MMA Rules and Regulations: Be Careful What You Wish For

Mario Yamasaki MMA Rules
Credit: Gleidson Venga/

With MMA rules in place with fighter safety specifically in mind, how far can we go without risking the entertainment factor of the combat sport?

I was enjoying the UFC’s fine streaming service ‘Fight Pass’ the other evening, watching Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn’s episode of Where Are They Now, and a few things stood out glaringly.

The mixed martial arts landscape of today is far different than it was in 1993 when this thing we all know and love got started, but boy, have times changed.

The UFC origin story is old news by now, so relax, this isn’t going to be that type of editorial. However, I did want to highlight just how different every aspect of the sport is now. The UFC was sold as a blood sport, no rules, no holds barred, the baddest man on the planet type of thing. If you can’t see why they needed to change with the times, then ask Senator John McCain, who publicly expressed his disgust with the sport.

I’m not going to sit here and say I don’t approve of the UFC trying to make the sport of MMA safer. Clearly, there is an inherent physical risk when your chosen profession is cage fighting. So most, if not all, of the rules and regulations instilled into the sport were done with the safety of the athletes in mind and you can’t be mad at that.

But are we going too far?

I ask that question only because I fear if we do go too far with some of the rules in MMA than we will in effect no longer be watching a combat sport.

We have all watched something eerily similar play out on a far grander scale with the National Football League. Sure the NFL makes money hand over fist but all the emerging CTE data has caused the league to change their rules on a yearly basis to make the full contact sport of football safer. Seems like an oxymoron, right?

I would argue MMA is as safe as its going to get and anymore tinkering with the rules in an effort to make the sport safer could potentially be the death-blow the sport doesn’t need. No pun intended.

People are still fuming over what they consider to be a late stoppage by referee Mario Yamasaki a few weeks ago at UFC Belem. This is a tricky one. Did the fight go on a little too long? Yeah, probably, but she was by the rule doing enough for the fight to continue, so Yamasaki was well within his jurisdiction by letting the fight go on.

You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. It seems Yamasaki is always stopping a fight prematurely or letting it go on far too long. Perhaps that’s another issue entirely.

My point is, be careful what you wish for because if more rules continue to be added to MMA without fixing the ones we already have in place, it’s going to open up even more subjectivity that the sport doesn’t need. It is, after all, a combat sport.

If we take the combat out of it, we are left with sport, and that doesn’t sound like it’s as much fun.