Mutual Combat Laws

Mutual Combat Laws: Where Are They and What Do They Mean for MMA Fighters?

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a combat sport that has gained immense popularity. However, MMA fighters often find themselves in a legal gray area regarding mutual combat laws. Mutual combat laws refer to the laws that govern the legality of physical altercations between two consenting individuals. In some states, these laws are well-defined and allow for mutual combat under specific circumstances. In others, they are vague or non-existent, making it difficult for MMA fighters to know their legal rights and responsibilities.

This post will explore the mutual combat laws in different states and what they mean for MMA fighters. We will also examine the implications for fans and the sport itself. So, this post is for you whether you’re an amateur or professional MMA fighter, a fan of the sport, or just interested in the legal aspects of mutual combat.

Introduction to Mutual Combat Laws

Mutual combat laws are a set of legal statutes that govern the practice of fighting between two consenting individuals. In some states, these laws explicitly recognize that mutual combat can occur between two individuals who agree to fight, as long as it is done in a controlled environment and without the intention to kill or seriously harm the other person.

For MMA fighters, mutual combat laws are particularly relevant because they can be used as a legal defense in cases where a fighter is accused of assault or battery. In these cases, the fighter can argue that they were engaged in a mutually agreed-upon fight and that any injuries sustained by their opponent were a result of the risks inherent in the sport of MMA.

However, the legal landscape surrounding mutual combat laws is complex and varies from state to state. Some states have explicit laws on the books that allow for mutual combat under certain circumstances, while others have no laws specifically addressing the issue. The legality of mutual combat may be determined by factors such as the:

  • location of the fight
  • degree of injury sustained by the participants
  • presence of weapons or other dangerous objects.

For MMA fighters and promoters, understanding the legal framework surrounding mutual combat laws is essential for ensuring the safety and legality of their sport. By staying up-to-date on the latest legal developments and working closely with legal experts, they can help to ensure that the sport of MMA continues to thrive safely and responsibly.

What is Mutual Combat?

Mutual combat is a legal term that refers to a prearranged fight between two individuals who have consented to fight. In mutual combat, both parties agree to fight without the intention of causing serious harm or injury to the other person.

Mutual combat, a concept firmly rooted in dueling, is a common law practice allowing two consenting adults to confront physically without facing legal repercussions. While this was once a socially-acceptable endeavor, it has since been largely condemned in modern society, with exceptions for contact sports and other controlled professional settings. Nevertheless, determining the legitimacy of “consenting to an assault” still remains a complex issue for judges.

  • Both parties must consent to the fight
  • No weapons or other dangerous objects must be involved
  • The fight must also occur in a private location, not a public one.

Mutual combat is not expressly legal in most states and jurisdictions. In some places, engaging in mutual combat may be considered a misdemeanor or a felony offense. It is important for MMA fighters to understand the laws in their particular state or jurisdiction. In most cases, the following conditions must be met for a fight to be considered mutual combat.

States with Mutual Combat Laws

Mutual combat laws are state laws that allow consenting individuals to engage in a physical fight without being arrested or charged with a crime. However, it’s important to note that mutual combat laws only apply in certain states in the United States and are limited to specific situations.


In Washington, mutual combat may be interpreted as being legal if it: occurs in a public place, with no weapons involved, and if both parties have agreed to the fight. The fight cannot occur publicly, and both parties must consent under Seattle Municipal Code 12A.06.025. There is no “Mutual Combat Law” in Washington, but the law is written in such a way that, except for domestic relationships, for the crime of assault to occur, there has to be a victim.


In Texas, mutual combat is only legal if it occurs in a ring or other designated area and is regulated by a referee or official. Individuals can engage in consensual fights without facing criminal charges only if no deadly weapons are used. For example, a mutual combat defense could be used if two people are in a fistfight that did not cause serious bodily injury and there was reasonable consent based on words or body language. If one of the participants is seriously injured, mutual combat is only legal unless they are fighting as part of their occupation or a medical experiment.


In Kansas, though not a law, a judge opined that the “mutual combat rule” is covered under the Kansas Self-Defense statute (K.S.A. 21-321). In State v. Meyers, the court adopted the mutual combat rule, which states that a killing done in mutual combat willingly entered into is not justified or excused unless the individual who willingly provoked the mutual combat has withdrawn in good faith, communicated that withdrawal to his opponent, and has done all in his power to avert the necessity of killing.


In Oregon, mutual combat is prohibited and explicitly illegal. Engaging in such activities can result in criminal charges (disorderly conduct). The law is in place to prevent individuals from engaging in violent acts without consequence, regardless of whether or not the fight is consensual. According to ORS 161.215 and Oregon Uniform Criminal Jury Instructions section 1111.3, both combatants being willing to fight is not a defense for assault unless it is “combat by agreement specifically authorized by law.”

What Do These Laws Say?

