Time For A Change: A reflective discussion on the future of MMA


I recently posted a poll posing the question “of all the things in MMA that require changing, what should be at the top of the list?” And with all things requiring a strong and passionate opinion not only did you guys answer, but you brought up some great points and asked some solid questions yourself regarding some of the topics.

With that said I’m going to attempt to extend this discussion further into this article and hope that we can bring in some more perspectives and opinions on the matter. We’re all big fans of the sport and know the majority of the rules, fighters, organizations, history, techniques and so on, so let’s go through the list of potential changes that we’ve been discussing as MMA fans for years and pick them apart one by one.

What are the possibilities? Where do we start? How do we implement it? What is the best way to go about fixing it? I’m going to attempt to answer all of these questions below, and as always don’t forget that these are simply a summary of my own personal opinion on each topic, although I can assure you both logic and experience are being used to the highest degree.

Eye Pokes

Of all the things they could and should eventually address, I would agree that finding a solution to limit and decrease the amount of eye pokes would be at the very top of my list for the simple reason of safety and career longevity. As fans we all know that on many ocassions some of these fighters haven’t had a very long career as it is. With that said I wouldn’t want that window to be cut even shorter due to something as stupid and frustrating as an eye poke.

With the proper solutions, this is an issue that could be effected positively if changes were to be implemented immediately or very soon by both the commission and the UFC.

As far as the solution goes, I’m no expert so I’m not 100% sure what should be done as far as glove design, but from experience I would suggest experimenting with a design similar to an open sparring or kickboxing-style glove but with a built in mold that that forces your hand to curve and points your fingers down, yet still allows you to grip while keeping your hands dextrous and mobile.

Fighters like Rashad Evans and Jon Jones have a style that relies upon using the lead hand to gauge distance and timing, so ultimately fighters who use that style would be affected by this change the most, although it would keep fighters digits hidden and ultimately decrease the frequency of eye pokes. The gloves however would most likely have to be slightly larger, but again, I’m no expert so we’ll just have to see what the UFC and the commission put together.

As far as rules and regulations in the cage regarding eye pokes, fighters should get a minimum of 1-2 minutes of recuperation time after they’ve been poked in the eye. That’s a regulation that’s easy to change and should be implemented effective immediately. The change harms no individual in any way, yet it protects the fighter and gives them an opportunity to properly recover. Because at the end of the day, who wants to see a fighter win or lose via eye poke??

Yellow Cards / Warning For Inactivity

While many I’ve spoken to are against the idea, I’ve spoken with others who feel very strongly about this change. I also wouldn’t be surprised if most of the fans in support of this topic were former fans of Pride, for the simple reason that they found a way to make it effective without it feeling like it unbalanced the fight between the two athletes involved.

I personally like the idea, but I’d want it to be something that’s rarely used. Only in extreme circumstances would I want the fighters to be punished for inactivity. In my opinion they should be warned twice and on the 3rd, either be deducted a point or a percentage of their purse. And inactivity is a word that should be heavily debated and carefully decided upon before it is printed in ink in the unified rule book. I’m not quite sure what it’s exact definition should be, but I would probably start with volume of strikes thrown per minute or an even lesser period of time.

While I completely respect and love the feeling out process and strategy that goes into fighting, fighters are there to fight. Although at the same time I also love the anticipation of a good feeling out process in a big fight just before the first big and significant blows are exchanged, so maybe don’t apply the rule to the first round and then implement it for the 2nd to the 5th, in order to let the fight find it’s groove and not force it to be something it isn’t.

While the ultimate goal of the rule would be to benefit the fans, I’m sure the athletes would also want to put on a good show and feel like they spent a solid 15-25 minutes battling hard instead of avoiding damage the entire time by not engaging their opponent. Athlete’s are just there to win and are razor focused on that goal, so a yellow card or warning system could be exactly what some fighters need in order to light a fire under them and get them on their toes pressing forward.

Scoring System

They definitely need to do something with this and soon. This is a topic that’s been discussed since the UFC started to become a legitimate and regulated sport, so at this point we’re going to reach a moment in time where we need to either “crap or get off the pot” so to speak. But the issue is that this is no simple feat or task to accomplish.

I believe that the athletic commission should create a research team or focus group if you will, comprised of experts with years of experience in and around the world of Mixed Martial Arts. Referee’s, fighters, promoters and media, maybe even some well known fans should be included. Put them all into one room, throw the boxing style 10-point must system right out the window and start from scratch with some fresh and creative ideas pertaining specifically to MMA with a system that covers all of it’s bases and areas.

Perhaps a system that utilizes the judging of more specific areas, such as amount of submissions attempted, guard passes, takedowns, aggression, strikes landed, volume and so on. Score each out of 5 or even 10, add them all together and score either each round individually or the entire fight as a whole giving it a total sum of points added up from every category. Almost like the system used for gymnastics or figure skating where they judge things like creativity, control, balance, etc.

