If you have read a mainstream media article about the UFC in recent months, you’ve likely read about Zuffa’s purchase of the UFC and its subsequent sanctioning in Nevada. What you’re unlikely to have seen is any acknowledgment of the fact that the UFC was already sanctioned in 2000 by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, which is widely regarded as the second most influential athletic commission in the country, behind only Nevada’s.
The authors of many of these articles have written that most of today’s rules were added to the sport after Zuffa bought the company. Many of the articles have also said that the UFC was not sanctioned by any major athletic commission before the Zuffa purchase, or that the UFC actually got sanctioned in New Jersey after the Zuffa purchase.
In the case of the latter claim, it’s not just the authors of the articles who have made these kinds of statements, as UFC president Dana White has made the same kind of statements on two occasions in the past week. White said on ESPNews’ The Hot List that the UFC “wasn’t sanctioned by any of the major athletic commissions” before the Zuffa purchase, and White also said to the Washington Times, “The first thing we knew we had to do was to get it sanctioned by all the major athletic commissions. We sat down with officials from Nevada and New Jersey in 2002, and we got that done.”
As a result of many different mainstream media articles that have made the same factually incorrect statements about the history of the UFC, the following letter was sent to several mainstream media journalists by Nick Lembo, Counsel to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board.
Lembo has given MMAWeekly permission to publish this letter.
“Hello, this is Nick Lembo, Counsel to the New Jersey State Athletic
I am writing to clarify what, in my opinion, were misleading, confusing
or erroneous statements recently published in some major newspaper
articles regarding the sport known as mixed martial arts.
Thank you for your interest and coverage of the mixed martial arts.
Please review the following, which may assist you, in case you wish to
author any future news articles on the subject.
Be advised that:
New Jersey sanctioned mixed martial arts before Zuffa even bought the
UFC. UFC 28 was held in Atlantic City, NJ on November 17, 2000. This
event was sanctioned by New Jersey while the UFC was an entity and a
name owned by SEG ( Bob Meyrowitz). This event was held under the below
listed rules awaiting administrative publication. In fact, an entity
unrelated to the UFC, SEG or Zuffa held a sanctioned event in Atlantic
City, prior to UFC 28, on September 30, 2000. This organization was
known as the the IFC.
The UFC had already accepted, by virtue of staging an event in Atlantic
City in November 2000, every below listed rule before Zuffa bought it.
Accordingly, knees to the head of a downed opponent , certain elbow
strikes, head butts and 20 other actions were already denoted as fouls
that could result in disqualification. Additionally, weight classes,
stringent medical requirements and strict regulatory oversight were in
place at that time. The rules that applied as of the date of that show
are listed below.
It should be noted that even before New Jersey sanctioned the sport,
the California State Athletic Commission had prepared detailed rules
to regulate mixed martial arts but they were not implemented solely due
to governmental issues surrounding the budgeting process.
Please find the following language in our administrative proposal,
written in 2001, regarding martial arts. “In past years, the State
Athletic Control Board ( SACB) had been hesitant to sanction mixed
martial arts events due to the lack of formal rules in the sport which
created health and safety concerns. For example, the sport generally did
not divide contestants into weight classes, had contestants participate
in several matches on the same evening and did not provide time limits
on either round or bout length. However, in the last year or so,
promoters of mixed martial arts events began to develop formal rules and
regulations which included procedures to minimize the risk of injury to
the contestant. After becoming aware that detailed regulations were now
in place for most mixed martial arts events, the SACB then began a
course of communications with the California State Athletic Commission
with regard to the subject of regulating mixed martial arts events.
