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What Happened When UFC Banned 'Close Fists' And Threatened Fighters With Arrests

What Happened When UFC Banned 'Close Fists' And Threatened Fighters With Arrests

The majority of the most exciting UFC fights are heavily striking based, so what happened when "closed fists" were banned?

UFC 9: Motor City Madness on May 17 1996 was the promotion's first pay-per-view not to feature a tournament format but a serious spanner in the works was thrown beforehand.

The story goes that Arizona Senator John McCain' was vying for the event to be cancelled as he campaigned against the "brutal spectacle" that UFC was.

It went down to the wire but the outcome of a court battle saw Judge Arthur Lombard rule that the event at Cobo Arena in Detroit, that there were to be no closed fisted strikes to the head and no headbutts, as well as no kicking and biting.

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Legendary referee 'Big' John McCarthy was the man tasked with informing the roster of the revised rule-set and there was even talk that those who didn't follow them could even face being arrested and put in a cell.

There was however, a tad confusion in regards to the warning. Olympic champion wrestler Mark Schultz, who had took a fight with Gary Goodridge on incredibly short notice following Dave Beneteau's injury, needed to be told a little clearer.

Speaking to VICE years later, he said: "When Big John McCarthy, the referee, came by our rooms right before the fight he said 'there'll be no closed fists ... show me a closed fist,' so I made a closed fist and he said 'now show me an open fist' and I made a karate chop

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"And he goes 'no, this is open' and he made a regular fist and pulled his thumb away from his fist ... and he said 'if you violate this rule we're going to fine you 50 dollars per violation. But as far as when we're going to collect that will be just whenever'.

"In other words, punch all you want."

Schultz didn't take too much notice as he stopped Goodridge using closed-fist punches in his one and only professional MMA bout.

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Others fights on the card also rebelled, with Cal Worsham, Rafael Carino and Mark Hall all emerging victorious courtesy of stoppages caused from their striking.

However, it was in the main event that suffered as Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock paid respect to the special rules and put on a stinker of a "superfight".

'The Beast' Severn was the victor via split decision in the Superfight title rematch from UFC 6 but barely any excitement happened in the ponderous 30 minute encounter.

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Image: UFC
Image: UFC

11,000 angry fans chanted "bullshit" and even throw objects in the ring. Severn, however, didn't mind one bit.

"A lot of people hated that match and they hated it for very obvious reasons," he told VICE.

"There wasn't much action taking place. But at the same token, it was the most well thought out match that had ever taken place.

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"I came up with my strategy of how am I gonna piss off 10,000 people in an arena. And guess what, I succeeded. I pissed off all these fans watching."

Topics: UFC News, UFC, MMA, Dana White

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Josh Lawless

Josh is a sports journalist who specialises in football and wrestling. He has been published by Curzon Ashton FC, Late Tackle, Manchester City FC, The Mirror, Read Man City and Manchester Evening News. He provides coverage of professional wrestling and has interviewed some of the biggest names in the field - including the first UK interview with The Hardy Boyz after their return to WWE. He has never sported a pair of Lonsdale Slip-ons, contrary to reports.