One of MMA’s most common fouls was the focus of a recent study that was presented at the 2022 Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP) conference in Las Vegas.
Despite being a constant issue throughout the relatively short history of the sport, the threat of eye pokes is something that has yet to be fully solved in MMA.
The style of gloves used in the sport requires the fingers to be exposed in order to allow fighters to grapple properly, but this also means that combatants frequently get poked in the eye while striking.
According to Combat Sports Law, the study was presented by Dr. John Neidecker, a ringside physician who is also the current ARP President. Along with assistance from several other researchers, Neidecker examined the frequency of eye pokes in top MMA promotions the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Professional Fighters League (PFL), and Bellator MMA.
Lowest Rate Of Eye Pokes Found In Bellator
The study examined the statistics from fights that occurred in these three promotions between January 1, 2022, and June 30, 2022. Unsurprisingly, the UFC had the highest number of fights across this period with 256, followed by 89 for Bellator and 52 for PFL.
While the general design of the gloves used by all three promotions is similar in order to allow for both striking and grappling, there are slight variations that make the gloves unique for each organization. Bellator updated their gloves in 2014 in an effort to reduce eye pokes, while the UFC has been largely resistant to changing their design despite the availability of other options.
The study found that while the UFC and PFL had similar rates of eye pokes (PFL’s was slightly higher) Bellator clearly had the lowest rate of eye pokes across the period being researched. The UFC’s rate of the foul occurring during the period of study translated to 1 in 10 fights, PFL’s was 1 in 6 fights, and Bellator’s was 1 in every 44 fights (h/t Bloody Elbow).
Dr. Neidecker noted on Twitter that the findings from the study are from a relatively small sample size, and the plan is to conduct the same study over a larger period as well as examine a number of other details related to eye pokes.
“The study is preliminary. Results looked at bouts from Jan-Jun, 2022. Plan to follow this out for the entire 2022 calendar year. Other things to look into… is there an increased incidence based on athlete, referee? We shall see…”
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