California has established rules and regulations for the conduct of the
sport in their state. As of September 2000, the SACB began to allow
mixed martial arts promoters to conduct events in New Jersey upon
submission and review of their established rules and regulations. In
addition, the promoters had to agree to incorporate the SACB’s medical
testing and safety requirements. The intent was to allow the SACB to
observe actual events and gather information needed to determine what
would be necessary to establish a comprehensive set of rules to
effectively regulate the sport. On April 3, 2001, the SACB held a
meeting in Trenton to discuss the regulation of mixed martial arts
events. This meeting was set up by SACB Commissioner Larry Hazzard, Sr.
in an attempt to unify the myriad of rules and regulations which have
been utilized by the different mixed martial arts organizations. At this
meeting, the proposed uniform rules were agreed upon by the SACB,
several other regulatory bodies, numerous promoters of mixed martial
arts events and other interested parties in attendance. The meeting was
quite comprehensive and lasted over three hours. At the conclusion of
the meeting, all parties in attendance were able to agree upon a uniform
set of rules to govern the sport of mixed martial arts. In recent
months, other states, including Nevada, have begun to sanction mixed
martial arts events based upon the SACB’s regulatory framework which
arose at the conclusion of the April meeting. The SACB anticipates that
this proposal will result in uniform rules for mixed martial arts events
held throughout the United States. In a similar sense, in March of 1998,
the SACB proposed uniform rules for the conduct of championship
professional boxing matches. Since the proposal, these rules for
championship rules have become the norm throughout the country.
SUBCHAPTER 24A; MIXED MARTIAL ARTS UNIFORM RULES
13:46-24A.1 Weight classes of mixed martial artists
(a) Mixed martial artists shall be divided into the following classes:
1.Flyweight under 125.9 pounds;
2.Bantamweight 126 lbs. – 134.9 pounds;
3.Featherweight 135 lbs. – 144.9 pounds;
4.Lightweight 145 lbs. – 154.9 pounds;
5.Welterweight 155 lbs. – 169.9 pounds;
6.Middleweight 170 lbs. – 184.9 pounds;
7.Light Heavyweight 185 lbs. – 204.9 pounds;
8.Heavyweight 204 lbs. – 264.9 pounds; and
9.Super Heavyweight over 265 pounds.
13:46-24A.2 Fighting area
(a) The fighting area canvas shall be no smaller than 18 feet by 18
feet and no larger than 32 feet by 32 feet. The fighting area canvas
shall be padded in a manner as approved by the Commissioner, with at
least one inch layer of foam padding. Padding shall extend beyond the
fighting area and over the edge of the platform. No vinyl or other
plastic rubberized covering shall be permitted.
(b) The fighting area canvas shall not be more than four feet above the
floor of the building and shall have suitable steps or ramp for use by
the participants. Posts shall be made of metal not more than six inches
in diameter, extending from the floor of the building to a minimum
height of 58 inches above the fighting area canvas and shall be properly
padded in a manner approved by the Commissioner.
(c) The fighting area canvas area shall be enclosed by a fence made of
such material as will not allow a fighter to fall out or break through
it onto the floor or spectators, including, but not limited to, vinyl
coated chain link fencing. All metal parts shall be covered and padded
in a manner approved by the Commissioner and shall not be abrasive to
(d) The fence shall provide two separate entries onto the fighting area
(a) A ring stool of a type approved by the Commissioner shall be
available for each contestant.
(b) An appropriate number of stools or chairs, of a type approved by
the Commissioner, shall be available for each contestant’s seconds.
Such stools or chairs shall be located near each contestant’s corner.
(c) All stools and chairs used must be thoroughly cleaned or replaced
after the conclusion of each bout.
For each bout, the promoter shall provide a clean water bucket and a
clean plastic water bottle in each corner.
13:46-24A.5 Specifications for bandages on mixed martial artist’s
(a) In all weight classes, the bandages on each contestant’s hand
shall be restricted to soft gauze cloth not more than 13 yards in length
and two inches in width, held in place by not more than 10 feet of
surgeon’s tape, one inch in width, for each hand.
(b) Surgeon’s adhesive tape shall be placed directly on each hand for
protection near the wrist. The tape may cross the back of the hand twice
and extend to cover and protect the knuckles when the hand is clenched
to make a fist.
(c) The bandages shall be evenly distributed across the hand.