The exact wording of mutual combat laws varies between states, but generally, they provide protection from criminal liability for those who participate in consensual fights. In many cases, this extends to bystanders who witness the fight but do not intervene unless necessary for safety. Additionally, it’s common for these laws to specify that force should only be used as a means of self-defense if it is absolutely necessary and that all parties involved should act reasonably and proportionately at all times.

Tex. Pen. Code § 22.06 Consent as Defense to Assaultive Conduct states:

(a) The victim’s effective consent or the actor’s reasonable belief that the victim consented to the actor’s conduct is a defense to prosecution under Section 22.01 (Assault), 22.02 (Aggravated Assault), or 22.05 (Deadly Conduct) if:

(1) the conduct did not threaten or inflict serious bodily injury; or

(2) the victim knew the conduct was a risk of:

(A) his occupation;

(B) recognized medical treatment; or

(C) a scientific experiment conducted by recognized methods.

In a nutshell, an individual charged with assault in Texas can point to the victim’s consent to fight as a defense if the altercation does not cause serious bodily injury or threaten to cause injury.

Even in states with mutual combat laws, limitations and restrictions must be followed. For example, the fight cannot involve weapons, and both parties must have fully consented. Additionally, fights that result in serious injury or death could still result in criminal charges and legal consequences.

Legality of Mutual Combat

As we discussed, mutual combat is expressly legal in some states under certain circumstances. However, it’s important to note that while mutual combat may be legal, it may not be protected by all laws.

For example, in Alaska, while mutual combat is legal, there are no legal protections for those who engage in it. This means that if someone is injured during a mutual combat fight, they may be unable to sue for damages.

Just because mutual combat is legal in a state, it doesn’t mean that all types of mutual combat are legal. Some states may have specific rules and regulations regarding mutual combat, such as prohibiting certain types of weapons or requiring certain safety measures to be in place.

For MMA fighters, it’s important to be aware of the laws surrounding mutual combat in the states where they train and compete. While MMA fights may not be considered mutual combat (if they are regulated by the state and governed by specific rules), understanding the legal framework around mutual combat can still be important for fighters to ensure they are not breaking any laws outside the ring.

State Laws Governing MMA Fighting

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is an increasingly popular combat sport in the United States. However, not all states have established laws and regulations governing this activity. For those interested in participating in or organizing MMA events, understanding the state laws related to MMA can help ensure compliance with applicable regulations.

Age Requirements

In some states, age requirements play a role in determining which athletes are eligible to participate in MMA fights. Generally, most states require fighters to be at least 18, though some states have higher minimum age requirements. Those younger than the minimum age will need parental permission to compete. Most states also prohibit competitors aged 35 or older from entering the ring.

Sanctioning Organizations

Most states require that any MMA event be sanctioned by an approved sanctioning organization, such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Global Combat Alliance, or Bellator, to be legally organized. Furthermore, most states have their own wrestling commissions that oversee the administration of MMA events, including licensing and regulating athletes, coaches, referees, and promoters.

Licensing Requirements

Most states require that every professional fighter obtain a license to compete in MMA events. Depending on the state, there may be different types of licenses available. For example, some states offer tournament-specific “one-day” licenses, while others may require long-term professional licenses. Typically, all licensees must take a physical exam and provide proof of insurance before competing.

Safety Rules

Regarding the safety of fighters, states generally implement a set of standard rules and regulations. This includes requiring protective gear such as headgear and shin guards; prohibiting techniques such as eye gouging and biting; limiting contact on the ground; mandating medical supervision during the bout; and setting rounds limits.

States That Do Not Allow MMA Fighting By Law

While MMA fighting has grown in popularity, some states have outlawed the sport due to safety concerns. Here are some of the U.S. states that do not allow MMA fighting by law.


In 2015, Alabama passed a law banning professional mixed martial arts events. Furthermore, the state does not recognize amateur MMA bouts as organized sporting events. The ban was put in place due to safety concerns regarding the unregulated nature of the sport.


The state of Alaska prohibits all forms of MMA events and combative sports, regardless of whether they are professional or amateur. This includes both traditional MMA tournaments as well as submission wrestling competitions. The main reason for this prohibition is to protect athletes from unnecessary risks during competition.


Connecticut has a similar policy as Alaska when it comes to MMA events. Professional and amateur MMA events and submission wrestling tournaments are banned within the state borders. The law has been in effect since 2011 and shows no signs of changing anytime soon.


Massachusetts has a long-standing history of prohibiting MMA events. The sport was originally banned in 1989 due to concerns over its violent nature. The state is one of only a few that still forbid any type of live MMA event to be held on its soil.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island follows Massachusetts’ lead on this issue. Since 2003, hosting professional and amateur MMA events in the state has been illegal. Despite several attempts to repeal the ban, it remains firmly in place due to “safety concerns.”

Case Studies of Mutual Combat Incidents

Mutual combat incidents have occurred in the United States, particularly in states with laws allowing mutual combat. One such case occurred in Seattle, Washington, where two men fought outside a bar. Both men were charged with assault, but the charges were dropped due to the mutual combat law in Washington.

