Unified Rules
Robin van Roosmalen (R) blocks kick of Petchpanomrung Kiatmookao at GLORY 41 Photo: James Law/GLORY Sports International

The Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) have Unified Rules in place for both boxing and Mixed Martial Arts–and kickboxing could soon be next.

Over the last seven months, ISKA President Cory Schafer, commissioner Martha-Shen Urquidez of the California State Athletic Commission, and South Carolina State Athletic Commission head referee Blake Grice were assigned by the ABC with the task of creating the Unified Rules of Kickboxing.

“It’s what’s been lacking,” Schafer told MMA Plus. “Part of the problem of kickboxing in America is that it had no identity. Even back in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, ISKA had the TV show on ESPN. One week it’s Muay Thai and then its Sanshou. So, the goal is to give the world of kickboxing a specific identity and to have that identity be equal to what the biggest promotions in modern kickboxing are doing. That is kind of synonymous with the GLORY rules, the Bellator rules, the Octagon rules. Most of the major promotions are very similar and that Unified Rules document will reflect that.”

The Unified Rules of Kickboxing, Schafer says, will be voted on this summer at the annual ABC Conference, which will be taking place at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. July 24-26.

Schafer explained some of the research that went into the making of the Unified Rules of Kickboxing.

“In preparation for this I took input from every sanctioning body that is in existence and promoters all over,” said Schafer, who is also the director of regulatory affairs for Bellator Kickboxing and MMA. “I had somewhat of an advantage going in, in that I wrote the original K-1 USA rules. I wrote the GLORY rules for American use. I wrote the Bellator Kickboxing rules. I work through the ISKA with the biggest kickboxing promoters in the world. I know what the current state of the sport is. We worked together on this project and it is completed and it’s going to be voted on this summer at the ABC convention.”

The ISKA handles regulation overseas for GLORY Kickboxing, which is the biggest promotion in the sport, and Bellator Kickboxing. The sport is more popular overseas than it is here in the U.S. and there are more fight cards, thus more repetitions for referees and judges.

When there are GLORY or Bellator kickboxing events held in the U.S. the ISKA work in conjunction with State athletic commissions, and with that comes inconsistencies depending on what commission is handling the event due to different referees and officials, who may not officiate kickboxing on a regular basis. Controversial decisions have occurred and many fighters have complained about not exactly knowing how the judges are awarding rounds, the scoring criteria and what strikes and techniques are considered more significant than others.

Another good example of confusion among kickboxing officiating would be the GLORY rules. While they do state the prioritized criteria for scoring and what the illegal fouls are, fans, viewers and sometimes fighters, often don’t grasp that the rules and criteria are assessed by the ISKA and State athletic commissions and not the promotion itself. Should the Unified Rules of Kickboxing become a reality–and promotions like GLORY and Bellator end up adopting them–it seems logical they would clear up that type of confusion in the future.

Schafer is hopeful that the Unified Rules for Kickboxing will form a baseline for all commissions to follow and adopt going forward.

“A lot of states don’t even have kickboxing rules,” he said. “And even for the ones that do, an option for promotions would be instead of using the States rules would be to use the Unified Rules. That is the direction we would like to go.”