Mixed Martial Arts Rules

The rules for modern mixed martial arts competitions have change significantly since the early days of vale tudo and Japanese shoot wrestling and UFC 1 and even more from the historic style of pankration. As the knowledge about fighting techniques spread among fighters and spectators, it became clear that the original minimalist rule systems needed to be amended. The main motivations for these rule changes were protection of the health of the fighters, the desire to shed the image of "barbaric, no rules, fighting-to-the-death" matches and be recognised as a sport.

Rules included the introduction of weight classes, as knowledge about submissions spread, with more fighters became well-versed in submission techniques and avoiding submissions, differences in weight became a substantial factor. Small, open-fingered, gloves were introduced to protect fists in punches, reduce the occurrence of cuts (and stoppages due to cuts) and encourage fighters to use their hands for striking, to enable more captivating matches and time limits were established to avoid long fights with little action as competitors conserved their strength, matches without time limits also complicated the airing of live events. Similar motivations produced the "stand up" rule, where the referee can stand fighters up if it is perceived both are resting on the ground or are not advancing toward a dominant position.

Gloves were first mandatory in Japan's Shooto promotion and were later adopted by the UFC as it developed into a regulated sport. In the U.S., state athletic and boxing commissions have played a crucial role in the introduction of additional rules because they oversee MMA in similar way to boxing. Smaller shows may use more restrictive rules because they have less experienced fighters who are looking to acquire experience and exposure that could ultimately lead them to getting recruited into one of the larger, better paying promotions. In Japan and Europe, there is no regulating authority over competitions, so these organizations have greater freedom in rule development and event structure.

Victory in a match is normally gained either by the judges' decision after an allotted amount of time has elapsed, a stoppage by the referee (for example if a competitor can not defend himself intelligently) or the fight doctor (due to an injury), a submission, by a competitor's cornerman throwing in the towel, or by knockout.