(d) Bandages and tape shall be placed on the contestant’s hands in
the dressing room in the presence of the inspector and in the presence
of the manager or chief second of his or her opponent.
(e) Under no circumstances are gloves to be placed on the hands of a
contestant until the approval of the inspector is received.
13:46-24A.6 Mouth pieces
(a) All contestants are required to wear a mouthpiece during
competition. The mouthpiece shall be subject to examination and approval
by the attending physician.
(b) The round cannot begin without the mouthpiece in place.
(c) If the mouthpiece is involuntarily dislodged during competition,
the referee shall call time, clean the mouthpiece and reinsert the
mouthpiece at the first opportune moment, without interfering with the
13:46-24A.7 Protective equipment
(a) Male mixed martial artists shall wear a groin protector of their
own selection, of a type approved by the Commissioner.
(b) Female mixed martial artists are prohibited from wearing groin
(c) Female mixed martial artists shall wear a chest protector during
competition. The chest protector shall be subject to approval of the
(a) The gloves shall be new for all main events and in good condition
or they must be replaced.
(b) All contestants shall wear either four, five or six ounce gloves,
supplied by the promoter and approved by the commission. No contestant
shall supply their own gloves for participation.
(a) Each contestant shall wear mixed martial arts shorts, biking
shorts, or kick-boxing shorts.
(b) Gi’s or shirts are prohibited during competition.
(c) Shoes are prohibited during competition.
(a) All contestants shall be cleanly shaven immediately prior to
competition, except that a contestant may wear a closely cropped
(b) Hair shall be trimmed or tied back in such a manner as not to
interfere with the vision of either contestant or cover any part of a
(c) Jewelry or piercing accessories are prohibited during competition.
13:46-24A.11 Round length
(a) Each non-championship mixed martial arts contest shall be three
rounds, of five minutes duration, with a one minute rest period between
(b) Each championship mixed martial arts contest shall be five rounds,
of five minutes duration, with a one minute rest period between each
13:46-24A.12 Stopping a contest
The referee and ringside physician are the sole arbiters of a bout and
are the only individuals authorized to enter the fighting area at any
time during competition and authorized to stop a contest.
(a) All bouts will be evaluated and scored by three judges.
(b) The 10-Point Must System will be the standard system of scoring a
bout. Under the 10-Point Must Scoring System, 10 points must be awarded
to the winner of the round and nine points or less must be awarded to
the loser, except for a rare even round, which is scored (10-10).
(c) Judges shall evaluate mixed martial arts techniques, such as
effective striking, effective grappling, control of the fighting area,
effective aggressiveness and defense.
(d) Evaluations shall be made in the order in which the techniques
appear in (c) above, giving the most weight in scoring to effective
striking, effective grappling, control of the fighting area and
effective aggressiveness and defense.
(e) Effective striking is judged by determining the total number of
legal heavy strikes landed by a contestant.
(f) Effective grappling is judged by considering the amount of
successful executions of a legal takedown and reversals. Examples of
factors to consider are take downs from standing position to mount
position, passing the guard to mount position, and bottom position
fighters using an active, threatening guard.
(g) Fighting area control is judged by determining who is dictating the
pace, location and position of the bout. Examples of factors to consider
are countering a grappler’s attempt at takedown by remaining standing
and legally striking ; taking down an opponent to force a ground fight;
creating threatening submission attempts, passing the guard to achieve
mount, and creating striking opportunities.
(h) Effective aggressiveness means moving forward and landing a legal
(i) Effective defense means avoiding being struck, taken down or
reversed while countering with offensive attacks.
(j) The following objective scoring criteria shall be utilized by the
judges when scoring a round;
1. A round is to be scored as a 10-10 Round when both contestants
appear to be fighting evenly and neither contestant shows clear
dominance in a round;
2. A round is to be scored as a 10-9 Round when a contestant wins by a
close margin, landing the greater number of effective legal strikes,
grappling and other maneuvers;
3. A round is to be scored as a 10-8 Round when a contestant
overwhelmingly dominates by striking or grappling in a round.
