After the UFC 159 event this past weekend at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, the UFC is ramping up their efforts to clear up and adjust some of the rules in the sport. Two fights ended over the weekend because of accidental eye pokes and, while one was a legit stoppage, the referees need a clearer understanding of how to handle the situation and the athletic commissions need to have more concrete rules.
UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner plans to address some changes at the annual Association of Boxing Commisison meeting this summer in San Antonio, Texas.
First order of business is addressing the eye poking.
“What we want the referees to do is don’t make a medical decision,” Ratner told USA TODAY Sports, via MMAjunkie.com. “Call time. Don’t ask the kid if he can see or not. Bring the doctor in and let the doctor make the determination.”
“Now obviously, if any fighter can’t see, you want the fight stopped. 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.”
In the Gian Villante vs. Ovince St. Preux on Saturday, Villante was accidentally poked in the eye. Referee Kevin Mulhall asked Villante if he could see and the fighter responded with, “no.” The fight was stopped.
If Mulhall would have given Villante the five minutes to recover from the accidental strike and had the doctor come in and look at the injury, then all would have been well. Instead, Mulhall put himself in a tough position and made a decision that was incorrect.
“The referee was a very good referee,” said Ratner. “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.”
By making it mandatory to bring in the doctor and give the fighter five minutes, we can avoid this in the future.
The next rule that will be adjusted is the definition of a grounded opponent. This is something that has needed to be changed for quite some time. Currently, all a fighter needs to do to be considered a “grounded opponent” is simply touch the canvas with their hand. Even if you are on both feet, you are ruled down if the hand touches the mat. This has been abused on countless occasions and really stalls and slows down the grappling against the cage.
“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,” said Ratner. “That’s not what the rule is for. That has to be looked at.”
“I’m going to work with our attorneys on the language. 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 Ratner can successfully get these minor adjustments to take place, the sport will be much more improved.
MMA is already the fastest growing sport in the world, but little slip ups in the rules can cause the sport to stumble when it is put on the national stage. By clearing everything up and defining the rules in a way that allows a better flow to the sport and avoids controversial endings, the UFC officials are doing exactly what they need to be doing to take the sport to the next level.