An Introduction to MMA Rules

MMA Rules?

MMA rules can certainly be confusing at times, especially when you’re trying to focus on your techniques and not getting hit.

Understanding MMA rules, especially if you come from other sports like Boxing, Muay Thai, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, can take a little while. There are so many things a fighter can do in the octagon, but also so many things that they can’t.

As we know, MMA employs a variety of techniques including punches, kicks, throws, trips, elbows, knees, and submissions.

Since there is so much going on in a fight, you have to know and be aware of what is allowed, and what’s not.

For example, you can kick someone in the head, but you cannot knee an opponent in the head while they are down on the ground.

Another example is, you can kick someone on the inside of their thigh (an inside leg kick), but you absolutely cannot punch or kick an opponent in the groin. This can often times lead to a point deduction by the referee and the judges.

Many times a lot of fighters will transition to MMA from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Muay Thai, and even Sport Taekwondo.

In BJJ, it is straight up grappling and no striking at all. In Muay Thai, there is more flexibility in the ways in which you can attack your opponent. Elbows, knees, punches and kicks are allowed, but there is no activity allowed on the ground.

In MMA, however, you can (and have to) combine all techniques and styles of fighting. This is the primary distinction between single martial arts and MMA..

MMA involves many things like rules, rounds, ways to win, weight classes, fouls, and safety procedures. Let’s go over some of them now.

Rules & Fouls

Many rules guard the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, contrary to a common belief that it doesn’t have any rules and is just a free-for-all. Fight promotions around the world are free to develop their rule sets for MMA fights. But the most commonly used rule set around the world is the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts.

This also contains more than 25 violations that can be committed in the cage.

Learning and understanding the basic MMA rules essential for those who wish to excel in the sport.

This is another reason why having the right training is vital to not only improving your skills, but also gaining a deeper understanding of the sport.

This is my personal recommendation if you can’t afford a personal trainer to guide you through MMA.


Just like the rules, there are many techniques involved in Mixed Martial Arts fighting, which shouldn’t be surprising since it’s a conjunction of many martial arts, each of which has their own techniques.

Techniques like striking (jab, punches, kicks, elbowing, kneeing), grappling (wrestling and submission hold), and the clinch (a combination of the two techniques while standing up) are some of the essential techniques for MMA.

For a bit more detailed explanation of the basics of MMA training and where to start, head here.


As it’s common to fighting sports, MMA is fought in contests. In each fight, there are usually three rounds for regular fights and five rounds for the championship and non-title main UFC events.

Each round lasts for five minutes, and the winner of the contest is determined at the end of all the rounds in any of three ways, which leads me to:

Ways to win

For each fight, there must be three judges present at three different positions or viewing angles from the fighting ring. This is done so that the contest can be truly judged as the different perspectives would give the judges an overview of what’s happening.

When the fight is over, and the two fighters are still standing, the three judges would come together, and they discuss what they just saw.

This method is called winning by decision and is one of three ways of deciding the winner in an MMA bout.

A decision by the judges is carried out using a 10-point system which involves each judge giving the winner of each round 10 points and the loser 9 points. Then at the end of the contest, each judge adds up his points for each fighter and declares a winner.

Contests can also be won by knockout (KO/TKO) which occurs when an opponent is knocked out and can’t do intelligently defend themselves, and by submission either by chokehold or joint lock, both involving the winner forcing the loser to surrender (tap out).

Weight Classes

The MMA has some weight classes ranging from flyweight (̴125lbs) to Heavyweight (206 – 265 lbs).

Safety (the Cage)

We have a ‘cage’ situation in which the fighting area is surrounded by a fence-like material that will prevent fighters from falling out of the stage. This is in place solely for the fighters’ safety.

For a full list of MMA rules, regulations, and the weight classes, check this out.

Until next time,

The MMA Coach.