minutes of the same old lay n' pray...think early UFC taktarov/shamrock etc. Good news is we are finally seeing the UFC acknowledge that they can make rule changes to the sport with the ABC, the old "we are regulated" "the commissions make the rules" was getting tired especially after 5rd main event non title fights were instituted almost over night.
The Fresh One- April 30, 2013 at 12:09 pm
I thought you had time to recover from an eyepoke as long as ref had witnessed it. I can't cite an example, but am I crazy or have we seen this? If so, it's in and of itself bullshit anyway. Refs warn fighters all the time about contact to the face with open hands, and if you see an open had near the eye, then an obvious reaction, but don't actually see the penetration, and claim not to have seen it, isn't that hypocrisy? That is, to warn one fighter for "attempting" an act, then rewarding him for finishing a fight with the same act?

Sorry if had to follow, I'm kind of all over the place here.

Also, in the case of Sakara vs Irvin, wasn't that fight going to continue if it was an eyepoke, but then did not when it was deemed a closed fist punch to the eye, and not a poke??
The Fresh One- April 30, 2013 at 11:58 am
RearNakedSpoon- April 30, 2013 at 11:08 am
Same day weigh-in
Eye pokes and groin shots are an automatic point deduction no matter how innocent (fighting styles will adapt to being safer)
Straight 15 or 25 minutes, no more rounds (GSP's suggestion on the JRE last week)
The scoring is weighted more near the end of a fight than the start (GSP's again)
No corner men (Fighters must adapt their own gameplan in a fight)
Knees allowed during any form of grabbling including on the ground
Refusing to fight someone the organisation officially offers you will result in a 90% reduction of your next fight purse
Fried Taco- April 30, 2013 at 2:29 pm
Why did your p's turn into b's?
RearNakedSpoon- April 30, 2013 at 2:37 pm
Because it's a new word created to for the rule. You have to be grabbing or trying to control someone close to you during grappling for the it to be legal. Hence "grabbling".

Or I made a silly typo, whichever you like better :P
Pen Fifteen- April 30, 2013 at 11:03 am
Legalize groin shots
dillsapldorf- April 30, 2013 at 10:00 am
fighters should have to weigh-in the same day as the fight. they need to establish a yellow card for stalling system. foot stomps and kicking people on the ground should be legal. ummm...thats all off the top of my head.
paperplane- April 30, 2013 at 9:39 am
Wouldn't mind seeing a dude get thrown out of the cage. I know it is in fact illegal, but come on. Wouldn't that be hilarious.
Fried Taco- April 30, 2013 at 8:10 am
I hear Ratner has an impressive collection of Pride t-shirts he is going to be wearing for the conference.
danomite- April 30, 2013 at 7:41 am
did marc ratner used to be the director of NSAC? If he can't get them to change the stupid rules, no one will.