New details on slap-fighting regulations; NAC could allow knocked-out fighter to continue

MMA Fighting

The Nevada Athletic Commission has released version 1.01 of its regulations for the recently approved slap-fighting league headed by UFC President Dana White.

The commission voted unanimously to regulate the league this past October and in this month presented the initial rules for slap fighting, which add finer detail to the requirements of slap competitors and the officials who oversee the contest. Those include multiple referees, corners, and “catchers” to “use efforts to limit the impact of a participant’s head to the Power Slap Stage where feasible and to protect the participants from falling off the Power Slap Stage,” according to the text.

At a meeting earlier this month to approve the regulations, NAC Chairman Stephen Cloobeck asked UFC Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell, “You will make sure no one dies?”

The text establishes rounds, weight classes, legal and illegal techniques, judging and medical requirements.

Matches pit a “striker” against a “defender” in a contest up to 10 rounds – Dana White’s Power Slap league promotes three- and five-round matches – with the striker getting 30 seconds to deliver “a permitted slap to the permitted target area compliant with the wind-up” before switching roles with the defender, who then gets 30 seconds to recover. The roles then switch, with the defender getting the same amount of time to slap. The promoter may also add “break time in between rounds (for example, without limitation, if open scoring is used),” per the text.

Before slapping, the competitor must “verbally and with hand signals and referee confirmation” signal what hand they’re going to use to slap and whether the slap will be on a 1-, 2- or 3-count. A 1-count means no windup, while a 2- and 3-count respectively mean one and two “practice” motions before the slap.

While slapping, competitors are only allowed to use the “entire striking of the fingers and palm above the wrist,” and “must make contact and impact simultaneously.” The regulations add “strikers may not lead impact with the carpal bones.” Strikers must keep both feet on the ground, can’t pivot on the balls of their feet when slapping, and must stay within a “striker box” outlined by the promoter.

As for the permitted target area, it consists “of the cheek, tracing from the jawline but excluding the chin (i.e., the area measured from the lips downward) and ear, to the height of the beginning of the eye, below and excluding the temple, then to the middle of the face on the outside of the eye and back to the starting point on the jawline only.”

Fingers may contact other parts of the face or head as an “extension” of a slap.” But any deviation from the slapping technique or target, like “a facial orifice,” is considered a “clubbing foul.”

According to the rules, a defender must also hold on to a “Power Slap Stick” behind their back with both hands “with their arms extended towards the ground” while getting slapped. It is a foul for a defender to flinch or tuck their chin into their neck, raise their shoulders, or use “any other method to block the strike.” The first infraction gets a warning, and strikers can then opt to slap the defender again. After that, a defender loses points for subsequent fouls.

Medical experts have expressed concerns about the safety of the Power Slap League for its participants, citing the lack of defense allowed in competition. A Polish slap fighter died in November 2021 after a slap fight, according to Polish News.

Matches are judged on the 10-point must system, equally weighing the damage of slaps and defender’s ability to recover. Referees are accompanied by a secondary referee to call “stepping fouls and to assist in lower body positioning.” A replay official is also in play and may overturn the referees’ calls if there is “clear and convincing evidence” to do so.

Rules announced by the league named a standard list of finishes possible for matches: decision, KO, TKO, disqualification, no-contest and technical decision. Fighters who are knocked down are given a 10-count, during which the defender “must rise to their feet and establish their fitness to continue as determined by the referee, and confirmed by the ringside physician.” If they can’t, the striker wins by knockout.

Referees can also stop the match if they determine a competitor “is not intelligently participating or does not have the ability to intelligently participate in the continuation of the match.” In MMA and boxing, bouts can be stopped when a fighter isn’t intelligently defending themselves.

But the rules also offer a window for certain participants who are stopped. Not included in the initial announcement for the Power Slap League is a clause the promoters “may incorporate” for competitors who, in the first round, were defenders “by virtue of a coin toss or other alternative method” and are knocked out. Per the NAC text, the promoter may allow a defender to continue if they are able to recover within a two-minute time period that starts after the knockout.

“Once the referee declares the finish, a clock of two minutes begins,” the rule states. “During this time, the Defender is given two minutes to recover, establish their fitness to continue as determined by the referee and cleared by the supervising physician and complete one Permitted Slap of their opponent. If the return strike results in a technical knockout or knockout of their opponent, the match is declared a Draw. If the return strike has any other result, then the Match result stands.”

Medical requirements for the participants largely mirror those of boxers and MMA fighters, with brain scans, eye exams, and screening for blood-borne diseases necessary to get a license. Events are staffed by a supervising physician and “one additional physician or licensed physician assistant” along with EMTs and a suture specialist.

Association of Ringside Physicians member Nitin Sethi has pointedly criticized the role of doctors at the events, saying “I am not sure what a physician is meant to supervise here other than being the overseer of concussive injuries occurring under his or her watch.”

For individuals hoping to hop into a slap-fight on short notice, there may be restrictions. According to the rules, they can’t compete if six days have elapsed since their last match if the match was not more than three rounds, eight days have elapsed if the match lasted four to six rounds, and 10 days if the match lasted seven or more rounds.

A link to the full list of rules can be found here. According to White, a eight-episode season of the Power Slap League is set to debut on TBS. The league is owned by White, former UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, UFC COO Lawrence Epstein and Craig Pilligian, who partnered with the UFC on the long-running The Ultimate Fighter reality series. The Power Slap League reportedly will mirror the TUF format.

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