"What we want the referees to do is don't make a medical decision," Ratner told USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps
). "Call time. Don't ask the kid if he can see or not. Bring the doctor in and let the doctor make the determination."
The ABC is charged with providing uniform standards in MMA among the various state and tribal athletic commissions that oversee the sport in North America. Those responsibilities include the maintenance of the Unified Rules of MMA, which set forth minimum standards by which all member commissions must follow.
Currently, the Unified Rules state that in case of any accidental foul other than a low blow, "the referee shall determine whether the unarmed combatant who has been fouled can continue or not." That directive was on full display at UFC 159, where light heavyweight Gian Villante had his eyes accidentally gouged by opponent Ovince St. Preux. Referee Kevin Mulhall immediately moved in to halt the action and asked Villante if he could see. When Villante said he couldn't, the bout was immediately waved off.
A frustrated Villante later complained that he should have been given a few moments to clear his vision.
"I couldn't see for a second," Villante said after the fight. "I just blinked my eye to try to get some fluid back in there.
"I would have been fine 30 seconds later. I thought I had five minutes. All I needed was 10 seconds. But they ended it."
Ratner said he plans on attending the ABC's annual conference, scheduled for late July in San Antonio, in hopes of getting the procedure changed.
"Now obviously, if any fighter can't see, you want the fight stopped," Ratner said. "But here's a case where if you go through the mechanic and bring the doctor in, it will give them a chance to see if in fact the eye clears up and he can fight. That's what you want to do there.
"The referee was a very good referee. Kevin Mulhall is one of the top referees in the world. Once the fighter said he couldn't see, it puts the referee in a position where he has to stop it. So it's the kind of thing where you want the doctors, who are there for that exact reason, to make the final determination before you stop the fight."
Ratner doesn't believe any revised language needs to allow for a full five-minute recovery period, such as when a fighter is struck with a low blow. However, he does believe the simple process of bringing in a doctor to make the appropriate call will ensure fighters have the brief time necessary to work past an incidental eye poke.
"I think by bringing the doctor in, just the whole operation will take a couple of minutes, and I think that should alleviate most of the pain and give us enough time to make sure the guy can fight," Ratner said.
Ratner also hopes to petition the ABC to reexamine the definition of a "grounded opponent" in relation to the protection it gives a fighter against absorbing both kicks and knees to the head.
Currently, the Unified Rules define a grounded opponent as "any fighter who has more than the just the soles of their feet on the ground (i.e. could have one shin or one finger down to be considered a downed fighter)." In recent years, this has led to fighters placing a hand on the mat to qualify for the extra protection offered a grounded opponent.
Ratner and White both believe such an approach undermines the spirit of the rule.
"We really believe this 'three-point stance rule,' where a fighter is just placing his hand on and off the mat so he won't get hit, needs to be addressed," Ratner said. "That's not what the rule is for. That has to be looked at."
Ratner said UFC officials hope to draw up proposed language that more clearly defines what should constitute a grounded fighter. The resulting proposal will be presented to the ABC this summer.
"I'm going to work with our attorneys on the language," Ratner said. "If you're going against the intent of the rule, and that's what's being done with some fighters, then we've got to change it. I'm going to get the right verbiage for it. That one is one that's come into play recently in the past couple years that needs to be changed."
If the ABC elects to make the revisions, member commissions would then follow suit. Ratner believes the process could be handled with relative ease and thinks it's important everyone involved in MMA is continuously looking at opportunities to improve the sport.
"We look at all these things," Ratner said. "We try to learn from experience and make the sport better."