MMA is cherished by millions of men, women, and children across the globe. It’s nearly a perfect sport, but there’s a handful of alterations that could be made to improve the action both in and out of the cage.
The history of combat sports spans centuries — dating all the way back to the days of ancient Greece and ancient China. Fast forward to now and MMA is sanctioned in all 50 U.S. states along with dozens of countries all over the world. The sport has come a long way as far as popularity, the unification of rules, and much more.
Still, there are a handful of ways that MMA can still be improved for both the athletes and the viewers. Here we examine four changes that the mixed martial arts governing body should strongly consider making.
The Changes To MMA
The UFC played a massive role in unifying the rules around the turn of the century. Within the set rules, included a mandate for fighters to wear fingerless gloves in large part to protect fighters’ fists and reduce the number of facial lacerations.
MMA gloves have become a bit of a hot-button issue over the last several years. The uproar is due to an uptick in eye pokes — which have left several fighters with longstanding injuries. Currently, referees are told to enforce a “fingers to the sky” rule, meaning palms out with fingers parallel to the opposing fighter. Unfortunately, while trying to gauge distance, many fighters still accidentally poke their opponents in the eye. We see it almost every week.
The UFC and other MMA promotions ought to do something to better the situation. There are two solutions to this issue. The first is curved gloves — similar to the days of Pride. The second is for referees to be more consistent and strict when it comes to penalizing the eye poke fouls.
The unified rules also created the MMA judging structure that is still used to this day. It’s based on boxing’s 10-point must system. Meaning, the round’s winner gets 10 points while the other fighter receives a score of nine or lower. It also ordered that there be three judges to score each fight.
The first way to improve upon the atrocity that is MMA judging is to simply have more ringside judges for each fight. Three isn’t enough. Instead, have there be five judges to score the fight to lessen the impact of one judge’s questionable decision.
In the United States, judges are chosen and assigned by the state’s athletic commissions. These said commissions need to grant fighters and former fighters a say in how to retool the scoring system. MMA is far more complex than boxing. Thus, a more complex scoring system must be used — and who better to readjust the system than athletes who’ve competed at the highest level.
In no way am I suggesting lawlessness within MMA. Actually, I’m in strong disagreement with anyone claiming soccer kicks should be legal. Believe it or not, elbows were nearly deemed illegal all together when the rules were first being unified in 2001. Luckily, Big John McCarthy was there to combat that notion and they settled on disallowing 12-6 elbow strikes.
If you ask fighters, many will tell you they have no problem with 12-6 elbows. Moreover, Big John McCarthy insists he’s had tests conducted through sports science and the University of Auburn, which have confirmed that many of the legal elbow strikes actually possess more power than the 12-6 strike.
There’s very little hope for this rule being changed, however. It’s due to promotions wanting to avoid lawsuits from their fighters. If they overturn the rule and an athlete suffers an injury from a 12-6 elbow, there’s a strong possibility that said athlete would sue the company for allowing the formerly illegal strike. Let’s not forget though that something like a head kick involves more power and force than a 12-6 elbow could.
MMA Fighter Pay
Fighter pay has been front-page news over the last several months. It’s even been debated between fighters, with some claiming pay is sufficient and others claiming it’s unfairly low. The UFC and other promotions aren’t going to just open up their wallets because their employees want more money.
This is where a fighter’s union comes into play. Mixed martial artists should come together in great numbers to achieve their common goals. In 2020, The Athletic surveyed 170 fighters across different promotions asking whether or not they’d be in favor of unionizing. The results, 79.4% of surveyed fighters were in favor of organizing with their peers in a similar way to other major sports.
Fighter pay is not a change that will be initiated by the promotions. It’s up to the fighters to join forces to campaign for better pay. In addition to increased fighter pay, a union would allow for fighters to have more of a say when it comes to major promotional decisions.
Do you agree with these changes? Are there other alterations that you would like to see made within MMA? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!