4. A round is to be scored as a 10-7 Round when a contestant totally
dominates by striking or grappling in a round.
(k) Judges shall use a sliding scale and recognize the length of time
the fighters are either standing or on the ground, as follows:
1. If the mixed martial artists spent a majority of a round on the
i. Effective grappling is weighed first; and
ii. Effective striking is then weighed
2. If the mixed martial artists spent a majority of a round standing,
1. Effective striking is weighed first; and
2. Effective grappling is then weighed
3. If a round ends with a relatively even amount of standing and canvas
fighting, striking and grappling are weighed equally.
(a) The referee shall issue a single warning for the following
infractions. After the initial warning, if the prohibited conduct
persists, a penalty will be issued. The penalty may result in a
deduction of points or disqualification.
1. Holding or grabbing the fence;
2. Holding opponent’s shorts or gloves; or
3. The presence of more than one second on the fighting area
(a) The following are fouls and will result in penalties if committed:
1. Butting with the head;
2. Eye gouging of any kind;
3. Biting or spitting at an opponent;
4. Hair pulling;
5. Fish hooking;
6. Groin attacks of any kind;
7. Intentionally placing a finger in any opponent’s orifice;
8. Downward pointing of elbow strikes;
9. Small joint manipulation;
10. Strikes to the spine or back of the head;
11. Heel kicks to the kidney;
12. Throat strikes of any kind;
13. Clawing, pinching, twisting the flesh or grabbing the clavicle;
14. Kicking the head of a grounded fighter;
15. Kneeing the head of a grounded fighter;
16. Stomping of a grounded fighter;
17. The use of abusive language in fighting area;
18. Any unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to opponent;
19. Attacking an opponent on or during the break;
20. Attacking an opponent who is under the referee’s care at the
21. Timidity (avoiding contact, or consistent dropping of mouthpiece,
or faking an injury);
22. Interference from a mixed martial artists seconds;
23. Throwing an opponent out of the fighting area;
24. Flagrant disregard of the referee’s instructions;
25. Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his or her head or neck.
(b) Disqualification occurs after any combination of three or the fouls
listed in (a) above or after a referee determines that a foul was
intentional and flagrant.
(c) Fouls will result in a point being deducted by the official
scorekeeper from the offending mixed martial artist’s score.
(d) Only a referee can assess a foul. If the referee does not call the
foul, judges shall not make that assessment on their own and cannot
factor such into their scoring calculations.
(e) A fouled fighter has up to five minutes to recuperate.
(f) If a foul is committed, the referee shall:
1. call time;
2. check the fouled mixed martial artist’s condition and safety; and
3. assess the foul to the offending contestant, deduct points, and
notify each corner’s seconds, judges and the official scorekeeper.
g) If a bottom contestant commits a foul, unless the top contestant is
injured, the fight shall continue, so as not to jeopardize the top
contestant’s superior positioning at the time.
1. The referee shall verbally notify the bottom contestant of the
2. When the round is over, the referee shall assess the foul and notify
both corners’ seconds, the judges and the official scorekeeper.
3. The referee may terminate a bout based on the severity of a foul.
For such a
flagrant foul, a contestant shall lose by disqualification.
13:46-24A.16 Injuries sustained during competition
(a) If an injury sustained during competition as a result of a legal
maneuver is severe enough to terminate a bout, the injured contestant
loses by technical knockout.
(b) If an injury sustained during competition as a result of an
intentional foul is severe enough to terminate a bout, the contestant
causing the injury loses by disqualification.
(c) If an injury is sustained during competition as a result of an
intentional foul and the bout is allowed to continue, the referee shall
notify the scorekeeper to automatically deduct two points from the
contestant who committed the foul.
(d) If an injury sustained during competition as a result of an
intentional foul causes the injured contestant to be unable to continue
at a subsequent point in the contest, the injured contestant shall win
by technical decision, if he or she is ahead on the score cards. If the
injured contestant is even or behind on the score cards at the time of
stoppage, the outcome of the bout shall be declared a technical draw.
