A Beginner's Guide to MMA Rules and Regulations

If you're just starting out in MMA, and want to eventually make a name for yourself as a prize fighter, it's good to know the rules. Here's a compendium of all you need, in our Beginners Guide to MMA Rules and Regulations.

Wade McElwain
Wade McElwain

Last Updated: 2024-03-04

Umaima Saeed

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has gained immense popularity in recent years, captivating audiences with its dynamic combination of striking and grappling techniques. However, for newcomers to the sport, understanding the rules and regulations can seem daunting. In this guide, we'll break down the fundamental rules of MMA/ UFC, providing beginners with a comprehensive overview of what to expect inside the cage.
We're already told you what a hoot it is to get started to train in MMA for physical and mental health. 

Understanding the Octagon

The first step in comprehending unified MMA rules is familiarising yourself with the Octagon, the designated fighting area. Measuring 30 feet in diameter, the Octagon features padded walls and a canvas floor, providing a safe but confined space for competitors to engage in combat.
You're going to get beat up here, but also, hopefully beat other people up.
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Scoring System

MMA bouts are scored based on effective striking, grappling, and octagon control. Judges evaluate each round on a 10-point system, with the more dominant fighter typically receiving 10 points and their opponent receiving 9 or fewer points. Factors such as knockdowns, submission attempts, and significant strikes influence the judges' scoring. If you're about to tap out because a dude has you in arm bar, you're probably losing on points.  

While MMA allows a wide range of offensive and defensive techniques, certain moves are strictly prohibited. These include eye gouging, strikes to the back of the head, groin attacks, and biting. Fighters must adhere to these guidelines to avoid penalties or disqualification. Also drunken relatives jumping in the ring to help you is a big no-no, and is only good for social media views. Play nice. 

Weight Classes

To ensure fair competition, MMA divides fighters into weight classes, ranging from Flyweight (up to 125 lbs) to Heavyweight (over 205 lbs for men, over 145 lbs for women). Competitors must weigh in within their designated weight class limits before each fight, with strict regulations enforced to prevent weight cutting practices.
Oddly enough you can be 'too fat', but not 'too skinny', so anyone under 125 pounds should look for a growth serum. 

Fight Phases

MMA bouts consist of three five-minute rounds for non-title fights and five five-minute rounds for championship bouts. Each round begins with fighters standing and can transition to grappling or ground fighting as the match progresses. Fighters aim to out-strike, out-manoeuvre, or submit their opponent within the allotted time.
Fighters can also runaway, hide or throw in a towel, as well as many other cowardly exit options. 

Submission and Knockout

Victory in MMA can be achieved through submission, knockout, technical knockout (referee stoppage), or judges' decision. A submission occurs when a fighter forces their opponent to tap out, signalling their surrender. A knockout occurs when a fighter is rendered unconscious or unable to continue due to strikes. Sometimes the refs don't call it enough, but when it's over, it's over. Learn and heal from the experience and move on. 

Navigating the rules and regulations of MMA may seem overwhelming at first, but with time and experience, beginners can develop a deeper understanding of the sport. By familiarising yourself with the Octagon, scoring system, legal techniques, weight classes, and fight phases, you'll be better equipped to appreciate the skill and strategy behind each MMA bout. Whether you're a casual fan or aspiring fighter, embracing the nuances of MMA rules adds another layer of excitement to the sport.

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Are there any restrictions on attire or equipment during MMA fights?
Yes, fighters must adhere to specific attire regulations, typically including MMA shorts, a groin protector, and open-fingered gloves. Additionally, mouth-guards and protective cups are mandatory. Any attire or equipment that could cause harm to opponents, such as clothing with sharp edges or excessive padding, is prohibited.

What happens if a fighter violates the rules during a match?
If a fighter commits a foul or violates the rules, the referee may issue warnings, deduct points, or disqualify the offending fighter, depending on the severity of the infraction. Common fouls include eye gouging, groin strikes, and illegal strikes to the back of the head.

Can fighters use any fighting style in MMA, or are there restrictions?
MMA encourages a diverse range of fighting styles, including striking, grappling, and submissions. While there are no restrictions on specific martial arts disciplines, fighters must adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the governing athletic commission. Techniques that pose a risk of serious injury, such as spine locks or neck cranks, may be prohibited.

How are judges' decisions determined in MMA bouts?
Judges evaluate MMA bouts based on a variety of factors, including effective striking, grappling, and octagon control. At the end of each round, judges score the performance of each fighter using a 10-point system, with the more dominant fighter typically receiving 10 points and their opponent receiving 9 or fewer points. The fighter with the higher overall score at the end of the bout is declared the winner.

What precautions are taken to ensure fighter safety during MMA matches?
Fighter safety is paramount in MMA, and numerous precautions are taken to minimise the risk of injury. This includes pre-fight medical examinations, on-site medical personnel, and strict regulations regarding weight cutting and dehydration. Additionally, referees closely monitor fights and have the authority to stop the match if they believe a fighter is in danger or unable to continue safely.

Wade McElwain
Wade McElwainSenior Sports Writer

Wade McElwain is our Mr. NFL, a bona fide North American sports nut who knows about NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA plus MMA boxing and more. Originally from Canada, Wade is also an international award-winning stand-up comedian; host of numerous TV game shows; and a TV producer & writer. He also runs NFL in London-the largest NFL fan group in Europe, and has hosted NFL events at Wembley and around the world. Yes, he lives alone and does nothing but watch sports.