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On January 1st, the first change to the unified rules of mixed martial arts since 2009 will come into effect.

The new ruleset changes the definition of what constitutes a grounded fighter and will implement new judging criteria, along with several more new penalties to be enforced and some techniques which had been considered fouls in the past no longer been seen as such.

Interestingly, one of the changes is that it is now a foul to ‘reach’ or ‘paw’ out your hand open-fisted to measure distance or to keep an opponent at bay. This rule comes into effect to help minimise the risks of accidental, or otherwise, eye pokes.

As referee John McCarthy explains: “In 2017 we’re going to start by eliminating some of the rules that have been fouls in the past. Those being first, as we look at it, heel kicks to the kidneys is now going to be legal in the sport of mixed martial arts.”

As for judging, McCarthy hopes that the newly introduced instructions will help in establishing a situation where judging becomes more regimented. 10-10 rounds, as well as 10-7 rounds, will now be more commonplace within mixed martial arts. Though, as McCarthy explains, a 10-7 round will be a lot less common as it is likely that the referee will have called a stop to the bout should that score be required.

You can watch McCarthy explain the rule changes in detail in the video below.


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