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The Absolute 10 Worst Cauliflower Ear UFC Fighters

Fighters with the worst cauliflower ear in the UFC.


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So when there’s not much else to talk about, the issue of cauliflower ear is something that pops up. And with some real beauties to be found amongst current competitors. The question is often asked as to who has the worst cauliflower ear in the UFC?

There are several fighters who can claim the title of worst cauliflower ear in the UFC. From Alexander Gustafsson and Conor McGregor to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Ryan Hall. Who all bring something unique about their ears to the debate.

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So I felt it would be good to take a run through some of the most distinctive ears found in the UFC today. And while we can argue about who’s is actually the most deformed.

There can be little debate that these individuals all bring a very obvious set of world-beating skills and ears to the UFC octagon. So let’s take a rundown of who currently makes the shortlist.

Alexander Gustafsson

One of the first big European fighters to make the breakthrough on to the scene in the UFC in a major way. Gus is a tall and powerful striker who originally fought in the light heavyweight division.

Signing with the promotion in 2009, the Swede made an instant impact with a 0:41 second knockout of Jared Hamman. Showing his great hands and letting those in the 205 lb division know that there was a new threat on the block.

Alexander Gustafsson shows his cauliflower ear.
UFC light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson cauliflower ear.

But with his next fight seeing him suffer a defeat against wrestler Phil Davis. There was a change in-tact as he opted to then train with Davis and improve his wrestling for his next fight.

And from there he would go on a six-fight win strike that would see him defeating former division champion Mauricio Shogun Rua. In a fight that set him up to face the reigning champion, Jon Jones.

However, he would just fall short in his bid for the title giving Jones one of the toughest fights of his career. And establishing himself as one of the very best in the world at 205 lbs.

But outside of all of this, Gustafsson has one of the gnarliest sets of cauliflower ears in the sport. And one wonders how a guy who didn’t wrestle managed to get them so twisted in his formative years.

Colby Covington

If you want to talk about a polarizing figure in the sport of MMA it’s Colby Covington. And while there are many who say they don’t like the guy. I’ll say right here right now that I do.

It seems to have eluded many that Colby was never a trash talker, before almost getting sacked from the UFC. And that it was this change in strategy which actually kept him his job and made him a star.

For a person who by all accounts comes across as a very nice guy when not in Chaos mode. People seem to be unable to separate the showman from the man. But no matter what you think of him, it’s his fighting prowess that has gotten him to where he is today. Sprinkled with some colourful language of course.

Colby Covington celebrates after win against Tyron Woodley.
Colby Covington celebrates a win.

But the All American wrestler is another fighter who wears his cauliflower ear proudly. As being one of the best in the business on the mats comes from many years of grinding hard work. And it’s the Clovis, California native who exemplifies that.

Conor McGregor

I think it’s fair to say that Irishman Conor McGregor has to be the biggest star in all mixed martial arts. And at one point was there or thereabouts the biggest sporting star in the world.

A simultaneous two-division UFC champion, Conor won both the featherweight and lightweight titles. Becoming the first fighter to hold both belts at the same time.

And adding a crossover fight against boxing great Floyd Mayweather to top it all off. Established the fighter from Crumlin as one of the most recognisable faces in the world.

Conor McGregor smiling for the cameras.
Conor McGregor smiling for the cameras.

But outside of competition, his personal life has seen all types of ups and downs. Which for many have taken the shine away from a once blindingly bright career.

And yet McGregor continues to be somewhat of an enigma in the sport. A master of self-marketing, even though he may not fight for years at a time. He is still the most talked-about MMA fighter in the world today.

Add with that all chest tattoo and those funky looking ears. And if nothing else, Conor is a guy you wouldn’t mistake if seen walking down a street in his hometown of Dublin.

Frankie Edgar

When we talk about legends still fighting in the sport today, surely Frankie Edgar has to be in that conversation? As the former lightweight champion of the world has been around the game for many years.

Having fought some of the best the sport has to offer, challenging for titles in two weight divisions. There can be little doubt a place in the UFC Hall of Fame awaits the Tom’s River native.

And although his continued search for a UFC championship has not born any fruit. That doesn’t stop the veteran fighter from ploughing ahead while still competing at the very highest level.

And along for the ride are Frankie’s always present trophy cauliflower ear. Which bear the trauma of some fifteen years as a professional MMA fighter. A sport that was banned in his home state for much of his career.

Frankie Edgar entering the UFC octagon.
Frankie Edgar prepares to enter the UFC octagon.

Yet he was still able to excel and prove himself one of the very best in the world. And what the future holds for one of the sports biggest names has yet to be written, but as fans, we will no doubt be watching.

Kelvin Gastelum

At one time Kelvin Gastelum was looked upon as the almost TUF house reject. Being the last guy to be picked by team captain Chael Sonnen. It seemed for all the world like no one was giving the Mexican American a chance.

But in true Mexican style, it would be Kelvin’s heart that would show true. And catapult him into the finale, where he would defeat flashy striker and hot favourite Uriah Hall.

But it was his struggle on the scales which set the tone for much of his career. Missing weight on two occasions, he made the decision to move back up to middleweight, in a division in which he was clearly undersized.

Kelvin Gastelum at the UFC 236 press conference.
Kelvin Gastelum was interviewed before UFC 236.

But it didn’t stop him from doing very well, taking out some of the biggest names in the sport. And setting up an interim title showdown with future champion Israel Adesanya.

