Knees and Kicks to a Downed Fighter Rule Reinterpreted by Athletic Commissions

September 12, 2013
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Marc Ratner UFC 79How athletic commissions interpret the rule about knees and kicks to a downed fighter and how referees enforce the rule has changed.

UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and former Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission Marc Ratner appeared on a recent edition of UFC Tonight on Wednesday and explained the new interpretation of what is a foul and what isn’t in regards to kneeing and kicking a “downed” fighter.

The Unified Rules of mixed martial arts describes a “downed” fighter as a fighter who has more than just the soles of their feet on the ground.

The Association of Boxing Commissions website defines a downed fighter as, “A grounded opponent is any fighter who has more than just the soles of their feet on the ground. (i.e. could have one shin or one finger down to be considered a downed fighter) If the referee determines that a fighter would be a grounded fighter, but is not solely because the ring ropes or cage fence has held fighter from the ground, the referee can instruct the combatants that he is treating the fighter held up solely by the cage or ropes as a grounded fighter.”

The wording of the rule and the rule’s intent has not changed, but the way the rule is interpreted and enforced has.

“The rule is really the same,” said Ratner.  “The interpretation that we’ve come up with, with the Association of Boxing Commissions, which should be called the Association of Combat Commissions – they should change that – but the spirit of the rule has been violated by a lot of fighters.

“Obviously if you’re downed and you have a hand on the deck, and you have three points there and you get kicked or kneed, that’s a foul,” he said.  “But we have fighters now who are putting their hand down, bringing it up, putting it back down again.

“I call it, if you’re talking basketball, trying to draw the foul.  They’re hoping that the referee will see it and call a foul and maybe disqualify the other guy,” added Ratner.  “So we’re telling the referees before the fights, go into the dressing rooms and say, ‘look, if you do this you’re doing it at your own peril and in my judgment as a referee, if you’re doing it, I’m going to call it legal.’”

It is now up to the referee’s discretion whether or not a kick or knee to a “downed” fighter is illegal.

“It’s a judgment call,” said Ratner.

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  • Knees/Kicks PLEASE ALLOW

    Knees and Kicks to a Downed Fighter SHOULD BE ALLOWED. It a move that prevented wrestlers to continue to take a guy down.. over and over again. I feel like wrestlers have so many advantage.. Because already “Taking someone down” it already consider higher points and a dominate position. I think it stupid and very boring…I understand the whole saying of “if you take a person down and you can’t stop it is your own fault” True but seriously guys do you guys enjoying 2 men on the ground? rubbing and twirling on each other to get “Dominant position” Man what i said already sound gay. Now if it girls doing it i don’t mind. Preventing wrestlers to take you down if you were able to get them into sprawl position by stopping there take down that way and KNEE in the head they would think twice about doing it. Also if someone was trying to take a wrestler down and they did the same thing.. More power to them. Make it fair!!

    Seriously guys? Isn’t it annoying watching fighters taken advantage of the situation and put their hand down just because they don’t want to get kneed? That now how real fighter is like…. As a striker it limit there attacks.

    • Knees/Kicks PLEASE ALLOW


      • Mike McKinney

        Wait a second… Out of all the things you wrote, you’re use of the wrong “their” is all you felt you should correct? Lol

    • Matte

      You are trying to make a good and fair point. 3 things are just making your post annoying though:

      1. Your fear of gay people. Leave them out of something not at all related to your point.

      2. Your need to make sexistic remarks about women fighting.

      3. Your need to scream words like a 14 year old.

      I do agree on the actual point though.

    • shakejunt

      could’ve just said “there shouldn’t be a downed opponent rule” and gotten positive responses, but you just look ignornant with your rant.

    • Aaron Gustaveson

      Ive never found grappling homoerotic, I dont see anything sexual about it, I guess because Im not gay.

  • aTomsLife

    I would go further and say, a fighter attempting a takedown should not be considered a downed opponent. In boxing, “downed” is synonymous with incapacitated, which obviously isn’t the case when a fighter is using offensive wrestling.

    Legalizing knees to the head of a fighter whose knees are on the mat would make the sport more dynamic, and even the playing field between wrestlers and kickboxers.

    I would not allow knees from side-control, though. It would be too easy to knee an opponent in the back of the head, if one were to instinctively turn to avoid a strike.

    In short, if a fighter is belly-down they’re legal. If a fighter is on his back, they’re illegal.

    • Bo Guss

      I think the rules for “downed” opponents are fine. Nothing to the head period. Too easy to do in any position. And with your concern, connection to back of the head would be more likely. Neck down is free game. Whether turtled, on your belly or on your back. They should also clarify what constitutes a knee. The thigh and knee are in very close proximity. ie. Silva vs Sonnen II. Silva kneed Sonnen in the sternum, but his thigh hit the head. Causing many to cry foul. I can disrupt someone’s ground game by hitting a downed opponent with my quads. It doesn’t do a lot of damage, but it does help in setting up your opponent.

