(EDITOR'S NOTE: During the weekly "Ask the Commission" feature, Matt Schowalter or someone else from the Minnesota Combative Sports Commission will tackle your questions. If you have questions for the commission, send them to
QUESTION: In fighter meetings the last year, the refs have been saying that the top of the head is included in the "back of the head" definition for illegal areas to strike, whereas it seems in the UFC and other states the top of the head is legal to strike. ... Does Minnesota have separate rules defining the "back of the head' or are they just interpreting them differently? Their current interpretation limits what a fighter can do from bottom guard when the person on top buries their face in your chest. Or maybe my understanding is incorrect?
This is a great question. Although rules can be put down on paper, the interpretation of those rules can vary from person to person. Our job is to come up with our interpretation of the rules and then ensure that the officials we license follow those interpretations to the letter.
The other thing to consider here is that a person's perspective can also come into play. Just because you see an illegal strike from where you are doesn't mean someone sees that same thing from where they are. For example, let's say that Fighter A takes Fighter B to the ground and gains mount. In order to defend, Fighter B rolls to his side and covers his head. Fighter A starts raining down punches to Fighter B's head. From where you are sitting, Fighter B is facing you, so every punch thrown behind Fighter B's head looks as if it's an illegal strike to the back of the head. However, the referee is positioned where Fighter B is facing away from him and can see that those same punches are either hitting the canvas, or sneaking under Fighter B's head and hitting him solidly in the ear, which would be a legal strike. The two different perspectives show two completely different strikes, one legal, and one illegal.
In regards to what constitutes the back of the head, the definition we use is the same as the Association of Boxing Commissions