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UFC Fighters Ears: Risks Fighters Face When Ears Crumple Up


Last Updated on March 21, 2024

Being a UFC fighter is a challenging career. You frequently get struck or kicked in the face. They might sustain some horrifying injuries from all that pounding and kicking which may develop cauliflower ear.


A cauliflower ear is among the more noticeable injuries sustained by UFC competitors.

You're in the right place if you want to know the details of how it occurs and how some athletes attempt to stop it. We'll address all of your questions concerning this topic in this article. 

To learn more, scroll down and read the provided information below!

Why Do UFC Fighters Have Disfigured Ears

Cauliflower ears

Never tamper with a person who has a cauliflower ear, according to the renowned street rule, even if you are not a fan of combat sports. 

The people with such ears have probably put in their time in MMA or other combat sports.

Fighting in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and grappling arts, where the ears are regularly hurt, makes this kind of ear deformity more common.

Athletes from other sports, including rugby, can also be seen with deformed ears.

A cauliflower ear is not hazardous, despite its appearance. If you get medical attention right once, this is not a serious injury and you can recover quickly. 

However, if the damage is not addressed, it may result in severe and long-lasting ear deformity.

We also need to be clear about one issue. Not all MMA fighters have a cauliflower ear, and practicing MMA doesn't guarantee that you won't end up with deformed ears. 

In general, wearing a helmet significantly lowers your risk of disfiguring your ears.

Why Most MMA Fighters Have Cauliflower Ears

Injured ear with cotton ball inserted

The answer is simple: MMA is a sport that combines hitting to the side of the ear and grappling exchanges that rub off the ear, both of which are major causes of a cauliflower ear.

Let's examine how the four main MMA fighting stances affect the growth of a cauliflower ear:

1. Boxing

As we all know, boxing is a striking sport in which competitors constantly pound each other on the side of the head. 

The exterior portion of the ear is quickly damaged by a few blows to the body. 

Boxers use headgear, which is a padded helmet that shields their ears and head, to avoid this.

2. Muay Thai

Due to the usage of the elbow, knee, and head kicks, the art of eight limbs is arguably the world's most devastating standup form. 

Additionally, the majority of head kicks and elbows land on the side of the head, immediately striking and hurting your ear.

3. Wrestling

In wrestling, cauliflower ears are a common injury. Simply said, the activity is very demanding on your hearing, and you can quickly injure them. 

This is because wrestlers frequently bang their ears when competing for control and position of the head and because of this, you may frequently see them sporting ear protectors that resemble headphones.

4. Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) is a grappling sport similar to wrestling, and many BJJ competitors have cauliflower ears. 

A significant portion of BJJ training is rolling on the mats with a partner. 

You may get a damaged ear during the rolls because they brush against the mats or your partner. 

Also, some submissions, including the well-known "triangle choke," might harm your hearing.

Knock-Out Point: It is inevitable to escape uninjured during a fight. Most of the combatants are big and muscled but make no mistake in believing that they do not feel threatened by getting hurt. Here is a list of monolith players of the MMA -- Biggest UFC Fighters: 21 Monolith Warriors Of The MMA Jungle.

What Are The Causes And Symptoms Of Cauliflower Ear?

Man pinching ear

In fighting arts, learning to use the cauliflower ear is a pretty straightforward technique. 

Frequent impacts from strikes to the ear or when the ear gets massaged during the grappling exchanges are the major causes of this sort of ear deformity called cauliflower ears.

Every time you are hit in the outer region of the ear, a little blood clot forms. This blood clot develops between the cartilage and connective tissue of the upper ear. 

The clot restricts blood supply to the cartilage, causing tissue damage and eventual death. 

The ear will begin to mend itself as these tissues deteriorate by creating a much harder fibrous tissue, resulting in an ear that resembles a cauliflower.

It can sound complicated to explain a cauliflower ear medically. Finding the early signs, however, is not. The enlargement of the ear may be the first indication of cauliflower ear. 

In addition to becoming red or bruising, the injured region of the ear might also indicate a lack of blood supply.

Do not become alarmed if you see these changes in your ear. Call a doctor right away and get treatment if you need it. The following are the most typical signs of cauliflower ears:

  • Ear discomfort
  • External ear swelling
  • Bruising
  • Headache or severe bleeding
  • Ear ringing

What Do Fighters Prefer Cauliflower Ears Than Treatments?

Disfigured ear

Did you know that some MMA fighters tend to purposely not treat their cauliflower ears as they want them to stand out? 

With this said, some even inflict pain on their ears just to obtain cauliflower ears.

