Are you wondering if UFC fighters can wear contacts?
In this article, we’ll look at whether UFC fighters can wear contacts, where they can wear contacts, why UFC fighters need contacts, and some things fighters can do to comply with commission regulations.
Can UFC (MMA) Fighters Wear Contacts?
Yes, UFC fighters can wear contacts as they’re allowed by most State Athletic Commissions, with the exception of some states such as Nevada.
All State Athletic Commissions require UFC (MMA) fighters to pass an ophthalmologic exam, once a year on average.
This is an exam checking visual acuity to verify whether a fighter has a minimum level of sight and an ability to continue fighting in the chance a fighter’s contact lenses are knocked out.
The vast majority of State Athletic Commissions allow UFC fighters to wear contacts if they can pass the ophthalmologic exam.
Not only this, but if a fighter’s eyesight is very bad it increases the likelihood of getting a detached retina through fighting, so commissions test to avoid this from happening.
The states which don’t allow UFC fighters to wear contacts believe them to be unsafe and distracting as contacts are likely to move painfully under the eyelid or pop out during a fight.
Moving contacts also mean fighters are poking their eyes which can lead to infections due to germs, blood, and sweat from an opponent or the octagon which has collected all of these from every fight on the card that night.
Contacts being knocked out during fights happens often and it most recently happened to Thibault Gouti in his fight against Nasrat Haqparast in 2018, at UFC FN:138.
Towards the end of the second round, Gouti gestured to the referee that he’d lost a contact lens but the referee allowed the fight to continue for 5 seconds until the end of the round.
Gouti was then seen looking around the canvas for his contact lens, but was unable to and continued to fight in the third round without it. If contacts are knocked out there’s no time to apply new ones and the dirty ones can’t be put back in; meaning it’s essential a fighter can see in this scenario.
Which States Allow UFC (MMA) Fighters to Wear Contacts?
Most State Athletic Commissions have no information or regulation regarding fighters wearing contacts. If there isn’t any information on the issue, then it must be assumed that UFC (MMA) fighters can wear contacts in that particular American state.
Here are some examples of State Athletic Commissions that allow UFC fighters to wear contacts:
California State Athletic Commission
There isn’t any information on contact lenses being banned or allowed for use and this information is also missing from their ophthalmologic exam; meaning contact lenses are allowed for UFC and MMA fighters when competing in California.
They do, however, have information on the type of contacts boxers are allowed when competing in California. The rule states:
‘A boxer is only allowed to wear soft contact lenses. All other contact lenses will be prohibited. 6) If a Boxer loses contact lens(es): a. The Boxer accepts to continue to box, the Bout will continue; b. The Boxer does not accept to continue to box without the contact lenses, the Referee must terminate the Bout and the opponent will be declared the winner by TKO.’
As this is the only information provided by the CSAC, it must be assumed that the UFC and MMA operate under the same regulation, meaning UFC fighters can wear soft contacts when competing in California.
As per section 282: vision requirements, in order to fight and pass the ophthalmologic test, fighters mustn’t have an ‘uncorrected visual acuity of less than 20/200 in either eye or 20/60 with both eyes; (b) Corrected visual acuity of less than 20/60 in either eye, regardless of its cause.’
Ohio State Athletic Commission
Ohio allows UFC fighters to wear contacts but in order to pass the ophthalmologic exam a fighter mustn’t have an “Uncorrected visual acuity of less than 20/200 in either eye or 20/60 with both eyes.”
Derek Brunson was infamously pulled from a March 2012 fight by the Ohio State Athletic Commission. Derek accused the Ohio commission of not allowing him to fight because he needed contacts to fight – which he’d always used.
However, they were allowing him to wear contacts but weren’t allowing him to fight because he didn’t pass the ophthalmologic exam, due to his eyesight being 20/400. Derek immediately booked a Lasik eye surgery and missed roughly 6 weeks while his eyes recovered.
New York State Athletic Commission
The NYSAC doesn’t mention contact lenses throughout its regulation, meaning UFC (MMA) fighters can wear contacts when competing in New York.
Under its medical standards for combat sports professionals (2020), in order to compete, they require an athlete to ‘have uncorrected visual acuity of 20/200 or better in each eye; combatants must have corrected visual acuity of 20/40 or better in each eye.’
New Brunswick Combat Sports Commission (Canada)
They have no mention of contacts for MMA fighters on any of their websites but the fight mentioned above between Gouti and Haqparast took place in New Brunswick, Canada; so it’s evident they allow UFC (MMA) fighters to wear contacts.
Arizona State Athletic Commission
The ASAC doesn’t mention contact lenses for MMA fighters in their regulation.
Upon emailing them, they replied, ‘Contact lenses should not be necessary, as all fighters receive a physical examination as well as a dilated eye examination prior to being issued a license to compete.’
This means UFC fighters can wear contacts when competing in Arizona, but they feel they’re not necessary as the mandatory ophthalmologic exam establishes that MMA fighters have good enough sight to fight without them.
Which States Don’t Allow UFC (MMA) Fighters to Wear Contacts?