Regarding the focus group however, it is of the utmost importance that we leave out anyone having any origins in boxing or coming from a boxing background. This is the sport of fighting not punching, it is it’s own sport entirely and encompases all forms of combat and fighting skills, making it simply too complex and intricate for an individual experienced solely or predominantly in boxing to decided upon.

Besides, would it make sense for Lebron James to be given a say on the scoring system for Olympic figure skating? I didn’t think so.


This is a very complex and heated topic, so I’m not going to touch on it too much, I’m simply going to say that I never understood the purpose of making a fighter put their body and health at risk 24 or 48 hours previous to a fight in order to obtain a weight advantage over their opponent or in general.

I’m of the school of thought that a fighter should fight at the weight of the division that they are in. If Georges St. Pierre weighs 185lbs during his camp, than he should step into the octagon as a Middleweight. Mind you there are some exceptions to be made as all human beings do not naturally hover at the same weight, so in the case of a fighter who naturally weighs a little bit above or below the divisions limit, he/she should have to monitor his weight throughout the duration of his/her training camp in order to be on the mark the day of the fight.

Ultimately I do feel that fighters should weigh-in either the day of the fight or even at the prep point just before they step into the octagon. No more insane weight cuts, no more brain, liver and kidney damage, no more shedding of vital water-weight needed for your body to function properly and ultimately less issues as far as missing weight goes.

If everyone fought at their natural weight or close to it, we’d rarely have to worry about belts no longer being on the line, purses being deducted or size advantages between two opponents.

Fighter Salaries

This is a sub-topic I decided to add that gets on my nerves. I just had to mention it but this will be quick. I basically just wish I could yell out… Hey Dana White! Pay your god damn fighters more money! You make approximately $50-$65 per PPV buy, you on average sell at least 500,000 buys and that’s more representative of the less successful shows if anything.

Taking the lower price point of $50 at the modest amount of 500,000 buys, that nets you $25 Million dollars. I can’t imagine staffing, venue and production costs being more than $10 Million dollars, and yet you’re alotting approximately $2 Million dollars to an ENTIRE CARD of fighters?? What the hell is that about??? I don’t care how much you claim to give them behind the scenes, you should be paying them at least quadruple that amount up front and on paper.

As much as the UFC is a lucrative brand that allows the fighters to be marketed and given the opportunity to be successful and advertise themselves, the UFC wouldn’t mean a damn thing without the talent that steps into the octagon and bleeds for them on a weekly basis. Half of your revenue stream should be paid to the fighters without hesitation. So again… Pay your god damn fighters you cheap SOB’s.

That’s it for me! Hope you enjoyed the article. Please do let me know what you think, I’m very interested to read everyones opinions and perspectives on each topic. I know it was a long one but thanks for your time. Leave a comment below and let’s get this discussion going.

  • First of all great article Bryan…!!

    One thing i wanted to mention is that anyone out there that is concerned about glove redesign and its potential limitations should watch one armed MMA fighter Nick Newell who pulled off an amazing rear naked choke. Also there is no reason why points should not be deducted if someone gets poked. Fair is fair….if you don't poke you don't lose a point. At the moment you poke someone and detach the retina, and a "sorry" is all you need.

    Im ok with yellow cards because it doesn't interrupt the fight if the fighters aren't active anyway. However….this also gives the judges more reasons to fuk up decisions…Yellow cards are great but will the refs know how to use them ? How many times do fighters not get seperated when they should or even stood up when they are working for a submission?
    I also think that fight bonuses and getting dropped are big deterents. However, point deductions could work Bryan for where a corner tells their guy to stay away in the last round because they have already won the first two…So for that reason I would say points deductions is a great idea….Fighters work on the premise that if they win they wont get dropped..but if a 'cruise' out the last round penalty is implemented they may think differently and fight harder is they know they could potentially lose the fight.

    The point scoring system has favoured wrestlers. Get a few take downs and the fight can change dramatically. Definetly needs review but part of me says leave it alone as both compeititors are in Mixed martial arts. How do you complain when you have the opportunity to do the same to your opponent and you don't.

    I don't see any solutions for the weight classes…FIghters need to work out for themselves where they should fight. But sitting in a sauna wrapped in plastic at high degrees is ridicuous. The human body was not designed for this punishment. Maybe just having a fight day weigh in between 170-173 pounds is the solution. Over the 170 is a immediate 10% purse deduction for each pound over. That way fighters may be more realistic with the weight class they should be fighting in. Thats how I would implement the system. That way if guys are really hurting they can save their health for penalty and if it happens more than once they should be forced under strict new rules to go to a different weight class.

    Dana says he wants to protect the fighters from revealing how much they make "BULLSHIP".

    Catch Dana in the heat of the moment and he rattles off how he has made 30 millionaires in the sport. But there are 450 contracted fighters on the roster and thousands more over the years. Some guys are getting paid but the majority aren't getting rich. If a fighter gets paid $12,000 to show how much does anyone really think they are getting as a locker room bonus? At best they would be probably given an extra $10,000 if Dana felt the fight was good, and maybe more if they were lucky to score a fight of the night bonus. If they were getting paid well Dana would be the first to advertise it. In interviews guys don't reveal what they make but you can tell often by their comments that many are just earning an income at best and dreaming of a title shot so they can some day make money in the sport.