The majority of MMA/Martial Arts communities view cauliflower ears as a symbol of tenacity and combat experience. 

Additionally, many fighters wear them as a badge of honor, making it very evident to anyone in their vicinity that they practice MMA/martial arts and that you shouldn't mess with them in public.

Teenage martial arts students have started sporting cauliflower ears as a fashion. 

Many of those who practice BJJ or wrestling purposefully neglected their ears to appear tougher in the eyes of more senior trainees.

Even some of the most well-known UFC competitors openly have cauliflower ears, too. 

The most well-known of them are Randy Couture and Khabib Nurmagomedov, former UFC champions, and Leslie Smith who felt joyous as her ears exploded while fighting Jessica Eye.

What Is The Best Way To Prevent Cauliflower Ears?

Sparring session

The majority of people believe that practicing MMA will inevitably result in ear damage. 

This, however, is completely untrue since you can practice and fight in MMA without having to worry too much about your hearing.

The most important thing you should keep in mind is to always wear headgear or ear protection during the training sessions to prevent cauliflower ear.

Additionally, using safety equipment is insufficient. Ensure that this sort of gear fits your head size properly by exercising extra caution. 

The fact that they frequently injure their ears despite wearing helmets is due to this typical mistake caused by MMA trainees.

Your face and ears are not protected if you are wearing headgear that is too large for you or too small.

Your ears will always irritate you if the helmet you're wearing is too tight and too small for your head. Even though it might not feel too bad right away, this will eventually distort your ear.

Additionally, cauliflower ears cannot be avoided by using headgear that is larger than your head. During the exercise, a headgear that seems loose might fall out of position and expose an ear. 

Therefore, choose a headpiece that fits your size and is securely fastened around your head rather than one that feels loose or overly tight.

Is There A Cauliflower Ear Treatment To Prevent Ear Deformation?

Patient undergoing ear treatment

You still have a decent chance of avoiding cauliflower ear if you notice any changes in your ear or experience any pain. 

The first thing you may do is apply ice to the affected part of the ear. 

In treating cauliflower ear and any other wound, ice is beneficial because it lessens pain and swelling. 

However, this is only first aid; you must get medical attention from a doctor as soon as possible.

By emptying the blood buildup within your ear that is preventing blood flow to the injured tissues, a doctor can treat the wound much more effectively. 

It's not a difficult or unpleasant procedure. He or she will create a tiny incision to allow the blood to escape the wound.

In some instances, medical professionals could use a needle to drain the blood from the injured portion of the ear.

Following that, they will use sutures to reattach the tissues and use a particular bandage to guarantee that the ear heals with the proper shape restored.

Doctors may prescribe antibiotics to you after your treatment is over to avoid infections. Any exercise or activity that can cause your ear to get damaged again should be avoided. 

The length of the recovery period mostly relies on the injury, so you shouldn't make judgments on your own. 

Once the doctor gives permission, you should be able to resume training and other activities.

Is Cauliflower Ear Permanent?

Doctor administering treatment via injection

The cauliflower ear is typically a lifelong malformation, which is unfortunate. 

There's a good probability that the deformity is just too large to mend or reshape back to its normal condition if you don't seek medical attention promptly.

In this situation, only a procedure known as Otoplasty, or cosmetic ear surgery may be able to assist you. 

This surgical operation, which alters the contour of the outer ear, is generally regarded as being low-risk.

Otoplasty is not a difficult procedure, and the discomfort level is not great. 

Before making an incision behind your injured ear, the surgeons will first provide a local anesthetic. They'll use sutures to remodel your ear or remove a piece of cartilage.

The scar often disappears with time, and the sutures may remain in place permanently to keep the back of the ear in place. 

In general, the procedure takes 1-2 hours, and you may anticipate returning to training in six weeks.

Watch This!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do UFC fighters drain their ears?

Typically, they assist one another in clearing their ears of fluid and reducing ear swelling. 

How do UFC fighters get cauliflower ears?

The tissues in the ears may get damaged and create clots due to years of being pushed, cut, and tortured. Blood and pus build up inside the damaged cartilage over time, creating thickening balloons. Sometimes, they inflict damage on themselves as they see cauliflower ears as a badge of honor.

Does cauliflower ear go away?

Unfortunately, no. Even while some may be reversed through an otoscopy procedure, the cauliflower ears remain indelible.


Wearing the appropriate protective gear is essential to keeping yourself as safe as possible since combat sports may sometimes be a hazardous activity. Avoid any injuries that could result from fighting, as well. Remember that your physical wellness is more important than your career. Always keep a healthy body!

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