Fan Questions | Martial Arts History

Can UFC Fighters Wear Contacts?

Having a vision issue that requires someone to wear glasses is pretty common, seeing as about 14 million Americans have blurry vision. However, bad eyesight is a much bigger issue when there’s someone punching you in the face.

Of course, wearing contact lenses would be a lot better option than wearing glasses in a fight. But can UFC fighters wear contact lenses?

In short, yes, UFC fighters can fight wearing soft contact lenses, as long as the athletic commission does not have a specific rule against them. However, the fighter must also meet the vision requirements set by the athletic commission when not wearing contact lenses.

Let’s talk about a specific example of when contact lenses would and wouldn’t be allowed in a UFC fight.

Derek Brunson’s Contact Lenses

So Derek Brunson, a current UFC fighter, used to have vision problems. In his early MMA days, he would fight wearing contacts. At one point in his career, his vision problems intervened with a fight he had scheduled.

Derek Brunson fights in the UFC Middleweight division, although he was previously at Strikeforce.
Derek Brunson fights in the UFC Middleweight division, although he was previously at Strikeforce.

Derek Brunson was previously a fighter for Strikeforce, a promotion that has since been acquired by the UFC. Once upon a time in Strikeforce, he was scheduled to fight Jacare Souza in early 2012.

However, before the fight was able to happen, Strikeforce officials announced that Derek Brunson did not pass his pre-fight medical exam. Brunson was outraged, believing that it was due to his contact lenses.

“Ok here’s the deal. I’ve been fighting with contacts for 11 fights … never was an issue. Ohio won’t pass my eye exam. … Stevie Wonder can play a piano blind & blind people can drive cars, but i can’t fight with contacts.”

Derek Brunson on Twitter

This was an interesting response from Brunson, and yet, it’s simply not true. The Ohio (where the fight was supposed to be) State Athletic Commission does let fighters compete with contacts on, but they must still pass the minimum vision requirements.

Bernie Profato, the director of the Ohio Athletic Commission.
Bernie Profato, the director of the Ohio Athletic Commission.

At that time, Bernie Profato was the Executive Director of the Ohio Athletic Commission. Profato stated that fighters in fact are allowed to wear contact lenses, but they must meet the visual requirements so that the fighter can still see if the contacts are knocked out.

“There’s nothing in our rules that says you can’t wear soft contacts, but if they come out, you can’t go look for them – it’s not like a basketball game where you go out there and look, and put the contact back in – you have to keep fighting without them.”

Bernie Profato speaking with MMAFighting.com

According to the Ohio Commission’s eye exam form, a fighter cannot compete if they have “Uncorrected visual acuity of less than 20/200 in either eye or 20/60 with both eyes.”

As you probably already know, perfect eyesight is 20/20. Derek Brunson’s was 20/400. Profato stated, “The state of Ohio can’t let this guy fight when it says 20/400”.

Apparently, Brunson had always fought with contacts, stating, “I’ve wrestled four years in college; I fought two amateur fights and nine pro fights, all with my contacts. I’ve got them knocked out a couple of times, and it never was an issue. I’m near-sighted. I can see close up fine. It’s just far away I can’t see. “

Derek Brunson got Lasik after this incident, and later lost to Jacare by first-round TKO when the match was finally booked.
Derek Brunson got Lasik after this incident, and later lost to Jacare by first-round TKO when the match was finally booked.

However, the reason this was Brunson’s first time having an issue was likely due to the fact that his eyesight had deteriorated after his three previous fights, according to his ophthalmologist.

So basically, the point of this story is the fact that Brunson would have been allowed to wear contacts at the event, if his eyesight was at least 20/200. If your eyesight is not great but you want 20/20 inside the octagon, then sure, you can wear contacts.

But you must still meet the guidelines set by the Athletic Commission, as they ultimately make the decision of licensing you.

What About Current UFC Fighters?

The thing I should note about the case with Derek Brunson is that it happened when he was in Strikeforce, not the UFC. UFC follows basically all the same rules as Strikeforce, so pretty much everything stated so far applies to the UFC.

Juan Adams claims he was not allowed to wear contacts in his UFC debut, despite there being no rules against it.
Juan Adams claims he was not allowed to wear contacts in his UFC debut, despite there being no rules against it.

But are there any actual fighters in the UFC that fight with contacts on? It is hard to know, as there is not much information on fighters who fight with contacts.

According to UFC Heavyweight Juan Adams, you aren’t allowed to wear contacts. But I don’t know if that’s actually true. None of the Athletic Commissions mention it in their medical requirements, and we are 100% certain that at least in Ohio, fighters can wear contacts.

In addition, nowhere in the Unified Rules of MMA is there any rule against wearing contacts. Also, there is one fighter who we can confirm has worn contacts inside the Octagon.

Thibault Gouti (left) is known to wear contacts while fighting, as noted by his fight with Haqparast.
Thibault Gouti (left) is known to wear contacts while fighting, as noted by his fight with Haqparast.

At UFC Fight Night 138 in Moncton, Canada, a Lightweight bout was scheduled between Thibault Gouti and Nasrat Haqparast. Near the end of round two, Gouti stopped, put his hand up to his eye, and looked at the ref, almost as if complaining about an eye poke.

However, there were only five seconds left in the round, and the ref told them to keep going. Once the round ended, it seemed Gouti was looking for something on the floor. Dan Hardy, one of the commentators for the contest, confirmed that Gouti had gotten his contact lens knocked out of his eye, and was looking for it.

Conclusion

So Gouti’s fight served to prove that fighters can, in fact, wear contacts. Which makes me wonder, who told Juan Adams he couldn’t wear them?

In short, yes, UFC fighters are allowed to wear contacts, such as Lightweight fighter Thibault Gouti, who wears them in his fights. However, fighters must still pass the visual requirements from the State Athletic Commission in order to be licensed to fight.

I hope this answered any questions you had about contact lenses being worn in MMA/UFC fights. If it did, please consider checking out the Martial Arts History page, which covers similar topics. Thanks for reading!

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