Four recommendations for the Unified Rules passed at 2018 ABC convention

Thursday, August 02, 2018

At the 2018 Association of Boxing Commissions Conference, four clarifications to the Unified Rules of mixed martial arts were voted on. The changes were recommended by the ABC Rules and Regulations Committee. These are not a changing of the rules, which are set, but rather are recommendations.

KO vs. TKO

The definition of a fight-ending TKO vs. a fight-ending KO has previously been left to the referee, but precious little direction was provided. It was something like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of hard-core pornography -  "I know it when I see it." In boxing a KO is determined by a 10 count. In MMA there is no count at all, so there was wide interpretation around what it meant.

Going forward, when a fight is stopped because a fighter IS NOT defending intelligently, it's a TKO. When a fight stopped because a fighter CANNOT defend intelligently it's a KO.

Adopted unanimously via voice vote.

Going to the Judges' Scorecards

At the 2017 conference, it was determined that if a bout is ended by equipment failure, act of God, or most commonly an accidental foul, then it will go to the judge's scorecards if a one full round or more of a three-round fight or two full rounds or more of a five-round fight have elapsed. Prior that time two full rounds of a three rounder and three full rounds of a five rounder had to have elapsed before going to the judges' scorecards.

If insufficient time has elapsed, the bout goes to a No Contest.

The new recommendations concern one, two, and four round bouts. It was noted that a three round bout with the possibility of a fourth round is not a four round fight. In these fights, the bout will go to the judges' score cards if half the bout plus one second has elapsed. If it occurs during the first half of the bout, it will be a No Contest.

Adopted unanimously via voice vote.


Under present recommendations, fighters can only have a small amount of petroleum jelly or a similar substance applied to appropriate areas of the face at the beginning of the fight. Under the new recommendations, greasing can be done again between rounds, if and only if applied by a licensed cutman or cornerman.

Adopted unanimously via voice vote.

Timing of Referee Authority to Overturn a Bout

Under the new recommendations, the authority of a referee begins when the last inspector leaves the cage or ring and does not end until an inspector re enters at the end of the fight. Thus the referee can now overturn a bout outcome even after the final bell, in the event of a particularly egregious foul. Otherwise, a fighter can hold onto a submission or do a backflip off his prone opponent's back, and still have his hand raised in front of all.

Hand vote 22 ayes, 9 nays. The ayes have it.

The next ABC Conference will be in Arizona, and the ABC MMA Rules Committee will undoubtedly continue their stellar work.