Skip to main content

Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts


The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) aim to provide a clear set of rules governing professional MMA competition that remain consistent across the jurisdictions of various athletic commissions and other regulatory bodies. The framework of the Unified Rules of MMA was proposed and agreed upon by various athletic commissions in the 2000s and unanimously adopted by the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) on July 30, 2009.


Judging criteria


- Prohibited substances

- (Note: UFC not only complies with the prohibited substances requirements of the Unified Rules of MMA, but also far exceeds these requirements with the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, the most comprehensive in professional sport)

- Number of rounds per bout and round duration

Weight classes

Medical requirements

- Athlete attire and equipment


UFC has consistently embraced more thorough regulation of MMA and adopted the Unified Rules of MMA in November 2000. These rules help ensure athlete safety and fair competition by providing a consistent set of rules for the sport – something that was missing in the early days of mixed martial arts. All UFC bouts are now governed with full adherence to the provisions set forth in the Unified Rules of MMA. UFC continues to support athletic commissions as they work to update and improve upon the Unified Rules of MMA.


The following acts constitute fouls in a contest or exhibition of mixed martial arts and may result in penalties, at the discretion of the referee, if committed:

- Butting with the head

- Eye gouging of any kind

- Biting or spitting at an opponent

- Fish hooking (act of inserting a finger or fingers or one or both hands into the mouth or nostrils or a person, pulling away from the centerline of the body)

- Hair pulling

- Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his head or neck

- Strikes to the spine or the back of the head.

- Throat strikes of any kind, and/or grabbing the trachea

- Fingers outstretched toward an opponent’s face/eyes

- Downward pointing elbow strike (’12 to ‘6 strike)

- Groin attacks of any kind

- Kneeing and/or kicking the head of a grounded opponent

- Stomping a grounded opponent

- Holding opponent’s gloves or shorts

- Holding or grabbing the fence or ropes with fingers or toes

- Small joint manipulation

- Throwing opponent out of ring/fighting area

- Intentionally placing a finger into any orifice or any cut or laceration of an opponent

- Clawing, pinching or twisting the flesh

- Timidity (avoiding contact with an opponent, intentionally or consistently dropping the mouthpiece or faking an injury)

- Using abusive language in the fighting area

- Flagrant disregarding of the referee’s instructions

- Unsportsmanlike conduct that causes injury to an opponent

- Attacking an opponent after the bell has sounded the end of the period of unarmed combat

- Attacking an opponent on or during the break

- Attacking an opponent who is under the care of the referee

- Interference from a mixed martial artist’s corner or seconds

1) Disqualification may occur after any combination of fouls or after a flagrant foul at the discretion of the referee.

2) Fouls may result in a point being deducted by the official scorekeeper from the offending contestant’s score. The scorekeeper, not the judges, will be responsible for calculating the true score after factoring in the point deduction.

3) Only a referee can assess a foul. If the referee does not call the foul, judges must not make that assessment on their own and should not factor such into their scoring calculations.