Deep Jewels Adopts Unified Weight Classes, Elbows Now LegalJapan’s leading all-female mixed martial arts promotion, Deep Jewels, has announced a number of significant changes to its rule system and weight classes. The changes will first be implemented at Deep Jewels 9, a caged event that will now take place on August 29th at Differ Ariake in Tokyo.

For the past 14 years, female MMA fighters in Japan have been forced to compete using scaled-down rules and metric weight classes that frequently clashed with the format used in the Unified MMA Rules. Deep Jewels has adopted the Unified weight classes, and elbows will now be permitted.

Deep Jewels’s lineage dates back to its original predecessor, Smackgirl, which was formed from the ashes of the short-lived ReMix promotion in May 2001. During its seven-year run, Smackgirl held a remarkable 66 events and became the largest all-female MMA promotion in the world by showcasing many of the sport’s biggest female names on its cards. However, while the promotion achieved levels of success that few had thought possible, Smackgirl did face a considerable amount of criticism for limiting its athletes with restrictive rules.

In Smackgirl, competitors were forced to compete using oversized MMA gloves with an absurd amount of padding that made knockouts all but impossible. Only KO queen Hisae Watanabe, one of the most powerful female strikers in Japanese MMA history, was able to consistently finish opponents with strikes in spite of Smackgirl’s padded gloves.

Worse, Smackgirl instituted a strict 30-second ground rule that limited fighters’ abilities to finish bouts on the mat. After 30 seconds, referees were forced to stand both fighters up, even if one was on the brink of securing a fight-ending submission. Ground and pound was all but unheard of since fighters, with extremely few exceptions, were only permitted to strike to the body when on the ground. Further, all fights were contested inside a ring, which resulted in constant breaks in the action when fighters became entangled in the ropes.


After Smackgirl folded in April 2008, two new factions were formed seven months later. The more progressive of the two was Valkyrie, an all-female subsidiary of Greatest Common Multiple’s Cage Force, which used a cage and permitted strikes on the ground that had previously been outlawed in Smackgirl. The promotion survived for two years before ending its run in November 2010.

The second promotion that rose up in the wake of Smackgirl’s closure was Jewels, which was a direct successor to Smackgirl. The 30-second ground rule was quickly disposed of, but Jewels otherwise used a carbon-copy of the rules and regulations that were formed by Smackgirl. Fighters were still forced to use extra padding in their gloves, strikes to the face on the ground were only permitted in rare cases when two highly experienced fighters were competing, and the Smackgirl metric weight class system was still in effect.

Jewels failed to attract the large audiences that had attended Smackgirl’s events during MMA’s glory days in Japan, but the promotion nevertheless had a successful run. It was not until late in Jewels’s existence, however, that big changes were made in order to better prepare fighters for bouts abroad in Strikeforce and Invicta FC. Under the direction of Deep boss Shigeru Saeki, Jewels held its first caged event, “22nd Ring,” on December 15, 2012. Rules were also eased, and ground and pound was permitted in most fights.


On May 25, 2013, Jewels held its final event. The organisation then merged with long-running Japanese promotion Deep to form an all-female division known as Deep Jewels. With Saeki at the helm, Deep Jewels rules continued to permit ground and pound in all fights. Champions were established in three weight classes, though divisions retained the Smackgirl naming system and metric weight limits.

Deep Jewels’s rarely-seen flyweight division was capped at 45 kilograms, or 99 pounds. Its popular featherweight class went up to 48 kilograms, or 105.6 pounds. Lightweight extended to 52 kilograms, or 114.4 pounds. The short-lived welterweight division was to have topped out at 56.7 kilograms, or 124.7 pounds. The promotion’s heaviest official weight class, middleweight, was capped at 61.2 kilograms, or 134.6 pounds. As of now, all of that has changed.

On Monday, Deep Jewels officials announced that all future events will use the Unified MMA weight classes: Atomweight (47.6kg/105 pounds), Strawweight (52.2kg/115 pounds), flyweight (56.7kg/125 pounds) and bantamweight (61.2kg/135 pounds). If required, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight and middleweight divisions will also be used if the promotion opens heavier weight classes in the future.

Deep Jewels Featherweight Champion “V.V” Mei Yamaguchi, who captured the title in a one-night tournament on Sunday night at Deep Jewels 8, will now be officially recognised as the Deep Jewels Atomweight Champion. The promotion’s remaining two titleholders, “lightweight” champion Mizuki Inoue and “middleweight” champion Takayo Hashi, have also had their belts renamed. Inoue is now the Deep Jewels Strawweight Champion, while Hashi is the Deep Jewels Bantamweight Champion.


In addition to the shift in weight classes, Deep Jewels will also move away from its familiar home at Shinjuku FACE for its next event, Deep Jewels 9, on August 29th. The card will take place at Differ Ariake and all fights will be contested inside a steel cage. Elbow strikes, which are outlawed in most Japanese MMA promotions, will now be legal in championship fights and other featured bouts involving experienced competitors. Officials did not specify whether elbows will also be permitted in preliminary card bouts between inexperienced professionals.

While some of this week’s changes appear to be minor, each of them represents a significant and progressive step forward from the restrictive rules that have traditionally been used by Japanese promoters of female fights during the past 14 years. With the exception of its scoring system – fights are still scored as a whole, rather than on a ten-point must system – Deep Jewels has effectively adopted the Unified MMA Rules for its future events.

Deep Jewels 9, which was initially announced for August 12th, will officially take place on August 29th at Differ Ariake in Tokyo, Japan. The event is headlined by a Deep Jewels Bantamweight Championship rematch between Takayo Hashi and Ji Yeon Kim. The fighters battled to a competitive two-round Draw at Road FC: Korea 2 in March 2014.


  1. Sounds like they are trying to prep these girls better for UFC rather than stick with Japan’s out of date version of MMA.