ROUNDTABLE: How should athletic commissions rule a grounded fighter? (UPDATED)

By Michael Hiscoe, Managing Editor

Mar 2, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Robbie Lawler (red gloves) and Ben Askren (blue gloves) during UFC 235 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

A recent survey of athletic commissions revealed that there are at least 10 different rulesets in MMA in North America. When it comes to ruling a grounded fighter, what definition do you think works best?

Sean Covington, Columnist – Covington’s Corner

I think that is something that is fluid and may actually change. I don’t think that there an answer that will be satisfactory for every single fight.

Whatever PRIDE did worked just fine. PRIDE had stars, and it turned the heads of fans with its spirited competition. We owe PRIDE and its fighters for being the WCW to UFC’s WWE. Without PRIDE maybe some of us don’t stay fans of the sport or combat sports period. MMA, as well as other sports, tend to get watered down over time. Athletes get more athletic and get paid more, then they become divas and don’t wanna be touched. MMA has to be careful that it protects its fighters as well as LETS THEM FIGHT.

Patrick Shaheen, Host – MMA Scope Podcast

This seems simple to me, a fighter on his back or down on all fours is a downed opponent and standing strikes should be illegal. Anywhere else all strikes should be legal, I understand the concern about the safety of fighters. But that’s an easy rule of thumb to follow and this is fighting after all.

Frank Hyden, Columnist – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I think having one knee on the ground counting as being grounded is fine. I think having one set of rules is the only way to go. Even if you disagree with a particular rule, it’s better to have one set that you can learn and everyone knows than this nebulous stuff they have going on.

If you’re in Location A, these are the rules. But if you’re in Location B, a few of the rules are different. And in Location C, some of the rules are this way. It’s so confusing and unnecessary. Sports are supposed to have one set of rules. NBA games have one set of rules, so does the NFL, etc. They don’t change them based on where they’re at, that’s Busch League stuff. The UFC, Bellator, and whoever else runs MMA shows need to adopt a single set of rules. Rules can vary by organization but they shouldn’t vary by location.

Michael Hiscoe, MMATorch Managing Editor

I’m right there with Frank that there needs to be one set of rules no matter where you go. Rules matter, and rules influence outcomes, that’s why they have them. So there shouldn’t be a reason why a fighter could win a fight in one state and take an identical action and lose the fight in another.

As for the specific grounded fighter rule, it needs to be clear and it also needs to protect the fighters. While this may not be a popular opinion, the old rule where if any part of a fighter’s body other than the soles of his or her feet are touching the ground, then that’s a grounded fighter. Yes, it does allow fighters to play the fingertip game, but the offensive fighter should recognize that and lift their opponent up high enough so they can’t touch their fingertips to the mat before delivering a knee.


The reason I like this rule is that it is clear to everyone when a fighter is grounded or not, is he touching the mat? Yes? Then he’s grounded. There’s no worrying about how many points of contact or if it’s a palm or a fingertip. It’s clear and it also leans on the safer side. So while it presents some problems, that is still the definition I prefer.

Christian Moore, MMATorch Contributor

Honestly, I know it isn’t legal in general MMA, but I think knees to downed opponents should be legal. Maybe not soccer kicks and stomps, but look at the PRIDE days, and no one ever suffered any major problem from downed knees. Now I’ve never been kneed in the head, so I don’t really know the difference, but I think that normal knees have a lot more impact than knees to a downed opponent. It reminds me of Bare Knuckle. It looks brutal but isn’t as bad as other things.

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