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Cauliflower Ears: MMA’s Badge of Honor?

Chances are that if you practice martial arts, you know someone whose ears look like Mhamad Karaki's


Chances are that if you practice martial arts, you know someone whose ears look like Mhamad Karaki‘s. Cauliflower ear is caused when the ear receives a blow that shears away the ear’s cartilage from its overlying perichondrium. Liquid fills the new space between the two layers, and will harden into a hard fibrous lump if not drained.

I was speaking with six-time world champion Robson Moura last week, who said that his issue with cauliflower ear did not begin until 2002, years after he had received his black belt. Today both ears are severely affected. He commented that it can only take one incident for an ear to go from normal to cauliflowered.

What are the reasons to avoid cauliflower ears? Here’s a brief list.
You may scare away a potential girlfriend, boyfriend, or employer. I think guys have a little less to worry about here as having the appearance of a “tough guy” may be attractive to some women. I don’t think any guy ever would appreciate his girlfriend having cauliflower ears though as most would agree that cauliflower ears never qualify as “pretty”. In very few cases will having cauliflower ears help you get a job, especially in a white collar setting.

It may be harder to hear! I am no audiologist, but I think we can safely say that your ear hole’s original diameter is intentional and probably optimized for good hearing. Making it smaller or obstructed is likely to negatively impact one of your five precious senses.

There is no way to put your ipod earphones in your ears! This is the scariest of all outcomes as it may prevent you from being able to listen to your favorite BJJ podcast. Robson told the story of when he was warming up at a tournament once he borrowed his friend’s ipod. When the earbuds immediately fell out of his ears he originally thought it was because there was something wrong with the earbuds. After they fell out the third time he realized his own banged up ears were causing him to not be able to listen to the ipod, not the earbuds.

Where does that leave us? Well the best way to prevent cauliflower ears is to wear protective headgear. Honestly these are not the most comfortable things in the world, nor are they a recipe for high fashion. However as I have a friend who trains with me who is a doctor and wears headgear I feel empowered to make the statement “prevention is the best medicine”.


If your ear just filled up with liquid after getting scrunched like origami during BJJ training, you may have some luck if you drain the liquid. Doctors can do this for you and there are plenty of postings on forums showing where people drain their ears on their own. Ouch.

If you have had cauliflower ear for a long time and it’s become marble-hard, you can get plastic surgery to repair the damage. That’s expensive. If you’re on a budget and want to negate undesirable cosmetic effects of cauliflower ear, you can grow your hair long so it hangs over your ears, or buy a funny hat that draws attention away from your ears.

Do you have cauliflower ears? Are they a source of pride for you, or do you regret that you have them? Leave a comment below!


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