Originally Posted by Loretta Hunt
Revamped Rules Expand Weight Divisions
Friday, July 04, 2008 by Loretta Hunt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
MONTREAL -- A revised edition of the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts were passed Thursday by the Association of Boxing Commissions via a majority vote at the ABC's annual conference.
The amended document -- drafted by the ABC's MMA Chairman Dale Kliparchuk, New Jersey State Athletic Control Board Deputy Attorney Nick Lembo, ABC President Timothy Leuckenhoff and veteran referee "Big" John McCarthy -- primarily provided clarifications to the already existing Unified Rules instituted in April 2001 that serve as a regulatory beacon for the sport throughout North America.
The motion to pass the revised document was introduced by Commissioner Gary Litchfield of Massachusetts, and Utah representative Bill Colbert seconded the motion.
Forty regulatory bodies were in attendance for the annual event, which convened state and tribal athletic commissions from the United States and Canada. The California State Athletic Commission and the Nevada State Athletic Commission, both known for regulating a large share of MMA events, did not have representatives in attendance.
Within the revised regulations, verbiage was added to further define what constitutes an illegal strike to the back of a competitor's head. The revised rules now distinguish the back of the head as the "crown of the head down the centerline of the skill into the spine, with a 1 inch variance to each side." This is commonly referred to as the "Mohawk" definition.
This definition was of prime importance to commission members, who in recent months have diverged in their interpretation of the parameters of the illegal area with the existing text. In a June 23 article on Sherdog.com, the CSAC confirmed it had informally clarified the regulation with its officials based on medical data and recommendations to include the area from ear to ear, which is utilized in boxing. The NSAC had said it had informally adopted this definition to its jurisdiction as well.
Proponents supporting the ear-to-ear definition spoke of the need to preserve fighter safety, particularly in dealing with the tender area along the spine.
"Behind the ear should be illegal, period," said Arizona commissioner John Montano. "If you want to give one inch and the guy says, ‘I'm sorry. I missed it by an inch.' No, I'm not going to answer to somebody that missed it by an inch. It's very simple. Don't hit behind the ear and you won't miss it by an inch."
McCarthy, who presented the revisions to ABC members with Kliparchuk and Lembo, told the group that the "Mohawk" definition had always been the intended interpretation of the rule since its 2001 inception and had never been the cause of serious injury during the sport's tenure. McCarthy urged that altering the definition to include the entire back area would alter the mechanics of the sport.
McCarthy described the scenario in which one fighter can take another's back, but would no longer be able to punch his opponent from that position.
"If you start doing things to try and make boxing fit within MMA, you start to allow the rules to control a position so the fighter can actually go to that position because they realize they can not be attacked there. The opponent who had dominance over me now doesn't have the ability to do much to me," said McCarthy.
In addition, verbiage prohibiting elbow strikes in the downward "12-to-6 o'clock" motion was stricken, as the original rule's intention was to prohibit the technique to the restricted spinal cord area, not ban the actual movement itself. Elbow strikes of all kinds are now permissible, except to illegal areas.
Smothering the mouth or nose of an opponent has been added to the Unified Rules' fouls list, prohibiting a fighter from using his hand to prevent his opponent's ability to breathe. According to the new verbiage, this does not include choke attempts where a fighter's mouth is covered by his opponent's arm.
Fouls constituting unsportsmanlike conduct were consolidated together in the revised document, while the recovery period allowed to a fouled fighter was clarified in the new text. A fighter who has been struck with a low blow will have up to five minutes to recover. All other fouls will be assessed by a physician, who will make a determination within five minutes if the fighter is fit to continue.
A proposed amendment allowing knees to the head of a downed opponent did not make it into the revised regulations for a vote. ABC President Leuckenhoff said the technique had been discussed in the weeks prior to the conference, but it was decided the move would be too radical for some legislatures still considering the sport at this time.
Though it drew no talk or review at the conference, fourteen weight classes are now defined in the men's division under the revised Unified Rules, beginning at the 105-pound flyweight division and moving up in 10-pound increments to super heavyweight at 265 pounds and over.
While some weight classes were unaffected by the reassignments, others were altered with the addition of new divisions above and below them. The welterweight division will now range from 165.1-175 pounds, while light heavyweight fighters will be specified between 205-225 pounds. Heavyweight entrants will be asked to weigh in between 225-265 pounds.
The fourteen weight classes include:
flyweight (up to 105 lbs),
super flyweight (over 105.1 to 115 lbs),
bantamweight (over 115.1 to 125 lbs),
super bantamweight (over 125.1 to 135 lbs),
featherweight (over 135.1 to 145 lbs),
lightweight (over 145.1 to 155 lbs),
super lightweight (over 155.1 to 165 lbs),
welterweight (over 165.1 to 175 lbs),
super welterweight (over 175.1 to 185 lbs),
middleweight (over 185.1 to 195 lbs),
super middleweight (over 195.1 to 205 lbs),
light heavyweight (over 205.1 to 225 lbs),
heavyweight (over 225.1 to 265 lbs), and
super heavyweight (over 265.1 lbs).
Ten female weight divisions were also defined ranging from flyweight (95 lbs and below) to super heavyweight (185.1 and above).
Promotions will not be required to adopt the new weight divisions. However, if they do not, they will no longer be following the Unified Rules.
In addition, ABC members greenlighted the passage of amateur MMA guidelines, which were also drafted by the pro regulations' authors with the addition of CSAC Executive Officer Armando Garcia. Amateur bouts will consist of three, three-minute rounds with 90-second rest periods. Commissions may require amateurs to wear additional protective equipment, including shin guards and instep protection pads, at their own discretion.
The adoption of amateur regulations was viewed as an instrumental step by numerous ABC members.
"I have sanctioning groups in my state. I don't regulate amateurs," said ABC president Leuckenhoff, who serves with Missouri's athletic commission. "Now I can go back to my legislature and say all the states in the U.S. and Canada accepted this document. We need to press this forward."
New Jersey's Lembo, who has spearheaded the development of an amateur circuit in the Garden State for the last couple of years, concurred.
"I'm just happy to see states getting involved in the amateur program," said Lembo. "I hear from so many fighters that say they wish they had the amateur program when they started."
With the passage of revised rules, regulatory bodies will now have the opportunity to adopt them into their states' legislature.
Though individual regulatory outlets have the authority to adjust their guidelines under their own governance and bylaws, the revised Unified Rules have been established as the minimum acceptable safety standards within the sport. In giving their stamp of approval to the updated regulations, ABC members hope all of the commissions will eventually abide by them.
"Now it's up to the commissions to take them back and get them passed," said Lembo. "But as they did with the Unified Rules, it should easier for state commissions to pass these rules if they can say to their legislators that this was something that was passed by the majority of the members of the Association of Boxing Commissions and this is what the majority of other commissions allow. We should be in stead with them."