Why MMA Refs Need To Let The Ground Game Unfold

Often, refs in MMA fights don’t allow the ground game to take it’s course or even come close to it during a bout. This is usually because there, seemingly to the naked eye, isn’t a lot of action going on when fighters are on the ground and that doesn’t make for a lot of audience excitement which directly translates to lower ticket/Pay-Per-View sales for future fights. So, the refs hands are tied because it’s up to them to do their very best to make sure the fight keeps progressing at an exciting pace. So, most of the time if there isn’t a colossal development on the ground (choke, hold, reign of fists) the ref will break it up in less than twenty seconds.
This is incredibly unfortunate because any true MMA fan knows that there’s actually so much going on between fighters when they are locked together on the ground during a fight. In fact, before they make it to the UFC, many amateur Mixed Martial Arts fighters make their way up the ranks through battles of attrition and willpower on the ground an “I can take it you can” sort of situation occurs frequently. Now, yes, this isn’t as traditionally “exciting” as an action filled stand-up but it’s still definitely a sight to see. Just waiting to see if a fighter can apply certain chokes or holds or escape them is a heart racing experience for any true fan actually invested in the bout and it’s eventual outcome.
How can we change this? Well, we can’t. Only the UFC and other MMA organizations can choose to try and change this. First of all, they would need to grandfather it in with new refs unless they want to have career long referees relearning things years and even decades into their careers, so, this change wouldn’t be fully implementable for at least ten years. Secondly, in order to even spark a conversation about this among these organizations, there would need to be some sort of quantifiable proof or data that shows that allowing the ground game to play out objectively make fights better and that’s anyone’s best guess as to how to get that information. Hopefully, with time, the UFC will finally see the light and let them fight (on the ground of course)!
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