UFC Vegas 21’s main event unfortunately ended up with a no contest after one of the most horrible looking eye pokes in recent memory.
Belal Muhammad was headlining his first UFC event and trying to get a top contender on his resume, while Leon Edwards was looking to secure a title shot after two years away from the sport. Both fighters had a lot running on that fight, but it all ended anticlimactically after the gruesome eye poke sent Muhammad screaming and weeping in agony. The video already looked particularly nasty, but the close up photos of the incident just displayed the severity of the poke.
A high profile bout ending that way only reminded people of how common — and dangerous — eye pokes have been for years. It led to many fighters going on social media to call for a new design for UFC gloves.
A big part of the problem is the gloves. One FC gloves are curved. UFC ones pull your hand open.— Dan Hardy (@danhardymma) March 14, 2021
We need new gloves. Period!— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) March 14, 2021
They’re out there. I just don’t understand what we’re waiting for to make these changes. How many more eye injuries do we need to bring these new gloves in, that significantly reduce the spreading of the fingers.#UFCVegas21
There’s these gloves that force the fingers closed. You have to fight to keep them open and I think that will significantly reduce possible eye pokes.— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) March 14, 2021
I know its not as “real as it gets” fighting with 7oz gloves as opposed to 4oz, but they are still small enough to allow us to grapple and boxers KO each other all the time with bigger gloves.— Louis Smolka (@LASTSAMURAIUFC) March 14, 2021
I think a curved glove would solve a large percentage of eye pokes. #UFCVegas21— Matt Schnell (@DANGER_Caged) March 14, 2021
Bruh can we do something about these gloves— Vince Morales (@vandetta135) March 14, 2021
Facts, and it needs to not be limited to the UFC. After my less than stellar treatment in my Miami fight with multiple eye pokes mid fight that ended up costing me $200 out of pocket I'm about anything that can lessen eye damage from that dirty shit https://t.co/73Po9NR0WS— Serena DeJesus (@SerenaSouthpaw) March 14, 2021
The UFC’s flat MMA glove hasn’t really changed much through the years, but other promotions have long used various gloves with a curved design. The main difference is that it encourages a closed fist and will require some effort to open the hands, while the UFC’s flat design does the opposite and slightly forces them open.
Bellator revealed their curved gloves back in 2014, which was initially made by Everlast to address eye pokes. It also has other features such as extra padding that “shields the first and fifth metacarpals” to avoid the most common hand injuries.
Even from more than a decade ago, PRIDE’s iconic blue gloves already used a curved design. RIZIN has since updated this design, with their Isami gloves being similarly curved, but having better and more secure finger straps.
MMA coach Trevor Wittman has also designed his own ONX gloves, which Rashad Evans and many other fighters swear by.
“As you know, when you get the gloves now, they’re like cardboard,” Evans said. “They always want to open your hand. This allows your hands to stay in a natural fist locked position, and you don’t got to worry about that. It’s curved right away”
The glove also has improvements said to better protect the wrist, and reduce breaks and common hand injuries. Sam Alvey also pushed for the UFC to partner up with ONX to use better gloves.
“When I broke my hand for the second time I hit (Wittman) up. He sent me a pair and I can punch as hard as I can against, like, a brick wall since then,” Alvey said on Instagram.
The UFC was supposedly very interested in Wittman’s ONX competition gloves for a while, but nothing really came out of it. According to the renowned MMA coach, the issue centered on legal and business details as the UFC “wanted to own the technology,” while Wittman wanted it available to all MMA organizations.
It’ll be interesting to see if the UFC eventually uses ONX, Everlast, Isami or any of the other brands out there, or just design their own. Whether or not it can significantly curb the number of eye pokes, it seems pretty clear that improving on the UFC’s already dated glove design can’t hurt at all.