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ABC tackles grounded fighter rule exploit

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The Association of Boxing Commissions has gotten together for their annual meeting and there’s some interesting MMA developments being discussed. Hopefully they’ll take Marc Ratner’s advice and raise the legal limit for marijuana so casual tokers aren’t having their careers ruined while steroid cheats thrive. But for now we’ll have to be satisfied with the news that they’re trying to stop guys from putting a hand on the mat to avoid knees and kicks. Here’s the rule as it’s written:

“Referees should instruct the fighters that they may still be considered a standing fighter even if they have a finger or portion of the hand (or entire hand) on the canvas. In the discretion of the referee, a fighter who has a finger or hand on the canvas may still be legally struck in the head with knees and kicks. The referee may decide that the downed fighter is placing his or her finger or hand down without doing so for an offensive or countering maneuver in an attempt to advance or improve their position. The referee may decide that the downed fighter is instead simply trying to draw a foul. If the referee decides that the fighter is “touching down” simply to benefit from a foul, the referee may consider that fighter a standing fighter and decide that no foul has occurred.”

Oh wow is that ever a tricky ruling in practice: What constitutes a grounded fighter is basically left up to the referee’s discretion. Neither fighter knows for sure, unless the referee screams out commands like they used to in ONE FC. Which … didn’t really work all that well and was generally distracting.

They probably should have just carefully tweaked the technical conditions for a grounded opponent – just hands and feet don’t count, perhaps? Or three points without a knee or elbow down doesn’t count? There must be a better way than ‘just trust the ref not to fuck this up’, because you’re putting a lot of trust in guys who historically haven’t always been on the ball with stuff like this. Knees and kicks like this finish fights and hurt guys badly … every fight where something like this happens could turn into a clusterfuck of controversy.

OR fighters could realize they’re leaving themselves open to the possibility of a brutal knee to the face when they ‘down’ themselves and simply stop doing it. You never know how humans are going to react to a rule change – this twisting of the downed fighter definition is a perfect example of that. The new rule isn’t really trying to fix the definition of a downed opponent, it’s just trying to stop fighters from using the current definition to cheat. And that could work. Let’s hope, because as we’ve learned with eyepokes and fence grabs and strikes to the back of the head, fighters are given a lot of leeway when they ‘accidentally’ cheat.

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