Do Boxers and MMA Fighters Have to Register Their Hands?

Professional fighters have a significant advantage if they were to get into a fight outside of a ring. With their training and background, the average person would be no match against them in a fight.

Do boxers and MMA fighters have to register their hands as deadly weapons?

The idea that a professional boxer or MMA fighter would have to register their hands is a myth. Professional fighters do not need to register their hands or any other body part as a dangerous weapon. However, if they were to get into an altercation they could be charged with a higher crime and held to a higher standard in court. 

Below we will talk in more detail about professional fighters registering their hands and what consequences they could face in court. 

do boxers and mma fighters register their hands

Deadly Weapons

Boxers and MMA fighters do not need to register their hands as lethal weapons. There isn’t a legal obligation that any professional fighter will need to register any of their body parts.

It is unclear where the myth started. There is a belief that Joe Lewis paid the police or someone to impersonate the police, to show up before a fight to register his hand as deadly weapons. 

It is more likely that this is just prefight bragging by fighters that has caught on and is now believed by the general public. Boxing is about the show and any psychological advantage you can get over your opponent would be an advantage in the ring. Intimidating or at least attempting to intimidate them could give you an advantage when you do meet in a ring. 

In Post World War II General MacArthur did ban martial arts and military training for a short time frame in Japan. Judo and Kendo were targeted for banning specifically. Karate, however, was considered a gentleman’s sport and not banned and allowed to be taught in Japanese Universities. The ban only lasted a few years and was never spread outside of the country. 

Professional Fighters as Deadly Weapons

Regardless if they are required to register or not, a professional fighter’s hands can still be considered a deadly weapon in court. Due to their training and background, professional fighters can receive higher charges if they were to attack someone on the streets. A simple misdemeanor assault charge can be charged as a felony assault if it is committed by a professional fighter. 

Professional fighters could face murder charges if they do kill someone during the assault. 

In 2015 professional MMA fighter Jamal Parks was charged with assault with a deadly weapon because of his background in MMA. Jamal Parks assaulted his friend after an argument and subsequently assaulted the police after they arrived also. He pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 6 years in prison.

Can Professional Fighters Defend Themselves? 

Professional fighters still have the right to protect themselves if they are attacked. As with anyone else they must use the amount of force that is appropriate to defend themself.

If someone attacks them they are permitted to fight back, but only as much is necessary. They are not permitted to continue to attack the assailant after the threat was neutralized. They would not be permitted to cause an undue force to stop the attacker. If they do use excessive force they could be charged for the injuries they cause.

Civil Liability

As with everyone, an MMA fighters could find themselves civilly liable for any excessive damage they would cause for any people or property they cause damage to even if they are not found criminally charged again. In some states, they can still be held liable for the damage even if the other person is completely at fault. This would force them to pay a considerable amount of money for compensation.

When is it Considered Deadly?

There is no clear legal definition of when a professional fighter would be considered a deadly weapon. It is usually directed at the defendant in a case that has committed an assault but that is not a guarantee. A professional fighter that was attacked could still be charged depending on the damage and unnecessary assault they have committed.  

It is also unclear and would be looked at on a case-by-case basis. In the Jamal Parks case, the reasoning behind labeling his hands as deadly weapons was the intent and manner that they were used. The indictment stated that in the manner they were used they were capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. 

By this calculation, whoever committed the assault would just have to show above-average ability for their hands to be considered deadly weapons.

Self-Defense Tips for Professional Fighter

You need to know what the state laws are for defending yourself. 28 States have various forms of stand-your-ground laws. 23 of those states have civil immunity in some self-defense instances. Regardless of the laws of the state, you should not attack unless you are being attacked.

You do not have to wait for them to assault you first but avoiding conflict is the best way to keep yourself and others safe.  Only use the appropriate force to negate your attacker. Once they are no longer attacking you, you need to stop the attack on them also.  


It is a myth that professional fighters need to register their hands as deadly weapons. There is no legal precedent that would require them to register their hands or any other part of their body. They could face greater charges if they were to assault anyone. Their hands could be considered deadly weapons in a court, which could bring misdemeanor assault charges increased to felony assault with a deadly weapon.   

Professional fighters do have the right to defend themselves if they are assaulted. They could be held criminally and civilly liable for any excessive physical or property damage they would cause in the process. They would need to limit their defense to only what is necessary and stop the fighting when their attacker quits assaulting them.

Please note this article does not constitute legal advice, its simply for informational purposes, you should always consult a qualified professional when it comes legal matters.