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Time for elbows to go

I think it is time to get rid of elbows from MMA.

There. I said it.

I have been a fan of MMA since the UFC advertised itself as having no rules. I watched the sport through the years when Mark Coleman was head butting opponents’ faces into a bloody pulp, and I cannot tell you how many times I have seen the highlight of Babalu soccer kicking a sprawled out Brad Kohler in the head. I am not squeamish about fighting or blood. But I want to see elbows banned from MMA.

I have not always felt this way. I attended the California State Athletic Commission hearings in 2000 that established the rules that were the basis for today’s unified MMA rules. The commissioners had proposed a ban on elbows and I was very concerned that they were going to ruin the sport. So, I was relieved when the MMA advocates were able to limit the regulations’ ban to only point of the elbow strikes.

But, I have long been in favor of rules changes that have helped turn the spectacle of NHB to the accepted sport of MMA. I remember giving Jeremy Horn and Matt Hughes a ride from a Fresno fight show to Los Angeles Airport, and discussing the (then new) rules in American MMA that banned kicking or kneeing an opponent who is on the ground. Horn felt very emphatically that fighters know what they are getting into before the step into the ring or cage, and the rules should not be changed to water down the sport. I told him that it was the introduction of rules such as these that were going to enable the sport of MMA to gain acceptance so fighters can earn a living. Horn had a good point, but I was right about the rules being better for the sport.

I think elbows hurt the sport of MMA.

Take the recent Sean Sherk vs. Kenny Florian fight. Sherk dominated the fight for 5 rounds. But in the second round, Florian landed an elbow to Sherk’s forehead while Sherk was in his guard. The elbow did not look like it stunned Sherk, however it opened up a cut on the vein in Sherk’s forehead that did not stop bleeding until Sherk received stitches in the hospital after the fight. It would have been a shame if Sherk, who was clearly the superior fighter, ended up losing the fight because of that cut.

I like fights that end with a “lucky” knockout or a “fluke” submission. There is finality to those fights – one fighter catches the other fair and square. But fights that end because of cuts caused by elbows just leave me disappointed, as if we never get to see who the better fighter is. All we got was a lot of blood and unsatisfied fans.

What is even more frustrating is hearing fighters talk about how they train specifically to open up cuts with elbows, and they use that as their main tactic rather than try to submit or knock out their opponents. Those fighters are trying to win a fight legitimately and within the rules, but also in a way that leaves fans feeling that they did not get their money’s worth.

So, I am saying something I thought I would never say. I would like to get rid of elbows from MMA.

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