MMA-101: Transition
by Nelson "DOC" Hamilton
Grappling Magazine / December 2007

This is the third installment of a four-part series exploring both the
circumstances that have contributed to the evolution of the MMA “Unified
Rules”, and the sports phenomenal growth.

On 01/09/2001, Zuffa, LLC purchased the UFC from Bob Meyrowitz and the
Semaphore Entertainment Group. Ever cognizant of the sports trials and
tribulations during the preceding eight years, Zuffa’s management team
immediately prioritized an affiliation with, and an official recognition from, a
state athletic commission.

On 04/03/01, several promoters, including Zufffa, met with Larry Hazzard,
the executive director of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. Using
the MMA rules developed by the California Martial Arts Advisory Committee
as a template, the promoters and Mr. Hazzard developed what we now know
as the Unified Rules. With the adoption of the Unified Rules, the UFC entered
a new era of MMA promotion and cooperation with a state athletic

The “Unified Rules” were first employed at UFC-31, on 05/04/01. In addition
to nine separate weight classes, the new rules stipulated that all non-title
bouts would be three five-minute rounds, all championship bouts five rounds
of five minutes. Held at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the
first championships under the new rules saw Randy Couture win a unanimous
decision over Pedro Rizzo to retain his Heavyweight Championship. Also,
Carlos Newton tapped-out Pat Miletich to win the Welterweight

UFC-32: Showdown In the Meadowlands, on 06/29/01, saw the second
installment of the Unified Rules. Tito Ortiz defeated Elvis Sinosic at 3:32 of
round one to retain his Light Heavyweight championship. And, despite an
unexpected and very disappointing loss of his title just six weeks earlier, Pat
Miletich came roaring back into the welterweight division with a devastating
knockout of Shonie Carter.

With the two successful shows in New Jersey under its belt, the UFC looked
to the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) for sanctioning and
promotional licensure. On 07/27/01, the NSAC voted unanimously to
sanction MMA. With the crown jewel of State Athletic commissions now on
board, it was felt that the sport had finally come of age.

Just seventeen days after the devastating attack of the Twin Towers on
09/11/01, the NSAC sanctioned its first MMA event, UFC-33. Despite a very
subdued atmosphere, “Victory in Las Vegas” took center stage at the
Mandalay Bay Events Center on 09/28/01. It featured three title bouts. Dave
Menne retained his Middleweight title with a unanimous decision over Gil
Castillo. Jens Pulver retained his Lightweight Championship with a unanimous
decision over Dennis Hallman. And, Tito Ortiz scored a unanimous decision
over Vladimir Matyushenko to retain the Light Heavyweight Championship.
An addition to the Unified Rules followed the 06/06/03 controversial win of
Duane Ludwig over Genki Sudo at UFC-43, in Miami, Florida. By all accounts,
Sudo had top position, was in control, and winning the bout when “Big” John
called an injury time-out. Ludwig had sustained an injury to his nose and
John felt that he was swallowing an excessive amount of blood and having
trouble breathing. After the doctor determined that the fight could continue,
the fight resumed in a stand-up restart and Sudo losing the advantaged top
position. With time running out, Ludwig pulled out all stops and dominated
the remaining couple of minutes with his Muay Thai. After the bout, Ludwig
said that “getting out of bottom position was like being released from jail.”
The UFC rightly determined that an inequity occurred and required a rules
change. Starting with UFC-44, following a medical time-out, all restarts have
the fighters assume the same position as the one prior to the time-out. In
my opinion, this has proven to be an excellent rule.

As I stated in the first installment of this article, the only rules etched in
stone are the Ten Commandments. One of the hallmarks of a dynamic sport
is its willingness to make the changes necessary for the safety and equity of
its participants.

©2007-2008 REFS: Ring Experienced Fight Specialists.