Why Do UFC Fighters Have Cauliflower Ear and Does It Go Away?

Being a UFC fighter is a tough job; you get punched and kicked in the face often. As a result of all that punching and kicking, they can suffer some gruesome injuries. One of the more visible injuries that UFC fighters get is a cauliflower ear. Here’s how that happens and how some athletes try to prevent it.

How do UFC fighters get cauliflower ear?

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“Cauliflower ear” is a straightforward name, as it looks like an ear that’s been turned into a cauliflower. The injury can appear in different ways. After all, getting a cauliflower ear ultimately depends on where a fighter gets hurt

As Healthline reports, cauliflower ears happen when there’s direct trauma to the ear. It can cause blood to pool up and create bulges. Since direct trauma is the cause of cauliflower ear, it’s no surprise that they’re a common injury in combat sports.

While it’s rare for a fighter to get a cauliflower ear after one fight, many athletes can develop cauliflower ear over time from training.  

UFC fighters with the worst cauliflower ear

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Since cauliflower ears are a common result of training, naturally, a lot of UFC fighters have cauliflower ears. For many fighters, it’s just how things are; it’s not that big of a deal.

However, as Bleacher Report reports, cauliflower ears are considered a badge of honor to some fighters. This is especially true in the wrestling world. Great wrestlers, like Khabib Nurmagomedov, have fought with cauliflower ears before.

While cauliflower ears are usually harmless, sometimes, they can hurt a fighter. That’s because cauliflower ears can pop. When that happens, it can create a bloody mess that may force the doctor to call the fight off. That’s exactly what happened to Leslie Smith at UFC 180 in 2014.

She was fighting with a cauliflower ear. Her opponent, Jessica Eye, landed a punch that popped her cauliflower ear. It wasn’t a knockout blow. Smith didn’t even know her ear popped. However, the sight of the appendage flopping around after popping was too nasty. The doctor and ref ultimately agreed to stop the fight.

How to prevent and remedy cauliflower ear

Former UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov of Russia stands in his corner prior to a 2020 fight
UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Smith was angry about the decision and wanted to keep fighting. However, her ear popping like that cost her the fight. So it’s usually a good idea for fighters to prevent and working on fixing their cauliflower ears before they become an issue. Indeed, Healthline reports that someone can do several things to remedy their cauliflower ear. 

Preventing cauliflower ears is actually pretty easy, as it simply means avoiding getting hit in the ears or wearing a helmet when training and competing. That being said, pro fighters can’t wear helmets, so that’s mostly good advice for everyone else.

In any case, if you do get hit on the ear, other things can be done. Healthline recommends icing the injury spot as soon as possible, as that can stop the cauliflower ear from happening. Of course, as you develop your MMA career, you should always consult a doctor about health concerns.

If you already have a cauliflower ear, then Healthline said a doctor can drain the blood, so it’s less apparent. However, cauliflower ears are permanent, so fighters may need to do this several times.

If an athlete wants to have “normal” ears, then they’ll need to get an otoplasty. This surgery can reshape the ear. Once again, the best person to consult about health-related concerns is your doctor.