Two Different Rulesets Used at UFC 220

As a result of the split feelings among commissions over the unified MMA ruleset passed by the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) last year, the new “unified” rules are only used in some states, while others still use the old set.

This has been confusion for fighters, referees, and other officials, especially since one of the key differences is the definition of a grounded fighter. But last week at UFC 220, the rules were changed after the card was underway.

Kyle Bochniak was getting prepared for his bout on the card, only to be told of the change before he was about to walk out for his fight. He admitted it affected him, though not as much, a bit during his fight.

“The ref comes in and says the athletic commission has changed it back to the old rules,” Bochniak said. “And I’m like, “Whoa whoa whoa, what’s the old rules again?’ I was gonna throw a kick [during the fight], but I held it. I pulled back because it looked like he was in transition of getting back up and I didn’t want a foul. Just because these rules, you don’t know anymore. I couldn’t remember what rules were in.

It wasn’t that bad, it just threw you a curveball a little bit. It wasn’t too much. It didn’t throw me off or anything. I just never saw that before.

Multiple sources told MMA Fighting that the early preliminary fights, aired on UFC Fight Pass, were conducted under the new Unified Rules of MMA, while the later prelims on Fox Sports 1 and the main pay-per-view card were all officiated under the old rules. A miscommunication between the UFC, the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission (MSAC) and the referees led to the rules being switched from new to old in the middle of the event.

An official from the MSAC, reportedly, mistakenly informed UFC vice president of regulatory affairs Marc Ratner in an e-mail prior to the event that Massachusetts had not adopted the changes to the Unified Rules of MMA. The state has been using the new rules since January 2017, and the UFC referees went into UFC 220 under the impression that said new rules would be in effect, and that’s what they informed early fighters during the standard rules meetings.

When referees backstage during the Dustin Ortiz vs. Alexandre Pantoja prelim fight heard color commentator Joe Rogan say the old ruleset was in effect, they sought out Ratner, who explained the miscommunication. After a discussion, sources say, the UFC went on with using the old ruleset due to already presenting it that way on the broadcast.

David Fish, the manager for UFC competitors Shane Burgos and Julio Arce, said they were first informed that the new ruleset would be used for their bouts, only for referee Dan Miragliotta to tell them of the change.

“[Miragliotta] seemed frustrated for the athletes and fellow refs,” Fish said.


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