Mixed Martial Arts Competition – MMA Rules, Weight Classes and Divisions

mma rules

MMA is generally divided into three different classes — amateur, semi-professional and professional — and after that by weight.

Amateurs can use shin guards and gloves which can be a little more cushioned, and are prohibited to strike an adversary that is on the floor. However, bouts continue to be full contact and, depending on the organisers, head strikes might or might not be permitted when standing.

Below you can observe the main difference between standard boxing gloves and Mixed martial arts gloves. The boxing gloves have a lot more cushioning, while the MMA gloves ordinarily have the thumb and fingertips exposed because this increases the amount of techniques which you can use, for example a choke hold.

Semi-professional bouts possess all the components of a professional match, however the rules may be discussed between the different trainers. Weight classes may also differ greatly between various organisations. The professionals have full MMA rules, such as gloves with less padding and no leg protection.

The professional and semi-professional matches occur in an eight-sided cage, while the amateur fights are fought on a mat. To win, one of the opponents has to knock out their challenger or have them resign by tapping out.

MMA Competition rules

The regulations of MMA contests have changed over time both to move the sport faraway from its earlier barbaric image of no-holds-barred, and also to safeguard the fighters. Changes have ranged from the creation of weight classes to the application of small open-fingered mitts to safeguard the fists and reduce stoppages as a result of cuts. Time limits have also been introduced to reduce matches with little activity in which fighters were preserving their energy. In case a referee thinks that both opponents are resting instead of fighting on the floor, they are able to get them to stand and restart the fight.

Again, rules can be specific to associations, but there is normally a common theme to permit fighters to easily adapt.


A bout may be won in one of five ways:

Knockout (KO)

In cases where a fighter becomes unconscious as a result of heavy blow, the fight is ended and the mma fighter who delivered the blow is announced the winner.


A fighter can acknowledge defeat by ‘tapping out’. The tap may be against the opponent’s body, the mat or the ground. The fighter may also vocally announce defeat.

Technical knockout (TKO)

A referee may stop a fight if one competitor becomes dominant to the point that their opponent cannot protect themselves, if they become unconscious from a hold or if they develop significant injuries. The referee can call a doctor for an assessment of injuries and, if declared severe, the fight can be stopped.

Corner stoppage

Each fighter has their own coach standing in their corner during a bout. The coach can stop the fight at any time by literally throwing in the towel. A coach will often do this to protect their fighter.

Referee’s decision

If all the bouts are completed, a panel of three judges decides the winner. A referee can also disqualify a fighter if they commit three fouls during a fight.


These actions are generally considered fouls:

  • Hair pulling;
  • biting;
  • eye gouging;
  • headbutting;
  • fish-hooking (in which the fighter hooks their finger inside their opponent’s mouth area and pulls);
  • choking an adversary for longer than three seconds;
  • small joint manipulation (where toes and fingers are twisted or bent, giving a less strong opponent the advantage);
  • strikes to the rear of your head, crotch and spine or kidney areas.


The number and length of rounds differs according to the organization and type of competition. Most incorporate three rounds of five minutes each having a minute’s break in in between. However, title competitions can last for five rounds.

Safety gear and uniform

All mma fighters have to use the following safety gear:

  • Groin guard;
  • gum shield;
  • 4-6 ounce gloves that enable the fingers to grab.
  • The regular uniform is made up of authorized shorts. Cotton gis for example karate/judo-style suits aren’t usually permitted.


Unlike the more conventional fighting styles, MMA hasn’t got a regular certifying system utilized by all the various regulating bodies and organizations.


For most amateur and professional contests mma fighters are matched by weight. Despite the fact that these classes can vary between associations, the most typical are shown here.

Weight Name : Pounds / Kilos

Flyweight 125 / 57

Bantamweight 135 / 61

Featherweight 145 / 66

Lightweight 155  / 70

Welterweight 170 / 77

Middleweight 185 / 84

Light heavyweight 205 / 93

Heavyweight 265 / 120

Super heavyweight / No upper weight limit

The UFC is establishing the standard in mixed martial arts and presently employs the five weight classes from Lightweight to Heavyweight. Other organizations differ — DREAM is a Japanese Mma promoter with 6 weight classes, each having a champion with a defendable title. The bouts used by this promoter also differ, with 10 minutes for the first round and 5 minutes for the second round.

Optimal competition weight

A fighter’s ideal fighting weight is lower than their regular everyday weight, with stress placed on getting more powerful, quicker and fitter than the adversary. Nevertheless, it is crucial that this is done without exhaustion setting in and for that reason a healthy diet program ought to be implemented.

Preparations ideally start eight weeks prior to fighting, with the last 2 or 3 kilos being lost inside a sauna the day before the weigh-in. Reducing bodyweight by restricting water and food consumption is not an effective method as this also decreases endurance and performance levels.

A martial artist ought to always be well rested and correctly fuelled and hydrated prior to a contest.

Conditioning for competitions

Endurance and short-burst cardio interval training workouts tend to be important preparations for competition. Staying power can be achieved by running long distances, and sprinting is a great type of high-intensity interval training.

However, the most effective preparation would be to spar with training partners because this teaches technical finesse in addition to building physical and mental strength. This process also trains the mma fighter to remain effective if they grow to be fatigued in a real contest.

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