Two of the most common questions I’m asked by beginners and friends who watch MMA are “Why do his ears look like that?” and “How can I make sure I never get cauliflower ear?” Even though many grapplers consider cauliflower ear to be a badge of honor, most people want to avoid it like the plague.
One thing that was a surprise to me when I started teaching years ago is that there are many people starting martial arts, especially teens and young adults, who actually want cauliflower ear. As bizarre as it sounds, I’ve been asked a handful of times how to get it faster and easier. (hilarious example)
What is Cauliflower Ear?
Cauliflower ear is very common with combat athletes. When the skin and cartilage in the ear get separated, it fills with a bloody fluid. If it’s not taken care of, the fluid hardens and the cartilage dies. What you’re left with is a rock hard ear that looks pale and irregular like cauliflower.
How to Prevent Cauliflower Ear
Preventing cauliflower ear can be easy or hard depending on your skill set. Here are some things to do if you don’t want the wrestler’s badge:
- If you’re a cage fighter, learn how to escape and protect yourself from the bottom.
- Learn where to put your head and where not to. Using brute force to pull your head out of a guillotine and rushed double under guard passes aren’t good ideas if you don’t want cauliflower ear.
Here are some things to do if your ear is already getting tender and swollen or you’re hell-bent on never getting cauliflower ear.
- Wear boxing headgear when striking and wrestling headgear when grappling.
- Avoid anything where your head is getting tied up like shots, duck-unders, triangles, and so on. If you do get caught in one of those positions, try to get out technically. I usually see people getting cauliflower ear when they try to force their heads out of positions like that.
- Avoid striking on the ground.
How to Treat Cauliflower Ear*
There are dozens of posts on the internet including this showing how to “treat” cauliflower ear. I strongly recommend getting cauliflower ear treated by a doctor especially because of the HIGH risk of infection. If you must syringe it yourself, I can’t stress enough the importance of cleanliness throughout, especially beforehand, and compression after. If the ear isn’t compressed after, it will simply fill back up and you’re back to square one.
To end this post, here is Kimbo breaking open Thompson’s already swollen up cauliflower ear with a wild cross:
*I am not a doctor. I’m not pretending to be a doctor. If you get cauliflower ear, get it taken care of by a professional!