Those that are new fans to the UFC and MMA may not know what are the illegal moves in the UFC. To bring new fans up to speed, we made this article specifically for you.
Here are all of the illegal moves in the UFC that fighters are not allowed to use and why.
- 1 Low Blows
- 2 Eye Gouging
- 3 Strikes To The Back Of The Head
- 4 Strikes To The Spine
- 5 Kicking/Kneeing A Downed Opponent In The Head
- 6 Biting
- 7 Grabbing Testicles
- 8 Grabbing The Fence
- 9 Spiking
- 10 12 To 6 Elbows
- 11 No Swearing
- 12 Fish Hooking
- 13 Head-butting
- 14 Scratching/Clawing/Pinching
- 15 Throat Strikes
- 16 Hair Pulling
- 17 Grabbing Opponent’s Shorts/Gloves
- 18 Throwing Opponent Out Of The Cage
- 19 Fingers In Orifices/Cuts
- 20 Small Joint Manipulation Finger’s
- 21 Outstretched Hands Towards Opponent’s Eyes
- 22 Spitting
- 23 Hitting Opponent After The Bell
- 24 Hitting The Opponent During The Break
- 25 Why Were These Moves Deemed Illegal?
- 26 The Penalties For Using Illegal Moves In UFC
We’re starting off our list of illegal moves in the UFC with one of the more obvious ones. Low blows.
Fighters are not allowed to strike the groin area with any type of strike. When a fighter hits their opponent with a low blow, they are generally given a warning by the referee. Any repeat offenses often leads to point deductions or even a DQ for blatant groin strikes.
The fighter hit with a low blow is given five minutes to recover from the strike. If they can’t continue, the fight is stopped.
Eye gouging has never been allowed in the UFC even when it was a no holds barred event. Jabbing a finger or thumb in an opponent’s eye socket has never been allowed in the UFC.
The only notable UFC fight where eye gouging was an issue was in the Cachoeira vs Robertson. Jillian Robertson had an RNC locked in and Cachoeira committed blatant eye gouges to try and escape.
Many fight fans called for Cachoeira to be released after this incident.
Strikes To The Back Of The Head
Strikes to the back of the head are deemed illegal moves in the UFC. Referees explain to fighters in the rules meeting that any strike behind the eye is considered the back of the head.
Although, there are a few loopholes with this illegal move that are illegal. Headkicks that whip around the head or strikes behind the ear from standing are generally okay.
Hitting anywhere on the crown of an opponent’s head with any strike is deemed an illegal move.
Strikes To The Spine
Along with strikes to the back of the head, fighters are not allowed to strike an opponent’s spine. Any potential damage to the spine from a strike that could paralyze a fighter is usually an immediate DQ.
Kicking/Kneeing A Downed Opponent In The Head
Kicking or kneeing the head of a downed opponent hasn’t been allowed in the UFC since official rules were implemented and is an illegal in the UFC. If a fighter has one or both knees on the ground, they are considered a downed opponent.
The last time we saw a fighter get kneed while down, it caused a title change, where Aljamain Sterling became champion.
Biting has never been allowed in the UFC even when there were no rules. There has never been a Mike Tyson like incident in the octagon yet and hopefully never will in the future.
Along with striking the groin, fighters are not allowed to grab their opponent’s testicles. This rule was implemented after an incident in a Vale Tudo match in Brazil involving UFC vet Gary Goodridge.
In the fight, Goodridge grabbed hold of his opponent’s testicles and squeezed as hard as he could. Incidents like this are why rules were implemented into MMA.
Grabbing The Fence
Grabbing the fence is one of the most blatant fouls that UFC fighters try to get away with. Fighters will try to sneak in a fence grab to try and get up or hold their opponent in the clinch.
When the referee sees a fighter grabbing the fence, they will knock their hand away. Fighters will usually just get a warning for grabbing the fence.
You cannot spike an opponent’s head on the canvas like a piledriver in pro wrestling. This move will lead to severe neck damage or paralysis.
In the legendary fight between Nogueira and Bob Sapp, Minotauro was piledriven into the mat by Sapp. Even though Nogueira won the fight, he sustained severe damage to his neck that he still deals with till this day.
12 To 6 Elbows
12 to 6 elbows are one of the more controversial illegal moves in the UFC that many thinks should be legal. The story behind why 12 to 6 elbows being illegal goes back to the time when official rules were being created.
