Why Do MMA Fighters Have Cauliflower Ear?

Regardless of whether or not you are interested in mixed martial arts, you know that a guy with a “bubbled out” ear is someone you shouldn’t mess with. In the media world today, the condition is called cauliflower ear and is usually a trademark of a person with “a particular set of skills”.

From Judo and Jiu-Jitsu to kickboxing and wrestling, anyone practicing martial arts can get a cauliflower ear. Too many punches in the head might cause swelling of the ears.

But why do MMA fighters have cauliflower ear? If you want to know, you have come to the right place. In our article, we talk about the condition and what you can do to try and avoid it.

Why Do MMA Fighters Have Cauliflower Ear? 

Swollen ears have been a status symbol of mixed martial artists for many years. People started noticing the disfigurement, and every young practitioner is trying to avoid it. But can it be avoided? Why do MMA fighters have cauliflower ear?

Also known as perichondritis, cauliflower ear is a condition in which the ear’s outer portion is extremely swollen due to accumulated trauma. When the ears are punched, torn, and pulled daily, blood clots appear, eventually damaging the tissue.

As time goes by, MMA fighters get blood and pus stuck in the gnarled cartilage of the ears. This causes the lobes to swell and turn into a shape that resembles a cauliflower (hence the name).

Swollen ears may seem like a small price to pay, considering the rewards of being a UFC superstar, especially if you know how much the fighters earn a year. If you are interested in finding more about it, check on the official MMAwhisperer website.

Let’s talk more about the jug ear and its prevalence amongst MMA fighters and treatments!

How to Prevent Cauliflower Ears

Cauliflower ears are a product of heavy training and are more than a symbol of dedication. Severe cases of swollen ears might cause partial or complete hearing loss, infection, and permanent disfigurement of the ear.

The guy that basically made cauliflower ears famous is Randy Couture. The fighter was either proud of his accomplishments or didn’t care about his appearance. He even started acting in movies and showing his ears on the big screen.

From popular UFC fighters like Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov to Alexander Gustafsson and Georges St-Pierre, almost every MMA fighter nowadays has cauliflower ears.

Nonetheless, the condition should be taken very seriously because it might cause infections, and you may start to lose your hearing. Unfortunately, this is a price you might have to pay when you enter combat sports, and there is no 100% effective prevention regarding cauliflower ear. However, you might reduce the risk by

  • Wearing headgear
  • Focusing on your defense.

Wearing headgear

Nobody likes to wear headgear in training and be the “black sheep”. Nevertheless, wearing headgear is always a good idea when the training involves a lot of striking. You can equip the proper headgear without breaking the bank. The headgear is created from impact-absorbing foam that might prevent cauliflower ears.

When it comes to prevention, there is not a single piece of equipment that might offer 100% prevention. To get the most out of the headgear, you should choose one that fits your head perfectly. Young students often make the mistake of grabbing the first size they can find.

Focusing on your defense 

Truthfully, this is easier said than done. When you work behind a desk like us or simply watch a fight on TV, it can be very easy to say, “get your hands up” or “get up from the floor”, but when you are actually inside the octagon, you are exhausted and trying your best to survive.

To become a part of the roughly 5% of MMA fighters that don’t have cauliflower ears, you can focus more on your defense and avoid kicks to the head as much as possible.

Also, don’t let the other fighter grab your head when rolling on the ground. By eliminating that leverage, you can avoid getting in a position where your ears are rubbing against the mats.

Are There Any Treatments for Cauliflower Ear? 

Every fighter experiences a different ear swelling. Some cases are mild and might be treated with ice packs, while others require medical attention. Draining the ear and making a small incision is the best treatment for the doctor to extract the blood manually.

Unfortunately, cauliflower ear is a permanent condition. One thing that might reverse the time clock and improve your appearance is plastic surgery. The procedure is also known as otoplasty and can be prohibitively expensive for any amateur MMA fighter.


Why do MMA fighters have cauliflower ear? Do all fighters have it, or can it be avoided? There is a risk of developing a cauliflower ear if you are into any combat sport. The kicks and punches eventually take a toll on the body.

After reading the article, you have learned what causes this condition, what might prevent it, and the steps you can take afterward as a treatment.

However, most MMA fighters proudly wear their cauliflower ears and haven’t even thought about surgically removing them.

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