When the UFC first burst onto the scene, it was promoted as a “no rules” form of fighting. Throughout the years, the ruleset was fine-tuned, and we now have the sport of MMA that we all know and love.
There are still few rules, but the rules that do exist need to be followed. Even with these rules, there seems to be some blurring. For instance, in different places, different rules will be applied. Also, if something illegal happens, it must be determined if it was intentional or not. These are all problems. These problems are at the forefront of discussions lately because of a few incidences that happened recently. A few illegal shots stopped several fighters over the last few weeks, with different consequences and repercussions. So let’s look at them and see if these illegal shots are “just part of the game” or if they can be prevented.
Two weekends ago, we saw the bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling end in disqualification. Yan landed a knee to the head of Sterling while he was determined to be a downed fighter. This meant that because his knee was down and no oncoming knees can be thrown at the head. A similar if not exact same thing happened one week later. Eryk Anders hit Darren Stewart in the head with a knee when he was a downed fighter as well. The difference? The Anders/Stewart fight was deemed a no-contest. So why the difference? Intent.
It was deemed that Yan threw his knee intentionally and Anders did not. Yan was warned that Sterling was a downed opponent, whether he heard and understood it or not (Yan is not a native English speaker.) If this was actually intentional and Yan chose at the moment to cheat and throw an illegal knee, which seems unlikely, then maybe there is nothing to be done. But for unintentional shots, if there is a way to change this?
MMA is a sport of passion. Getting into a cage and fighting another person for money and honor takes years of skill. These men and women in there know what they are doing, yet still, these things happen. Perhaps a lounder warning from the referee could be called out each time an opponent is down. That could be tedious and annoying but could help with these kinds of accidents. Another way would be to do away with the rule altogether. Yes, doing away with this rule would be dangerous to the fighter, but perhaps if there was no rule banning this movement, the fighter would have to adjust their game to avoid being put in these positions.
Low leg kicks have become a big part of the offense for fighters lately. For example, we saw Dustin Poirier utilize these perfectly to defeat Conor McGregor at UFC 257. Some people believe that these sorts of kicks should be outlawed as well. Instead, fighters must learn to combat them and make the defense a part of their skillset.
Another illegal move is eye pokes. This has been an issue for a long time now and is mostly unintentional. Should these be allowed as part of the sport? Certainly not. The eye is a fragile thing and should be protected. So should fighters wear goggles or something like that or are eye pokes “just part of the game?” It might just be that accidents happen and these are just a part of the business of fighting, but maybe a glove redesign could help. The design of the gloves used in the UFC right now allows for eye pokes to be more prevalent. A curved type of glove used in other MMA promotions could prevent some of the incidences where fighters are poked in the eye.
MMA is a rough sport, one where fighters are bound to get hurt. Maybe the rules are there to stop some of that damage, but there is no real way to prevent everything. There is a small percentage of fights that something goes wrong and the rules are broken. If something is blatantly done on purpose, then that fighter should be dealt with in the appropriate way. However, as for the accidents, they may be just that, accidents. So in a way, they will always be part of the game.
What are your thoughts on illegal strikes in MMA? Are there any solutions to this growing problem or are they inevitable?