The current rules for the Ultimate Fighting Championship were originally established by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board
. The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts
that New Jersey established has been adopted in other states that regulate mixed martial arts, including Nevada, Louisiana and California. These rules are also used by many other promotions within the United States and are mandatory for those states that have adopted the Unified Rules, and so have become the standard de facto
set of rules for professional mixed martial arts across the country.
Every round in UFC competition is 5 minutes in duration. Title matches have five rounds, and non-title matches have three rounds. There is a one minute rest period in-between rounds.
The UFC currently uses five weight classes:
In addition, there are four other weight classes specified in the Unified Rules which the UFC does not use: Flyweight (125 lb and under), Bantamweight (126-135 lb), Featherweight (136-145 lb), and Super Heavyweight (265 lb and above).
The UFC uses its trademarked octagonal caged arena to stage bouts.
All competitors must fight in approved shorts, without shoes or any other sort of foot padding. Shirts, gis
or long pants (including gi pants) are not allowed. Fighters must use approved light gloves that allow fingers to grab. These gloves enable fighters to use tremendous punching power without the consequence of an injured or broken hand.
Matches usually end via:
- Submission: a fighter taps on the mat or his opponent three times (or more) or verbally submits.
- Knockout: a fighter falls from a legal blow and is either unconscious or unable to immediately continue.
- Technical Knockout: stoppage of the fight by the referee if it's determined a fighter cannot "intelligently defend" himself or by ringside doctor due to injury.
- Judges' Decision: Depending on scoring, a match may end as:
- unanimous decision (all three judges score a win for one fighter),
- split decision (two judges score a win for one fighter with the third for the other),
- majority decision (two judges score a win for one fighter with one for a draw),
- unanimous draw (all three judges score a draw),
- majority draw (two judges score a draw).
- split draw (the total points for each fighter is equal)
A fight can also end in a technical decision
, technical draw
or no contest
The ten-point must system is in effect for all UFC fights; three judges score each round and the winner of each receives ten points, the loser nine points or less. If the round is even, both fighters receive ten points. In New Jersey, the fewest points a fighter can receive is 7, however in other states by custom no fighter receives less than 8.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission currently lists the following as fouls: 
- Butting with the head.
- Eye gouging of any kind.
- Hair pulling.
- Fish hooking.
- Groin attacks of any kind.
- Putting a finger into any orifice or into any cut or laceration on an opponent. (see Gouging)
- Small joint manipulation.
- Striking to the spine or the back of the head. (see Rabbit punch)
- Striking downward using the point of the elbow. (see Elbow (strike))
- Throat strikes of any kind, including, without limitation, grabbing the trachea.
- Clawing, pinching or twisting the flesh.
- Grabbing the clavicle.
- Kicking the head of a grounded opponent.
- Kneeing the head of a grounded opponent.
- Stomping a grounded opponent.
- Kicking to the kidney with the heel.
- Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his head or neck. (see piledriver (professional wrestling))
- Throwing an opponent out of the ring or fenced area.
- Holding the shorts or gloves of an opponent.
- Spitting at an opponent.
- Engaging in an unsportsmanlike conduct that causes an injury to an opponent.
- Holding the ropes or the fence.
- Using abusive language in the ring or fenced area.
- Attacking an opponent on or during the break.
- Attacking an opponent who is under the care of the referee.
- Attacking an opponent after the bell has sounded the end of the period of unarmed combat.
- Flagrantly disregarding the instructions of the referee.
- Timidity, including, without limitation, avoiding contact with an opponent, intentionally or consistently dropping the mouthpiece or faking an injury.
- Interference by the corner.
- Throwing in the towel during competition.
When a foul is charged, the referee in their discretion may deduct one or more points as a penalty. If a foul incapacitates a fighter, then the match may end in a disqualification if the foul was intentional, or a no contest if unintentional. If a foul causes a fighter to be unable to continue later in the bout, it ends with a technical decision win to the injured fighter if the injured fighter is ahead on points, otherwise it is a technical draw.
- The referee has the right to stop the fighters and stand them up if they reach a stalemate on the ground (where neither are in a dominant position nor work toward one) after a verbal warning. This rule is codified in Nevada as the stand-up rule.
- If the referee pauses the match, the match is resumed with the fighters in the position they were before.
- Any grabbing of the cage will result in a verbal warning, followed by an attempt by the referee to release the grab by pulling on the grabbing hand. If that attempt fails or if the fighter continues to hold the cage, the referee may charge a foul.