MMA has come a long way in the short period between the first UFC event in 1993 and the early 2000s when many of the rules we know today were implemented. All MMA matches worldwide are now divided into rounds with a rest period in between, just like boxing.
Regular MMA fights are fought in 3 x 5-minute rounds, while championship bouts are 5 x 5-minute rounds.
Some organizations make minor adjustments to the length of the bouts, but the general rules apply globally. Below, you will learn the precise length of MMA matches for all the major MMA organizations.
How Many Rounds In MMA?
When the first UFC event was conceived, it took the framework from the Brazilian combat sport of Vale Tudo. The “anything goes/no holds barred” nature of the sport dismisses the classic boxing round format in favor of a rawer form of combat.
While this is genuinely more realistic, sometimes the fighters are too evenly matched or try to preserve their strength, turning the fights into an hour-long snooze fest.
An even bigger reason for the addition of time limits and rounds was the heavy attacks on the sport from prominent figures that got MMA banned in many states. So, the UFC was forced to implement more rules and make the sport more acceptable in the eyes of the general public, who has been used to watching boxing for a millennium.
The first event to feature a round-based system was UFC 21 in 1999. In 2000, the unified rules of MMA were finalized and adopted by the UFC and most other organizations and governing bodies. Here is a short quote from these rules:
- Each round shall consist of a five (5) minute duration (professional), with a one (1) minute rest period between rounds.
- No contests shall exceed five (5) rounds and/or twenty-five (25) minutes.
- b. Bouts may consist of one (1), two (2), three (3), four (4), or five (5) rounds, with a five (5) minute duration.
- c. No contestant shall exceed competing for more than five (5) rounds and/or twenty-five (25) minutes of fighting in a twenty-four (24) hour period.
The lesser number of rounds may be used in the case of an exhibition or if a fighter is participating in a tournament and is expected to fight more than once in one event. As you’ve seen from the rules, no fighter is allowed to fight for more than 5 rounds in 24 hours.
But aside from these cases, all MMA fights are scheduled for 3 x 5-minute rounds, and championship matches are 5 x 5-minute rounds. Since 2011, however, the UFC has decided that all main events are contested in 5 rounds, regardless of whether a title is on the line.
|UFC||Bellator MMA||ONE Championship||Rizin FF||KSW|
|3×5 minute rounds for non-title fights and non-main events||All non-world championship fights in Bellator consist of 3 five-minute rounds||Regular bouts are 3 rounds||Regular bouts are 3 rounds||Regular bouts are 3 rounds|
|5×5 minute rounds for championship fights and main events||All championship fights are 5 rounds.||All championship fights are 5 rounds.||All world championship fights are 5 rounds.||All world championship fights are 5 rounds.|
|1-minute rest period between rounds.||1-minute rest period between rounds.||1-minute rest period between rounds.||1-minute rest period between rounds.||1-minute rest period between rounds.|
Since UFC 21, matches in the UFC have been fought in three rounds, with title fights lasting five. Out of all the major organizations, only the UFC holds its main events in 5 rounds, regardless of whether they are for a belt. Main events are only three rounds on rare occasions. Usually, a non-main event fight is promoted to the top spot due to the cancellation of the original main event.
Like any other USA-based organization, Bellator uses the Unified Rules of MMA. According to them, non-championship bouts are 3 rounds, and fights with a championship on the line are 5 rounds. They don’t make exceptions for non-title main events like the UFC.
How Many Rounds In ONE FC?
Asia’s most prominent MMA organization is breaking the mold in many traditional aspects of MMA, like weight cutting and judging criteria. They also allow kicks and knees to a downed opponent, which is another critical difference from the Unified Rules. However, the fights in One FC last the same amount of time as they do anywhere else: three rounds for regular bouts and five rounds for title fights.
How Many Rounds In Rizin FF?
The spiritual successor of Pride FC started with 3 rounds, of which the first was 10 minutes and the second and third 5 minutes. But they let go of that in 2018, and today they use the same format as everyone else—3 rounds for non-title fights and 5 rounds for title fights.
How Many Rounds In KSW?
Poland’s KSW leads the way for MMA in Europe, and their production is unrivaled even by the UFC and One FC. They also use the Unified rules time durations and stage fights in 3 rounds, with championship matches in 5 rounds.
The length of the round in the UFC is 5 minutes. There have been various talks of changing this to a shorter 3 minutes to promote activity. Some Japanese organizations like Rizin FF and Pride FC before that used a 10-minute first round, but even they no longer do that.
For an MMA fight, 5 minutes appears to be the sweet spot that allows enough time to work on the ground while not allowing fighters to save too much strength.
MMA is a very young sport in comparison to any other major sport. Still, most of the rules and aspects of it, such as the number and duration of a fight, are set and unlikely to change.
This uniformity benefits both spectators and fighters. Fans know what to expect and can tune in to any promotion globally, whereas fighters don’t have to prepare for a new challenge when they switch promotions.