Another case occurred in California, where a man challenged another man to a fight, and the other man agreed. The fight was captured on video and went viral on social media. Despite the video evidence, both men were not charged due to California’s mutual combat law.

Kansas adopted the mutual combat rule in State v. Myers:

“The doctrine of self-defense cannot be invoked to excuse a killing done in mutual combat willingly entered into. The individual who willingly provoked the mutual combat is not justified or excused in taking life unless he has withdrawn in good faith, has communicated that withdrawal to his opponent, and has done all in his power to avert the necessity of killing.” – State v. Meyers, 245 Kan. 471, 781 P.2d 700 (1989)

Mutual combat law does not provide complete immunity to participants. Participants in mutual combat incidents have sometimes faced charges if the fight goes beyond a certain point. It’s also important to note that mutual combat laws only apply to fights agreed upon by both parties and not to cases of assault or battery.

Mutual combat laws in certain states have been debated and controversial. While they may provide some level of legal protection to MMA fighters and other participants in sanctioned fights, they also open up the possibility of abuse and unregulated violence.

Can MMA fighters engage in mutual combat legally?

One of the most frequently asked questions about mutual combat laws is whether or not MMA fighters can engage in it legally. The answer is not straightforward, as it varies depending on your location. Mutual combat is legal in some states or countries, meaning that MMA fighters could engage in it without facing legal consequences. However, mutual combat is illegal in other states or countries, and engaging in it could result in criminal charges.

It is important to understand that mutual combat does not provide any protection against civil action. For example, Washington law clearly states that both parties can be held liable for damages if a civil suit is brought against them. This means that even if no criminal prosecution occurs due to the fight, both individuals may be subject to a civil lawsuit and could be held financially responsible for any harm caused.

Historical and Cultural Roots of Mutual Combat

The origins of mutual combat laws date back to ancient times when duels or fights were often used to resolve disputes. The idea of a one-on-one fight, with agreed-upon rules and terms, was considered an honorable way to settle differences. It was a way to avoid wars and other violent conflicts that could lead to significant loss of life and property damage.

Mutual Combat
Dispute Resolution by Mutual Combat

This concept of mutual combat was carried forward through the centuries, with medieval knights often engaging in duels to defend their honor and reputation. Even in the Wild West, where law and order often lacked, men frequently resolved conflicts through gunfights or fistfights.

Mutual combat laws have also been linked to cultural traditions and practices. For instance, many indigenous tribes across the world have a long-standing tradition of settling disputes through combat. Such fights may involve weapons in some cases, but in others, they may be limited to hand-to-hand combat.

Today, mutual combat laws have been used to legitimize combat sports such as boxing and MMA. These sports are often seen as modern-day versions of the one-on-one duels of the past, with fighters agreeing to compete under specific rules and regulations.

Arguments for and against mutual combat laws

The concept of mutual combat laws has its own share of supporters and detractors. Those in favor of such laws suggest it is a way to reduce violence and its effects on society. They also argue that it allows people to defend themselves without being penalized. In addition, mutual combat laws can result in fewer criminal trials and reduce the burden on courts and law enforcement agencies.

However, opponents of mutual combat laws argue that they are dangerous and can lead to serious injuries or even death. They believe legalizing mutual combat will only encourage violent behavior and create more problems for law enforcement agencies. Moreover, mutual combat laws are seen as a step backward for society as it implies that resolving conflicts through physical violence is acceptable.

From the perspective of MMA fighters, some may argue that mutual combat laws could allow them to compete in a safer environment without the fear of being arrested. However, others may see it as a step back for the sport, which has taken great strides in promoting safety and minimizing the risk of serious injuries.

Future Outlook for Mutual Combat Laws

Mutual combat laws exist in certain states in the USA and allow individuals to engage in consensual fights without facing legal consequences. However, these laws do not apply to professional fighters and don’t protect individuals from criminal charges if the fight results in serious injuries or death.

The future outlook for mutual combat laws is uncertain. While some argue that these laws promote personal freedom and individual responsibility, others believe that they pose a threat to public safety and can lead to increased violence. As more states consider adopting mutual combat laws, it will be interesting to see how they address these concerns and strike a balance between personal freedom and public safety.

It is important to understand their respective states’ laws and regulations and ensure that they are not engaging in illegal activities. While mutual combat may seem attractive for settling disputes, it is important to remember that the consequences can be severe and long-lasting. As the sport of MMA continues to gain popularity, we hope that regulations will evolve to ensure the safety and well-being of all fighters involved.


We hope you found our article on mutual combat laws and MMA fighters informative and helpful. It’s important for fighters to understand the laws in their state and how they may impact their MMA career. As the sport continues to grow in popularity, more and more states are adopting mutual combat laws. It’s essential that fighters and promoters stay informed of any changes to these laws. We wish all the fighters good luck in their future bouts, and may the best fighter win within the legal boundaries.

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