One of the worst eye pokes in recent memory happened on Saturday’s headliner fight at UFC Vegas 21. Leon Edwards threw a straight left hand but with his fingers out, which ended up getting jammed into Belal Muhammad’s right eye.
Muhammad was unable to continue and the fight was ruled a No Contest. But the severity of the eye poke led to a collective call from fighters for a glove redesign.
According to UFC Vice President for Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner, the company has also been considering revamping the current glove design.
“We’ve been working on getting a glove that’s a little more curved so you won’t have eye pokes,” Ratner told MMA Junkie Radio in a recent interview. “It’s not that easy because you’d still want to be able to wrestle.
“The way the gloves are designed would be pretty hard to keep your hands closed the whole time and be able to wrestle.”
Former double-champion Daniel Cormier, who’s been both on the giving and receiving end of eye pokes, agrees with this sentiment.
“A lot of times when you poke eyes, you’re trying to grab,” Cormier explained to Ariel Helwani during their weekly ESPN show on Tuesday. “And if your fingers aren’t allowed to open or straighten, then I think that you could eliminate some of the eye-poking. But the reality is, there’s going to be issues with the gloves being curved if we go forward.
“Having curved gloves will help because it does allow you to still lock your hands and wrestle. You can still lock your hands with a grip, you could still grab, you could still do everything. It keeps the finger from going straight.
“Even when (Jon) Jones would touch people in the eye. He wasn’t trying to. He was just trying to manage the distance. And because he’s so long, he put his arms out.”
For Cormier, a possible glove redesign may help to lessen the likelihood of eye pokes. However, he doesn’t see it as the end-all and be-all solution.
“You’re never gonna find something that works perfectly,” he said. “There’s gonna be issues with everything. And I don’t know what it’s gonna take in order to stop eye pokes. Eye pokes will still happen. Maybe not as frequently, but I believe they’ll still happen.”