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So Why Exactly Do UFC Fighters Get Frisked Before A Fight

Conor McGregor is frisked by a UFC official.

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Once UFC fighters finish the walk to the octagon. The next step before they enter the cage is to get checked over by an official from the State Athletic Commission. So some people have been asking why do they get frisked like this before a fight?

UFC Fighters are frisked before a fight to ensure firstly that their body is free of any unwanted lubricants such as vaseline. The fighters are also checked for long nails, that they are using a gumshield, and a groin guard and their gloves are correctly taped.

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So it’s important to know the steps which take place before the fighter enters the cage. And the best way to do this is for me to break it down step by step. So that you are familiar with each stage in the process and will know what exactly is happening the next time you watch a fight

What Is The Frisking Process

So once the fighter has finished their walk, the next step is for them to take off any extra clothing or shoes they are wearing. They will then usually get a good luck hug, high five or even a slap on the face, yes that does happen.

Top welterweight contender Colby Covington has his nails checked for length during frisking.
Welterweight fighter Colby Covington’s nails are checked.

They may or may not take a small drink from their team. But once that is finally all done, they are not allowed to touch their fighter once the cutman has begun the frisking process.

What Does The Cutman Apply To The Fighters Face

The cutman is separate from the official who does the frisking. Their job is to apply vaseline to the boney areas of the face. This includes the cheekbones, around the eyes and on the bridge of the nose.

The idea is that the application of vaseline will help to minimise friction in those areas. Because as the result of a punch, they may be cut easier on the face without it.

And bad cuts can usually stop a fight early. Both the fighters and the fans watching want a fight to continue until someone has won. Not by a bad cut bringing an early end to the fight.

Once that is completed, the next official step in to do the frisking. And they are not just checking for excessive vaseline or other forms of lubrication on the body. But also a number of other things which I will list below. The idea is to make sure the fight is both fair and safe for both opponents.

The fighter is frisked by a professional from the State’s Athletic Commission. And in terms of UFC events, the official is normally a referee who will not be adjudicating that particular bout. So they are free to carry out additional duties outside of the octagon.

What Are The Officials Checking For

The official will first check for excess vaseline on the body. Feeling with their hands all around the hair and head, including behind the ears. They will also run their hands across the shoulders, arms and hands. Then finish off by checking the torso area and finally down to the legs and feet.

So Why Exactly Do UFC Fighters Get Frisked Before A Fight
Jorge Masvidal is frisked before his fight with Nate Diaz

The purpose of ensuring there is no excess Vaseline on the body. Fighters attempting to use vaseline in this way is a form of cheating known as greasing.

Throughout the early years of the sport, accusations of greasing were pretty common. And it would be especially likely to happen if a fighter was facing a known submission specialist. The extra vaseline helps them to escape their submission techniques. And so the official doing the frisking has to be on high alert.

Some have hypothesised that the official is also looking for potential weapons that the fighter may try to sneak into the cage. Like a sharp blade or even some type of lotion that they can rub on their fingers. Then into the eyes of their opponent during the fight, temporarily blinding them.

And while this is not something we have seen in the UFC itself. There have been instances in smaller promotions of fighters cheating. Using some type of fluid and rubbing it into their opponent’s face causes them not to be able to see.

Checking The Gloves

The official will also check the fighters’ gloves to make sure that, they are wearing the correct ones. That the tape which is holding the hand wraps in place has the signature of the cutman who wrapped them in the dressing room.

The wraps are signed to prevent any tampering. Where something may have been placed inside the glove or the fighter’s hand was moved within the glove giving them a way to cheat.

Checking For Long Nails

The nails on both the hands and feet will be checked to make sure they have been trimmed. With the idea being that they are not excessively long or could end up cutting their opponent. The potential for damage from long nails is very real.

So Why Exactly Do UFC Fighters Get Frisked Before A Fight
Fabricio Werdum being poked in the eye

Several UFC fighters suffered bad eye injuries during their careers from severe eye pokes. As well as famed coach Mike Winkeljohn, who lost his eye when a student with long nails on his foot. Caught him in the eye when throwing a kick, slicing his eyeball and blinding him in that eye for life.

Is There A Gumshield

All fighters must wear a gumshield during their fight and it’s one of the things the officials will check. Its purpose is that it helps to protect the fighter’s teeth and tongue by absorbing some of the impacts from punches and kicks.

Helping to keep the teeth in place is an essential part of the kit. But believe it or not many fighters often forget to put it in. So it’s good that they have their cornermen and officials to remind them.

Check For A Groin Guard

Yet another essential piece of equipment is the groin guard, also commonly referred to as the ball cup. But in today’s sport with both men and women competing, a groin guard is definitely the more suitable name.

Most of these additional checks also serve to try and help prevent the fight itself from being delayed or even stopped. But regardless even after all these checks, you will still have instances where low blows occur. And even with a cup, some have been so bad the fight was stopped.

No Frisking In The Early UFC Days

In the early days of the UFC, the frisking of a fighter before entering the octagon did not take place. Fighters would make the walk to the cage, then simply take off their shoes and T-shirt and walk straight into the octagon.

This of course gave those who wished to cheat an opportunity to do so. And so over the years the rules of the sport became more and more refined. Athletes would eventually have to undergo a frisking before being allowed to compete.

Fighter Enters The Octagon

So once the frisking and all the checks have been completed. It’s time for the fighter to finally step into the octagon. With all the weeks of training coming down to this one moment. The culmination of physical and mental preparation to face one person, it’s a very special moment indeed.

Conor McGregor’s spine-tingling walkout at UFC 246

In Conclusion

Today this customary check is part and parcel of the sport. So much so that in itself it often offers us some comedic and frenzied moments, as the team wishes their fighter the best of luck before entering the cage.

No one knows how things will turn out and perhaps in the worst of possible outcomes, a fighter possibly dies, which is not hyperbole.

MMA is one of the toughest sports in the world and we are dealing with humans being pushed to their very limits of endurance. Fighting hand to hand against another human being on an equal playing field.

So making sure that we have a clean and fair fight is paramount to the longevity and overall success of the sport. And we can see how these changes and the addition of a pre-fight frisking. Has over the years helped to improve MMA’s position as one of the safest and fastest-growing combat sports in the world.