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Brazilian commission passes full, new Unified Rules of MMA

Manchester Arena Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission (CABMMA) is the latest regulatory body to approve the full new version of the Unified Rules of MMA.

CABMMA director of operations Cristiano Sampaio told MMA Fighting on Tuesday that his organization will adopt the two new rules that it had yet to codify — the definition of a grounded fighter and the removal of the heel strikes to the kidney foul. The Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) passed a package of new rules last year that not every commission has adopted.

Sampaio and CABMMA had been vocal dissenters, like the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB) to those particular rules. But after a year of observation, Sampaio said, CABMMA will bring the regulations in.

The announcement was made Monday during the ABC Conference in Connecticut (h/t Erik Magraken). The rules will go into effect Aug. 1. CABMMA is a private organization and not a government body, so it has more leeway in analyzing and passing rules.

In a statement to MMA Fighting, Sampaio said more than 15,000 rounds were sanctioned by the ABC over the last year during a time of “confusion” — some commissions had different in-cage rules than others. Incidents relating to the new grounded fighter definition, he wrote, represented less than 0.1 percent of those rounds and no medical issues related to those instances.

“So, we can’t affirm that there is a negative impact on the athletes’ integrity with this specific rule,” Sampaio said.

As for the removal of the foul banning heel kicks to the kidneys, Sampaio said no regulatory official reported even an attempt of such a strike for the last 12 months. The CABMMA director compared it to the grabbing of the clavicle foul that was removed last year.

“So, we conclude that this technique is not trained by athletes because it’s not efficient, and for that reason it's not applied by them in fights,” Sampaio wrote.

Sampaio added that the CABMMA medical committee will continue to track these new rules and notify the ABC if anything related to health and safety come up.

The new grounded fighter definition states that a fighter can no longer put just a single hand or finger down on the mat to be considered grounded. Fighters must put both fists or both palms on the canvas to be grounded, thereby making knees or kicks to the head in those positions illegal.

The ABC’s MMA rules and regulations committee and medical committee brought that to the ABC body during last year’s conference, in part to stop fighters from “playing the game,” or dropping one finger or hand to the canvas to become grounded.

Officials in favor of the rule argued that it was safer, because sometimes fighters are not in a position to see the location of a single hand or finger of their opponent and will throw a kick or knee strike to the head anyway. Regulators who have dissented fear the new rule could lead to more blows to the head.

Many states, like Nevada, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Texas, have yet to approve the new Unified Rules.

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