McCarthy details the history of the 12-6 elbow ban

Sunday, May 20, 2018

One of the weirdest rules in MMA is the prohibition on 12-6 elbows – an elbow that drops straight down to the target vertically. It’s barely even a thing, except to say you shouldn’t do it. Yet the ban is responsible for the sole loss on Jon Jones’ record.

The Dean of MMA Referees, ‘Big’ John McCarthy, recently appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience MMA Show, and detailed how it came about.

“This is what I’ve always said, and I believe you’re the one who told me this,” began Rogan, as transcribed by Ben Kiely for “When the commissions were talking about techniques, they had seen those karate guys on ESPN at 1 am breaking bricks with their elbows and they’re like, ‘There’s no way you could allow that strike because that strike would be too deadly.’ Was that what happened?”

“Close,” McCarthy replied.

As it turns out it wasn’t bricks, it was ice.

The New Jersey commission decided wisely that each MMA promotion couldn’t use their own rules, and determined to create Unified Rules. It’s one of a handful of the most important steps in the sport’s history. There was a relatively small group present.

The largest contingent was representatives of promotions, including Yukino Kanda and Hideki Yamamoto (Pride), Terry Trebilcock (King of the Cage), and Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta, Joe Silva, Jeff Blatnick, and McCarthy (UFC). Commissions were represented by NJ State Athletic Control Board Counsel Nick Lembo, Director of the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation Mike Mazzulli, and Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission Marc Ratner who appeared via conference call. And, this is critical to the story – there was a New Jersey physician, Dr. Dom Coletta.

“What they were trying to do was take away all elbows,” explained McCarthy. “And I go, ‘Look it, you have elbows in Muay Thai. Every time you take something away, you are changing the sport and making it to where it’s harder to actually have action because if you take away elbows … If I’m good at grabbing wrist, I can hold wrist for a while. I can’t do anything, I’ve got to pull my hand out. Whereas, if you grab my wrist and I’m Jon Jones and roll my elbow over and boom bring it down, you let go of my wrist because you’re being attacked.'”

“Dom Coletta being the doctor says, ‘I have a problem with one.’ It came from Gan McGee versus a guy named Brad Gabriel from the IFC, the very first show they had. Gan McGee was 6′ 11″ about 335 lbs and he’s fighting a guy named Brad Gabriel who was 6′ 1″, 210-215 lbs.”

“Brad Gabriel’s trying to get a hold of Gan just to survive and Gan is taking his arm and he’s boom! boom! boom! and he’s bringing it straight down on top of Gabriel’s head. Then he takes his back and he does the same thing like the old Brazilian style shots to the back of the head. [Coletta] said, ‘I can’t have that. I’ve seen them break big blocks of ice like that. That’s a dangerous elbow. We can’t have that.”

“And I started to combat it and Lorenzo Fertitta looks at me and goes, ‘John, let it go. It’s stupid.’ And I go, ‘Yes sir, boss,’ and I backed away from it.”

And so it was that only 12-6 elbows were prohibited.

While the ban is a little silly, it’s a tiny price to pay for what may very well be the most important single day in mixed martial arts history. All who attended should be in the pantheon.

Except maybe for that doc ;-)