Why Do They Pat Down UFC Fighters Before Fights? (4 Reasons)

If you’ve seen any number of UFC walkouts, you’ve likely seen a UFC fighter patted/frisked/searched before they’re allowed to enter to Octagon. But why?

In this article, we explain why commissioners pat down UFC fighters before a fight.

Why Do They Pat Down UFC Fighters Before Fights?

Commissioners pat down UFC fighters before fights to ensure adherence to the Unified Rules of MMA, maintaining a fair and safe competitive environment. 

This includes checks for concealed illegal objects or substances like excess Vaseline or weapons and ensuring no jewelry is worn. 

The pat-down also verifies that fighters are in the correct protective gear and cage attire, including regulation gloves, protective cups, mouthguards, and appropriate MMA shorts.

Additionally, the fighters’ hair and fingernails are checked to prevent any safety hazards during the fight.

Let’s take a closer look at why UFC fighters are patted down before a fight (a full list), according to the Unified Rules of MMA. There are 4 main areas of compliance checks during this process.

1. Checking for Illegal Items and Substances

UFC fighters are patted down before a fight because the commissioner is checking for illegal items and substances. This includes:

  • Excess Vaseline or Lubricants: Fighters are allowed a minimal amount of Vaseline on their face to prevent cuts. Vaseline or any other substances aren’t allowed on the body as it makes it slippery and difficult to grapple.
  • Weapons and Foreign Objects: While it might seem obvious, ensuring no fighter has concealed weapons or harmful objects is paramount for the safety of both competitors.
  • Illegal Attire: Items like jewelry or non-regulation clothing can pose injury risks. The pat-down confirms that fighters are only wearing approved MMA gear.

The main thing commissioners are checking for is any kind of lubricant on the body.

In the 90s, some fighters would grease their body before fighting against a wrestler or Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert. This would make them slippery and harder to grab hold of.

Using their hands, commissioners thoroughly examine the head and hair area, including the area behind the ears. 

They proceed to sweep their hands over the shoulders, down the arms, and onto the hands. The inspection continues with a check of the torso, concluding with the legs and feet.

2. Checking for Joint/Body Coverings

UFC fighters are patted down before a fight because the commissioner is checking joints and body coverings. This includes:

Upper Body Restrictions: In UFC fights, the upper body must remain free from any form of taping, covering, or protective gear.

This rule is in place to maintain fairness and prevent any potential advantage that such items might provide.

It includes a prohibition on joint sleeves, padding, braces, or any form of body gauze or tape on the upper body.

Lower Body Regulations: Fighters are allowed to use soft neoprene sleeves to cover knee or ankle joints, but these sleeves must adhere to strict guidelines. 

They cannot include padding, Velcro, plastic, metal, ties, or any other material that could be deemed unsafe or provide an unfair advantage. 

The use of tape, gauze, or any materials other than approved sleeves is strictly prohibited on the lower body.

Color Specifications: The sleeves used must be black, except when they match the athlete’s assigned corner color, in which case they can be red or blue. This rule ensures uniformity and helps in quick identification during the fight.

3. Ensuring Proper Protective Gear

UFC fighters are patted down before a fight because the commissioner is checking for proper protective gear. This includes:

  • UFC Gloves: Gloves must be 4-6 oz, supplied by the UFC, and properly taped to protect both the fighter wearing them and their opponent.
  • Protective Cup: A crucial piece of equipment for male fighters, the protective cup guards against serious groin injuries. Women aren’t required to wear a cup but can if they want to.
  • Mouthguard: Essential for protecting teeth and reducing the risk of concussions, a mouthguard is a non-negotiable safety item.
  • MMA Shorts: Fighters must wear approved shorts without pockets, velcro, or zippers that could entangle fingers or toes. Approved shorts are MMA board shorts, gladiator shorts, and Vale Tudo shorts.

They also check for hand wraps. Fighters are allowed to use a maximum of one roll of white, soft, cloth gauze per hand, not exceeding 2 inches wide by 15 yards in length, and it mustn’t extend beyond the wrist of the glove. 

Additionally, one roll of white athletic tape, no more than 1.25 inches wide by 10 feet in length, is permitted per hand. 

This tape also mustn’t exceed the wrist and can be placed through the fingers but not over the knuckles. A single layer of elastic or flex-type tape is allowed over the completed wrap.

4. Cage Attire and Safety Compliance

UFC fighters are patted down before a fight because the commissioner is checking for cage attire compliance. This includes:

  • Upper Body: Male fighters mustn’t wear any clothing on their upper body.
  • Rash Guards/Sports Bras: Female fighters must wear form-fitting rash guards or sports bras.
  • Shoes: Footwear isn’t allowed.
  • Hair Security: Fighters must have their hair secured in a manner that doesn’t interfere with the vision and safety of either contestant. The object mustn’t be capable of causing injury to either fighter.
  • Fingernail Inspection: To ensure nails are properly trimmed and not excessively long or sharp. Overlong or sharp nails pose a significant risk in the octagon, particularly due to the potential of causing unintentional cuts or scratches to the skin and eyes.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Commissioners pat down UFC fighters before fights to ensure adherence to the Unified Rules of MMA, maintaining a fair and safe competitive environment.

This includes checking for illegal items and substances, joint and body coverings, proper protective gear, and cage attire compliance.

All of these must be in check before a UFC fighter can enter the Octagon.

In conclusion, the pat-down process is a fundamental aspect of UFC fights, serving as a crucial checkpoint to uphold the sport’s stringent standards. 

By meticulously ensuring that each fighter adheres to the Unified Rules of MMA, the UFC guarantees a level playing field and reinforces its commitment to the safety and well-being of its athletes.

This thoroughness is essential in preserving the integrity of MMA and ensuring that every bout is conducted in the true spirit of competitive martial arts.

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