Nevada State Athletic Commission
Rule 5 under section 99 of the NSAC’s approved regulation states: ‘An unarmed combatant may not wear contact lenses during the contest or exhibition in which he or she is participating.’
The NSAC’s ophthalmologic exam also states: ‘Combatants cannot compete with contact lenses or glasses’
If a fighter doesn’t pass the exam, they won’t be able to compete at any event in Nevada, which for UFC fighters is events at the UFC Apex and the T-Mobile Arena.
Their only option is to have eye surgery, which is what a lot of fighters opt to do seeing as sight is so important in MMA.
Colorado State Athletic Commission
The CSAC also have no information regarding contact lenses in their rules and regulation.
However, former UFC fighter, Jason Reinhardt, was pulled out of a WEC fight in 2010 by the Colorada State Athletic Commission.
They claimed his eyes were too bad, which left Jason baffled because he’d been using contacts while fighting for the past 10 years without any problems.
They wouldn’t allow him to fight with contact lenses and in the end, he had corrective eye surgery and had his fight rescheduled.
Most commissions are very unorganized and make it hard for information to be found. Because of this, it must be assumed that UFC fighters can wear contacts in the majority of states, otherwise, the information would be easily available, which it is for the state of Nevada.
When fighting outside of the USA, UFC fighters can wear contacts as the UFC most often self-regulates their own events in partnership with a commission in the host country. This is because MMA is most developed in America and is way ahead in terms of regulation and rules.
For example, when there are UFC events in London or on Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, the UFC self-regulate. At the most recent event in London, the UFC was self-regulating with the help of the English Mixed Martial Arts Association (EMMAA), which was founded in 2019 and is led by Marc Goddard.
Why Do UFC (MMA) Fighters Wear Contacts?
UFC fighters may wear contacts if they’re farsighted (myopia), which means their vision is blurry to things up close.
Fighters such as Charles Oliveira who walk to the octagon with glasses on, are nearsighted (hyperopia), meaning they’re fine when fighting because it’s up close but they have trouble seeing things in the distance.
Still, no matter whether a fighter is near or farsighted, they still have to pass an ophthalmologic test every year to obtain a license which they can show to each commission before a fight.
Another reason why UFC or MMA fighters wear contacts is that while there is the option to have corrective eye surgery, via Lasik or photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), these can cause further complications to the eye, especially for fighters who are likely to have their eyes damaged very often.
Also, there are some commissions, such as New York, that don’t allow fighters to compete if they’ve had Lasik eye surgery, because of the complications it can cause.
This means many fighters choose not to have corrective eye surgery during their career and much rather use contacts or fight with slightly blurred vision.
However, it’s understood that PRK is much more suited for fighters as the complications and risk of injury after surgery are much lower than with Lasik – it’s now the preferred choice for fighters.
This is because during Lasik a flap is cut into the cornea, which then only heals a few cells thick meaning it’s very easy to tear, especially if taking damage to the eye. With PRK, the corneal flap doesn’t exist, and instead the entire cornea is removed which allows it to fully heal as it was before the surgery.
Why Do UFC (MMA) Fighters Not Wear Contacts?
On the other hand, because of how common contacts being knocked out during combat is, many fighters with not-so-great vision prefer to fight without contacts.
This is because if contacts are knocked out, the immediate impact on vision is hard to overcome because of the distraction and shock. Referees don’t stop the fight if contact lenses come out, so a fighter has to quickly adapt to potentially having one contact in and one out, or both out.
One example is Charles Oliveira, who wears glasses outside of the octagon and therefore fights with what he describes as 50% vision, mostly because he feels it doesn’t affect his performance too much and because of the complications with contacts as mentioned.
However, fighters now have the option to use orthokeratology (Ortho-K lenses).
These are worn overnight and reshape the cornea, allowing users to have clear vision for the next 1 or 2 days without wearing contacts during the day.
This is more than ideal for UFC and MMA fighters as it removes the need for surgery, fighting with blurred vision, or wearing contacts while fighting.
Ortho-K lenses are therefore the best option for fighters who want to fight with better vision but aren’t allowed to wear contacts when fighting under certain commissions.
UFC Fighters Who Wear Contacts
Here are some UFC fighters who wear contacts or have been known to have worn them in the past:
- Derek Brunson
- Quinton Jackson
- Karo Parisian
- Juan Adams
- Thibault Gouti
- Jason Reinhardt
- Junior Dos Santos
So, ‘can UFC fighters wear contacts?’
Yes, UFC (MMA) fighters can wear contacts, but it depends on the athletic commission regulating the event. This is true both in and outside of America.
So, while the majority of commissions allow contacts to be worn when fighting, all commissions require a fighter to pass an ophthalmologic test in order to pass a minimum visual acuity threshold, so they have the ability to see in the likely event that contacts are knocked out during combat.
Most State Athletic Commissions have no rules or regulations concerning whether UFC or MMA fighters can wear contacts because they feel the minimum visual acuity threshold is more than good enough for fighters to compete without contact lenses.
However, this fails to see that eyesight can get worse during the year and fighters may need contacts to get them through a fight. Luckily for them, most commissions have no regulations against contacts.