(e) If a contestant injures himself or herself while attempting to foul
his or her opponent, the referee shall not take any action in his or her
favor, and the injury shall be treated in the same manner as an injury
produced by a fair blow.
(f) If an injury sustained during competition as a result of an
accidental foul is severe enough for the referee to stop the bout
immediately, the bout shall result in a no contest if stopped before two
rounds have been completed in a three round bout or if stopped before
three rounds have been completed in a five round bout.
(g) If an injury sustained during competition as a result of an
accidental foul is severe enough for the referee to stop the bout
immediately, the bout shall result in a technical decision awarded to
the contestant who is ahead on the score cards at the time the bout is
stopped only when the bout is stopped after two rounds of a three round
bout, or three rounds of a five round bout have been completed.
(h) There will be no scoring of an incomplete round. However, if the
referee penalizes either contestant, then the appropriate points shall
be deducted when the scorekeeper calculates the final score.
13:46-24A.17 Types of Bout Results
(a) The following are the types of bout results:
1. Submission by:
i. Tap Out:When a contestant physically uses his hand to indicate that
he or she no longer wishes to continue; or
ii. Verbal tap out:When a contestant verbally announces to the referee
that he or she does not wish to continue;
2. Technical knockout by:
i. Referee stops bout;
ii. Ringside physician stops bout; or
iii. When an injury as a result of a legal maneuver is severe enough to
terminate a bout;
3. Knockout by failure to rise from the canvas;
4. Decision via score cards:
i. Unanimous: When all three judges score the bout for the same
ii. Split Decision: When two judges score the bout for one contestant
one judge scores for the opponent; or
iii. Majority Decision: When two judges score the bout for the same
contestant and one judge scores a draw;
i. Unanimous – When all three judges score the bout a draw; ii.
Majority – When two judges score the bout a draw; or
iii. Split – When all three judges score differently and the score
total results in a draw;
6. Disqualification:When an injury sustained during competition as a
result of an intentional foul is severe enough to terminate the
7. Forfeit:When a contestant fails to begin competition or prematurely
ends the contest for reasons other than injury or by indicating a tap
8. Technical Draw: When an injury sustained during competition as a
result of an intentional foul causes the injured contestant to be unable
to continue and the injured contestant is even or behind on the score
cards at the time of stoppage;
9. Technical Decision:When the bout is prematurely stopped due to
injury and a contestant is leading on the score cards; and
10. No Contest:When a contest is prematurely stopped due to accidental
injury and a sufficient number of rounds have not been completed to
render a decision via the score cards.
SUBCHAPTER 24B ADDITIONAL MIXED MARTIAL ARTS RULES
(a) All mixed martial arts events shall be subject to the licensing
requirements of N.J.A.C. 13:46-4.
(b) The fee for a mixed martial artist license shall be as set forth in
N.J.A.C. 13:46-4.25(b). Other license fees shall be as set forth in
13:46-24B.2 Bond procedure
All mixed martial arts events shall be subject to the bond procedure
requirements of N.J.A.C.13:46-4.8.
All mixed martial arts events shall be subject to the presence, duties
and compensation of inspectors as required by N.J.A.C. 13:46-9.
13:46-24B.4 Health and safety rules
(a) All mixed martial arts events shall be subject to the uniform
medical requirements of N.J.A.C. 13:46-12A.
(b) All mixed martial arts events shall be subject to the additional
health and safety requirements of N.J.A.C. 13:46-12B.
(c) All mixed martial arts events shall be subject to the emergency
medical facilities and equipment requirements of N.J.A.C. 13:46-2.8.
(d) All mixed martial arts events shall be subject to the insurance
requirements of N.J.A.C. 13:46-14.
13:46-24B.5 Weighing of mixed martial artists
(a) Weighing of all mixed martial artists shall be conducted in
accordance with the requirements for professional boxers of N.J.A.C.