The 12-to-6 Illegal Elbow Explained

July 29, 2018

Following the Jon Jones disqualification against Matt Hamill at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale for illegal elbow strikes, the illegal elbow rule drew a lot of attention. It was rekindled during the UFC 185 broadcast.

The Unified Rules used by Nevada lists 31 fouls. “Striking downward using the point of the elbow” is listed as number 10, but doesn’t mean exactly what it says.

Taken from the Nevada State Athletic Commission website, here’s the official wording of the rule.

“NAC 467.7962 Acts constituting fouls. (NRS 467.030)

10. Striking downward using the point of the elbow. All elbow strikes are legal except for an elbow that is thrown in a downward trajectory (hand traveling from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock). Any elbow thrown with an arc is a legal elbow. The point of the elbow may be used as striking instrument as well as the forearm or the tricep area of the arm.”

In a February 2006 interview with MMAWeekly Radio, legendary referee “Big” John McCarthy explained why the rule was made and the back history that led to it’s initiation.

“What it was, was when the Unified Rules were put together they took all the organizations. You had the UFC, Pride. You had the IFC. You had Hook-N-Shoot at the time. There were various organizations that all met together in New Jersey. Larry Hazzard is the one that put it together so he could clarify his rules. Marc Ratner was on a phone line for it, and they ended up having everyone sit there and try to come together with what they could be happy with,” explained McCarthy.

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“One of the things that happed was there was an IFC show that happened before that meeting occurred. There were a couple of fights, and because New Jersey wasn’t comfortable with Mixed Martial Arts at the time, there were a couple of fights that went on to change things as far as what they were going to permit and not permit,” added McCarthy.

“You have all these different organizations, and you have all these people with what they want to be able to do, so it’s tough to get people to agree on things. Finally, one of the things that was brought up is in one of the fights a fighter took another guy’s back and tried to sink in a choke. He couldn’t sink in the choke, so he started taking his hand and bringing it up and elbowing to the back of the guy’s head and neck.

“The doctor from New Jersey had a conniption about it. He said I will never ever pass something that allows that type of strike. That could be life threatening, and he started going into his thing, and so the one elbow they took out was that elbow, that type of position. The way that they wrote it up, you could interpret it a ton of ways, but the true position they were talking about was the hand coming up to twelve o’clock to six o’clock.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published on March 14, 2015)