MMA Fouls: 9 Ways To Get DQ’D In A MMA Fight

In MMA, a fighter must follow specific rules and regulations when competing in the cage. Failure to abide by these rules will either result in point deductions or even disqualification.

New fans of MMA often ask what the MMA fouls that will get a fighter disqualified are? To help, we’ve compiled this list of the nine ways fighters can get disqualified in an MMA fight.

In this article, we’ll detail 9 MMA fouls and discuss why they’re illegal and can get a fighter disqualified.


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How were these 9 MMA fouls deemed illegal?

These 9 MMA fouls were declared illegal when the Unified Rules of MMA were established in 2000. There was no unified rule set that all MMA promotions abided by before the creation of the Unified Rules of MMA.

Each MMA promotion had its own ruleset, which made things hectic for sports commissions. The New Jersey State Athletic Commission summoned the top MMA promotions at the time, which included the UFC, for a meeting.

This meeting was set to make official rules for the sport of MMA for state athletic commissions to abide by. During this meeting, the Unified Rules of MMA were established, including the 9 MMA fouls on our list.

Kneeing a grounded opponent

how to get disqualified in mma

The Unified Rules of MMA have clear guidelines that you cannot kick or knee a grounded opponent in the face. If the strike is blatant, this is a clear MMA foul that will result in a point deduction or disqualification.

This rule has been debated for years, with one of the arguments being, how do you define a grounded opponent? A grounded opponent was described as a fighter with both their knees and at least one hand on the ground (the three-point stance).

Many fighters have lost fights due to committing this MMA foul. Including the former UFC Bantamweight Champion Petyr Yan.

At UFC 259, the former champion attempted to finish opponent Aljamain Sterling and had a lapse in judgment. When Sterling was on the ground, Yan landed a hard knee that knocked Sterling out.

This resulted in Yan losing his UFC title and making Sterling the new UFC Bantamweight Champion. The first time this has ever happened in the UFC.

Eye Gouging & Fish Hooking

Eye gouging and fish hooking are two MMA fouls that could lead to disqualification if severe enough. Eye-gouging is where you jam a finger in an opponent’s eye for those who don’t know. A fish hook is where you put your finger in an opponent’s mouth and hook your finger into their cheek.

Nobody has attempted a fish hook in mainstream modern MMA, but it would surely result in disqualification. Eye gouging is quite common with the UFC gloves and is usually accidental.

Usually resulting in a warning for the first infraction and then a point deduction.

Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier have accidentally eye gouged opponents multiple times. Priscilla Cachoeira committed a blatant eye-gouging in a fight at UFC 269. Gillian Robertson finished her with an RNC, but Cachoeira severely eye gouged Roberton to get out of the submission.

Hitting Below The Belt 

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Hitting below the belt or, more specifically, punches to the groin are a common MMA foul. Although illegal, it should be noted that this MMA foul rarely leads to a disqualification.

Low blows are usually accidental MMA fouls that fighters receive a warning for. But if the low blow was blatant or repeated, the offending fighter will receive a point deduction.

In MMA, the fighter hit with the low blow is given five minutes to recover and decide if they want to continue fighting.

Spitting Out The Mouthguard

One MMA foul that some fighters have committed in the past is to spit out their gumshield or mouthguard. They usually do this because they are tired and want to force a break to catch their breath.

Spitting out your mouthguard won’t immediately result in a disqualification, but it will lead to a point deduction if it’s blatant. Fear of losing a point has almost stopped this MMA foul from occurring in fights. Repeated instances of spitting out your mouthguard can lead to disqualification.

Intentionally Placing Fingers in an Orifice or Cut

MMA Fouls

To go along with eye-gouging or fish hooking, it’s an MMA foul to place fingers in a cut or orifice. It is highly illegal for a fighter to put their fingers in an open cut to try and open it more.

Committing this MMA foul will result in immediate disqualification. A fighter putting their fingers in an orifice is usually given a warning or point deduction before disqualification.

Grabbing The Fence In MMA

Some fighters will commit the MMA foul of grabbing the fence during a fight. They do this to either prevent a takedown or try to get up after being taken down by their opponent.

No fighter has been disqualified for committing this foul in mainstream modern MMA. The referee is usually on top of the fighters to slap their hand off the cage if one of them grabs it.

Headbutting In MMA

Intentional headbutting is a severe MMA foul that will result in immediate disqualification. But there is rarely a case where a fighter intentionally tries to headbutt their opponent.

A headbutt is often accidental but can result in a warning or point deduction. At worst, it could lead to a fight stoppage if a fighter can’t continue.

An instance of this MMA foul was Kevin Holland vs Kyle Daukaus at a UFC Fight Night event. Bauhaus accidentally clashed heads with Holland, which led to Holland being KO’d and the fight being ruled a no contest.

Biting or Spitting at an Opponent 

Two of the most heinous MMA fouls in the sport are biting or spitting on an opponent. There are no point deductions or warnings if a fighter commits one of these acts.

The fight is stopped, and they are immediately disqualified from the competition. Like the infamous Mike Tyson incident, MMA fighter Diego Brandao recently bit an opponent’s ear at a fight held in Russia.

12-6 Elbows In MMA

The most controversial MMA foul on our list is the 12-6 elbow. Although this rule has led to fighters losing points or even being disqualified, many people feel that this MMA foul should not be illegal. 

The 12-6 elbow is illegal due to the Unified Rules of MMA meeting in the year 2000. 

The New Jersey State Athletic Commission and a doctor they brought in wanted all elbows banned at the meeting. Thankfully, Big John McCarthy was present at the meeting to debate them about making all elbows illegal. Big John was able to talk them out of making all elbows illegal, except for one elbow strike. The 12-6 elbow.

The doctor saw a Karate brick-breaking demonstration with the 12-6 elbow and felt it was too dangerous to be legal. McCarthy went to debate him on this, but Lorenzo Fertitta told John to let it go. Ever since then, the 12-6 elbow has been deemed an MMA foul under the Unified Rules of MMA. 

The most notorious instance of a 12-6 elbow disqualification was Jon Jones vs Matt Hamill. Jones was finishing the fight with ground and pound, and the last shot he landed was a 12-6 elbow. This MMA foul cost Jon the contest and tarnished his unbeaten record.

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MMA Fouls Summary

Committing any of the 9 MMA fouls in this article can lead to point deductions, or worse, a disqualification.

Hopefully, our readers have a better understanding of the Unified Rules of MMA and which MMA fouls will lead to disqualifications.

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Gareth Davies

I'm a martial arts competitor and enthusiast. Over the last 15 years, I have trained and competed in several martial arts. I live in Manchester U.K working as a strength & conditioning coach when I'm not travelling and exploring martial arts around the world.
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