As Big John McCarthy explained on Joe Rogan’s podcast, the New Jersey State Athletic Commission was against the move. They had seen a brick-breaking demonstration where a Karate practitioner used a 12 to 6 elbow.
McCarthy was able to talk the commission into allowing all elbows except the 12 to 6. The only blemish on Jon Jones’ record is from a DQ loss from using a 12 to 6 elbow.
Technically fighters are not allowed to swear or curse when they are fighting in the octagon. Although, this rule isn’t really enforced as you’ve seen in any UFC event.
You will always hear at least one fighter use profanity while fighting. Especially fighters like the Diaz brothers, that are known for trash-talking during a fight.
Fish hooking is where you insert a finger inside the cheek of an opponent and try to pull it through. This move has never been allowed in the UFC, even when there were no rules in the fights.
Head-butting was one of the first moves deemed an illegal move when the UFC began implementing official competition rules. It’s not common to see blatant headbutts, but the penalty is either a point deduction or immediate disqualification.
Scratching, clawing, or pinching an opponent’s flesh are some of the more obvious illegal moves in the UFC. We’ve never seen a fighter in the modern era commit these fouls, but that isn’t to say it doesn’t happen.
Strikes to the throat of any kind are not allowed in the UFC or any other MMA promotion. Any damage to the throat could lead to death is why you don’t see throat strikes and it’s an illegal move in the UFC.
Hair pulling is another obviously illegal move that hasn’t been legal since the early days of the UFC. You will never see a fighter pull an opponent’s hair like Royce Gracie did to Kimo in their fight.
Grabbing Opponent’s Shorts/Gloves
Just like grabbing the cage, grabbing an opponent’s shorts/gloves is illegal but moves some fighters to sneak in. It’s common for fighters to sneak in a short or glove grab while battling in a clinch.
Referees will slap their hands off and warn fighters, but this doesn’t stop some fighters from trying these illegal moves.
Throwing Opponent Out Of The Cage
To the dismay of some fight fans, fighters are not allowed to throw their opponents out of the cage. You’ll have to tune into a pro wrestling event if you want to see that.
Fingers In Orifices/Cuts
We already listed eye gouging and fish hooking, but in general, fingers in any orifice or cut are not allowed. Fighters cannot put their fingers in an opponent’s cut and try to open it more.
Small Joint Manipulation Finger’s
Small joint manipulation means that fighters can’t break their opponent’s fingers. The common rule is that fighters can grab three fingers but cannot purposely try to break them.
Outstretched Hands Towards Opponent’s Eyes
Outstretched hands toward an opponent’s eyes had to be implemented due to fighters like Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier. Outstretched hands to an opponent’s face often lead to eye pokes, which is why they’ve been deemed illegal.
Spitting is deemed unsportsmanlike conduct and something we don’t normally see in the cage. When we do, the UFC is quick to fine, suspend, or release a fighter for this infraction.
Hitting Opponent After The Bell
Hitting an opponent after the bell is an illegal move that often makes headlines when it’s committed. This penalty is what got Paul Daley permanently banned from fighting in the UFC when he hit Josh Koscheck after the bell.
Hitting The Opponent During The Break
Hitting an opponent during the break is another penalty that leads to point deductions. It is considered unsportsmanlike conduct, and the penalty is either loss of points or DQ.
Why Were These Moves Deemed Illegal?
When the official rules of MMA were being created, all of the moves mentioned on the list were deemed illegal. There are three reasons why these moves are not allowed in the UFC.
- The threat of permanent damage
- Unsportsmanlike Conduct
- Legitimization of the sport
When MMA was being legitimized as an actual sport, the UFC and other promotions had to tone down the violence. This included banning moves that would either cause permanent or life-threatening damage or were unsportsmanlike.
That is why all of the illegal moves mentioned above are not allowed within the UFC or any other MMA promotion.
The Penalties For Using Illegal Moves In UFC
There’s a wide variety of penalties given out for committing one of these infractions. For lighter penalties like grabbing the fence, a fighter may get a warning and a point deduction for repeated offenses.
For more heinous penalties like kicking a downed opponent or strikes to the back of the head, the repercussions are greater. Fighters will either get points deducted, or immediately disqualified along with a suspension and fine.