  • L

    Hey Ratner, I have an idea. Its revolutionary. Never been tried (except for years and years by this other org you’ve never heard of). Its called…. Knees on the ground. Legal. Not semi-legal, not at the ref’s discretion legal, not a judgement call legal, legal.

    Stomps we can do without, soccer kicks should be brought back. Yes, even in side mount. If you are sidemounted, getting kneed in the face, and you expose your vertebrae (turn away, go fetal) the fight is over.

    I wonder why UFC even has legacy rules like this. Oh, thats right, its the ‘commission’, and UFC has ‘nothing’ to do with it (except of course, you know, appointing the NSAC to oversee UFC in the first place!)

    • kbtat2

      The org’s you speak of were fought in rings. In a cage things are different. If you are down and right next to the cage and you get soccer kicked, or kneed, your head has nowhere to go and more serious injuries could occur. At least in a ring your head could move with the kick, or knee, and reduce the impact.

  • shakejunt

    step in the right direction, but leaves too much to the ref.
    should be 4 points of contact.

    btw, the rules aren’t to protect wreslters, it’s to protect bjj guys. it’s to stop you from kicking someone’s head should they try to armbar you or headbutting in their guard.

    • L

      It was to protect wrestlers, in the early days of the sport. Most American fighters were wrestlers, most foreigners were either muay thai, kickboxing or JJ base.

      Sometimes I read these ‘knees on the ground’ debates and wonder if I am the only one who watched Pride.

      • shakejunt

        well seeing as the ufc started before pride and was made to show off gracie jiujitsu, i’ll have to disagree.

  • Bo Guss

    I’m confused now. Does this mean no kicks or knees period, to downed opponents? Or no kicks or knees to the head of downed opponents? And why are we following BOXING commission rules? There should be a different governing body for MMA. Or at the very least, authorities in the Boxing Commission should be qualified to make rules for MMA. ie. experience in MMA, complete knowledge of all the nuances, and techniques of MMA. From standup and grappling, to setting up and escapes. As well as knowing the difference between effective strikes (which should count), and rabbit punches (which shouldn’t). Boxing is NOT MMA. MMA should never be treated in the same context. Would anyone want a Pediotrist to do brain surgery on them? Didn’t think so. lol

  • Kbroesq

    I’m glad to hear this. It’s just completely against the…spirit of fighting to allow a guy to put his hand down while he’s in a headlock or something just so he cannot be kneed.

    Obviously, some people believe they should just do away with the downed rule all together, but that’s a separate issue. This is a positive change for sure.

  • Alex Anderson

    It’s difficult to prevent fighters from “protecting” themselves by turning the back of their head towards the direction that their opponent is able to land punches from. I see this all the time, and it’s really, really absurd. Ground and pound used to be more effective with fewer rules, and is more effective in real life than you might think from watching mma.

    There are a bunch of different ground strikes which are illegal. GSP would probably get a lot more finishes on the ground if there were fewer rules, and we’d see less ground-humping in general. We’ve already seen Jon Jones use illegal elbows which didn’t seem like something which should be illegal, to great effect against Mark Hamil, but he was disqualified (that was his only recorded “loss,” in case you didn’t know).

    It’s not easy to regulate mma. You can’t allow every possible type of strike or attack, otherwise fighters would wear out too fast, society wouldn’t tolerate it. Anything you make illegal will allow fighters to do things which would normally be too dangerous to do in a real fight, but where you draw that line is unavoidably pretty arbitrary, and how that rule is interpreted and enforced is also subject to some arbitrary variation based on different referees. However, I think it’s time for the rules to be dialed back to be somewhat more like how they were in the early days. Longer rounds would perhaps be the most important rule change.

  • Mike McKinney

    I think quite a few of you read the article wrong. They’re not saying that you are now allowed to knee a guy who puts a hand down to avoid getting a knee to the head.

    What they’re saying is that a ref has an option to not consider a knee a foul if a fighter keeps putting his hand down, and then lifting, to entice his opponent to throw the knee in between motions for the purpose of getting a foul called.
    With how its been a fighter could lift his hand off the mat, waiting until his opponent starts to throw a knee, and then quickly put it down right before the knee lands. If he then can’t continue he wins by DQ. The ref had no choice.
    However, now if a fighter tries to get his opponent DQed the ref doesn’t have to call it a foul.

    I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s saying. Your still not allowed to knee a guy who just puts his hand down. It’s only if he keeps lifting in what seems like a purpose of earning a DQ.
    I could be wrong, but I highly doubt it.

  • cell989

    go back to the Pride days already

  • fattytwenty

    I really don’t understand the terminology “downed” and how it is used? Does it mean the fighter is knocked out, or is in a vulnerable position? Either way, if it is used in those two definitions i described earlier, then why can you mount or take down the fighter? Is it not, that the fighter is vulnerable or knocked out, and in danger of damage.

    • Aaron Gustaveson

      It means not standing basically. Nothing to with with why they are “downed”. I agree, the term makes it sound like they were knocked down.