  • One more thing i wanted to add is that everytime Dana or Fertita get asks about underpaying fighters they have an uncomfortable scripted response to try to deflect attention. Its on tape.

    The first thing they say is that when they bought the company it was in debt and reached almost 40 million.
    The second thing they say is about insurance being provided for the fighters
    The third thing they say is that fighters don't want anyone knowing what they make. I think its because they are embarrassed by how little they make. They try to use irrelevant examples of one or two guys that were highly paid in other sports who went off the rails….They didn't go off the rails because people knew how much money they had, they went off the rails because they had too much money and little education.

    • The line I hate the most is… "Ask GSP or Anderson if they aren't making enough money!"

      That has to be the dumbest thing Dana's ever said. Citing the top two highest paid athletes in his sport as accurate examples of how much his fighters are being paid.

      No one who trains and steps into the octagon should be making less than $50,000. If you want your organization and brand to be taken seriously, then pay the talent accordingly.

      The fighters gave birth to this sport, and the UFC revolutionized and funded it. Both are responsible for it being what it is, yet one of the two are benefitting much more than the other.

      Completely ridiculous.

      • LOL at thinking out loud Bryan. From not a bad idea at all to immediate issue straight into growing doubt. Brilliant.

        • oops meant for reply to another post.

  • The eye pokes are simple to fix. Everyone wears goggles, that should solve it 😉

    • As wacky as that sounds, that isn't a bad idea at all.

      The only issue is that it would have to be made of hard plastic so it could end up being even more dangerous and doing more damage overall, especially to the hands of fighters.

      I also can't imagine it being comfortable or feasible for grappling. MMA involves too much contact for goggles when I think about it.

      • LOL at thinking out loud Bryan. From not a bad idea at all to immediate issue straight into growing doubt. Brilliant.

        • lol ya I noticed that myself… I thought it was a great idea and as it was coming out it become a bad one lol.

          Good catch!

  • Weigh in situation is perfect. Its not fan bussnes talk about it at all. It should be agreed by scientists and fighter. They are professionals, wrestlers did insane weight cutting for centuries.
    Warning for inactivity is ok.
    "system that utilizes the judging of more specific areas, such as amount of submissions attempted, guard passes, takedowns, aggression, strikes landed, volume and so on. Score each"
    According this, I judge the same.

  • Something Im surprised I haven't heard at all in the recent conversation of revamping MMA is what constitutes a grounded opponent. Knees I can completely understand and that's fine because the fighter would compromise position to avoid being savagely kneed. However when all the fighter has to reach down and simply put a mere finger on the ground to avoid being savagely kneed I just dont see the use in that paticular rule. I know its a small one but its one I see a lot of guys do and plus who doesnt love a brutal knee knockout!

  • A UFCCA (Ultimate Fighting Championship Combatant's association; coined that meself "english voice") would fix a lot of the ills with pay. The fighters getting between 60-65% per event would not only let the top class fighters keep the money they garner (which is a myth Dana tries to push to make unionizing look bad), but it would also let the bottom class of fighter (fighters opening Fuel cards) show up for nothing less than 20k. It'd be on the fighters to do it, but its happened in basically every major sport except boxing. It'll just take some of the best fighters to step up and demand it.

    The judging needs to be fixed, but the "fix" would be a lot easier than most realize. The judging/commission community is already filled with 100's if not 1000's of people who are/have been involved with martial arts/fighting. All you would have to do is take some of the most senior members of the judging community, and stick them in a room to watch 15-20 of the closest fights in UFC/Strikeforce history (PRIDE stays out because of the obvious difference in scoring). Lay out certain guidelines on why certain rounds should have been scored a certain way, and why others were scored correctly. For instance stick Maynard-Edgar 2 in there and lay out examples on why certain rounds were scored incorrectly/correctly. Then use those examples/guidelines for training in the future. Also make use of 10-8 and 10-7 rounds more. For instance, the aforementioned Edgar-Maynard 2's first round should have been an easy 10-7.

    Great read, Bryan.

    • Thanks Evan!

      Some good points, definitely agree with a fighters union. UFCCA… Bloody hell that was good name lol.

      • How funny if the same guys who started the culinary union got together and mobilised a fighters union

  • 1st thing to get done is an enclosed space with soundproof glass for all the new or casual fans at UFC events. There should be electronic billboards displaying correctly for them when to boo and cheer so they can get the idea before being given a certificate of worthiness to be heard live. The glass can be opened before and after fights to let the ignorant have their space of noise and to promote the hype of a fight. There should be yellow cards for anyone who wants to blast a boo during action that they cannot percieve which will be a donation to the purse of fighter being booed. This should relieve stress on all the not so casual fans during highly or even mildly technical spans within a fight and control high earning, looking all around the stadium during the fights blabbermouths from occupying space more suited to fans of the sport rather than fans of themselves.