This week it was announced that UFC fighter Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal is going to launch a bare knuckle MMA promotion with the first event apparently scheduled to take place later this year in Miami, Florida.
If you followed the sport since the beginning you know that MMA started as a bare knuckle affair. It did not take long for fighters to realize that gloves are an effective weapon, not a safety tool, and soon gloves became the norm. In fact, KO/TKO rates by punches increased 10x once gloves became mandatory. Modern data from regulated bare knuckle boxing also shows that there are fewer documented concussions in the sport compared to traditional boxing.
Leaving the safety debate aside, the question is can this be legally done?
The answer appears to be yes based on the same loophole Florida used to legalize bare knuckle boxing in recent years. If you are interested in some background I tell the whole story here
If you want the short version, Florida’s athletic commission says that although their laws require gloves to be worn in boxing, the laws do not say the gloves have to cover knuckles. That’s why you will see fighters wearing strange wrist wraps when competing in BKB in Florida.
Florida’s MMA regulations have the exact same shortcoming. They require gloves of a certain weight to be worn. They do not require the gloves to cover knuckles.
The rule reads as follows:
It appears Florida is prepared to allow this event on the basis that if this loophole works for boxing it should apply equally for MMA.
Author Erik Magraken is a British Columbia litigation lawyer, combat sports law consultant, combat sports law blogger, and deeply, deeply appreciated UGer.