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Being a UFC fighter is tough; 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 harms that UFC fighters experience involves cauliflower ear. Here’s how cauliflower ear happens and how some athletes try to prevent it.

How do UFC fighters get cauliflower ear?

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

Healthline reports that direct trauma to the ear causes this condition. When a UFC fighter is hit in the ear, blood can pool and cause bulges in the outer ear. If the injury isn’t treated — it can be drained or get infected — cartilage can grow over the area, causing a bulbous shape.

Since direct trauma is the cause of cauliflower ear, it’s no surprise that it’s a common injury in combat sports like MMA, wrestling, and boxing. One fight likely wouldn’t cause cauliflower ear as it happens from continued injury to the region.

UFC fighters with the worst cauliflower ear

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

However, according to Bleacher Report, cauliflower ears are considered a badge of honor to some fighters. This is especially true in the wrestling world. Great wrestlers, like retired Russian athlete 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, seeing the appendage after popping was nasty. The doctor and ref ultimately agreed to stop the fight.

How to prevent and remedy cauliflower ear

Smith was angry about the decision and wanted to keep fighting. However, her ear popping cost her the bout. So it’s usually a good idea for fighters to prevent and treat 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 can be 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 good advice for everyone else.


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

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

If an athlete wants their ears to return to their prior condition, they’ll need an otoplasty. This surgery can reshape the ear. Again, your doctor is the best person to consult about health-related concerns.