(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?