Unfortunately, a fight which he would lose, but not without being lauded for his performance. As undersized or not, being confirmed as one of the best fighters on the planet at 185 lbs. But those cauliflower ears! A real trophy from his years as a collegiate wrestler.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

There is no doubt that regardless of weight classes. Daghestani fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the most feared fighters on the planet.

Undefeated in his professional career, Khabib’s Russian Sambo wrestling style has seen him dominate all opponents he has faced. From the mats of Daghestan to the octagon of the UFC. Nurmagomedov has been unstoppable in his quest to be seen as the very best in the world.

Khabib Nurmagomedov following a win inside the octagon.
Khabib Nurmagomedov following a win inside the octagon.

But another thing he is well known for is his cauliflower ear, as he owns some of the most memorable in the sport. It’s a testament to the endless hours he has spent training and competing both in wrestling and MMA.

And it shows in his performances because as of yet, no one has been able to find the answer to his riddle. As he continues his twelve-year streak, will there be one to bring The Eagle down to earth with a crash?

Michael Chiesa

Yet another alumnus from The Ultimate Fighter series. Michael Chiesa would win the 2012 finale, after defeating teammate Al Iaquinta via rear-naked choke. In a display of technical ground fighting which would symbolise his time in the UFC.

Widely recognised as one of the best submission fighters in the promotion. The Aurora, Colorado native has looked like a solid fighter with the potential at some point to take the 170 lb title.

But eight years into his UFC career, Chiesa is still chasing his dream of welterweight gold. As he looks to crown his career in the sport with a championship title. And in recent years with some solid wins against seasoned veterans and former champions. He may very well get the opportunity in the not too distant future.

Michael Chiesa UFC interview after a fight.
Michael Chiesa UFC interview after a fight.

So staying active and getting his cauliflower ears repeatedly battered during his pre-fight preparation. Will no doubt keep them as distinctive as they look right now.

Rafael Dos Anjos

The former UFC lightweight champion of the world Rafael Dos Anjos has some of the craziest ears in all MMA, full stop. I would go so far as to say that they almost don’t anymore look like ears.

Not taking anything away from his prowess as a fighter inside the cage. As he has more than proved himself time and time again. Winning the UFC title, and forever improving his skills to be seen as one of the most well-rounded fighters in the sport today.

But losing his title in 2016 has seen the Brazilian make the move up to 170 lbs. On a mission to see if he could hang with the bigger boys and potentially capture himself yet another UFC championship.

Lightweight Rafael Dos Anjos in the UFC octagon.
Lightweight Rafael Dos Anjos in the UFC octagon.

And although he did have some major successes. They were not enough for him to continue, forcing a decision to make the move back down to lightweight.

But regardless of how the remainder of his career turns out. Dos Anjos will forever be remembered for those wonderful objects which adorn both sides of his head. Making him one of the most recognisable fighters in the UFC today.

Ryan Hall

If you wanted a list of UFC fighters who look like they were born to work behind a desk, featherweight Ryan Hall would be on that list. As the Arlington County, Virginia native does not in any way shape or form fit the stereotypical fighter mould.

With his first MMA fight taking place back in 2006. Up until 2019, Hall has only fought a total of nine times. But the reason for this is that he has been very busy elsewhere in the world of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Winning multiple gold medals in the ADCC, Brazilian and World BJJ championships. Ryan has established himself and one of the very best grapplers on the planet. While at the same time amassing an MMA record of 8 – 1.

Ryan Hall poses for the camera before fight.
Ryan Hall poses for the camera before a fight.

Saying publicly that he finds it hard to get fights. It’s understandable as he is widely recognised as one of the very best technicians in the sport. Making high-level UFC fighters look like white belts when things go to the ground.

But hopefully, we will see him inside the octagon again soon. As we miss those tell-all cauliflower ears that bear the scars of many wars. Like a warning sign to any who feel they can test his metal at 145 lbs.

Tony Ferguson

El Cucuy Tony Ferguson is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most memorable fighters ever to grace the octagon. A fighter who made his way to the UFC via the Ultimate Fighter house.

Tony won the welterweight tournament in 2011 and would subsequently go on to win the next fifteen of his sixteen fights. And along the way capture the UFC interim lightweight title.

Tony Ferguson chats with reporters before his fight
Tony Ferguson chats with reporters before his fight

And while having been scheduled to fight the division champion Khabib Nurmagomedov on multiple occasions. For a myriad of reasons, he never got the opportunity. Having the belt taken away, then losing at the final hurdle in a fight to the always durable Justin Gaethje.

A loss who for even those who are not his fans, had to feel for the Oxnard, California native. Having been so close so many times and having beaten everyone required to get his title shot. Only to have it stripped away with a short notice fight against Gaethje.

So whether he will or won’t ever again have the opportunity is with the Gods. Nevertheless, we can still appreciate both him and the cauliflower power he brings every time he steps into the cage.

Closing Thoughts

So while not always the case, many of the greatest UFC fighters in the world today. Very much wear their cauliflower ear like a badge of honour amongst their fellow warriors.

And while not all do carry this distinctive marking, the ones who do, do it with style. As it appears the more deformed, the more accomplished the fighter. As though a direct reflection of just how much time and effort has been exhausted getting them to the top.

And although some do shy away from their appearance. It’s clear that these individuals very much embrace what they symbolise in the combat sports community.

Those who don’t participate in any combat sports may find them a little too much. For some of the fighters themselves it seems, it can never be quite enough.