Does Jiu Jitsu Cause Cauliflower Ear? | Explained

In this page, we'll go over whether or not Jiu Jitsu causes Cauliflower ear, how to avoid it, and how a famous practitioner has trained for years while avoiding it.

Does BJJ Cause Cauliflower Ear?

Whether you're practicing Jiu Jitsu in a Gi or in NoGi, there will always be a chance that a cauliflower ear can occur. Any type of trauma to the ears, whether through rubbing, or hard contact can cause the ear to swell with blood. If this blood is not extracted, a cauliflower ear will form.

cauliflower ear needle

Chances a Cauliflower Ear Occurs

With that being said, chances of this happening are often less than 30%.

You can mitigate this risk by using protective headgear (although headgear is not allowed in competitions) in practice, and by using the proper techniques to escape chokes.

A lot of cauliflower ears can simply be prevented by escaping using proper technique, rather than brute force.

In fact, Rorion Gracie created waves when he was famously asked why he didn't have cauliflower ears despite years of practicing, and he responded by saying "I know what to do".

To give an example, many students have reported obtaining their blood-filled ear from just trying to use brute strength, and quick movement to surprise their opponent when escaping a choke.

In particular, when they were in a rear-naked choke and/or triangle choke.

What is a Cauliflower Ear

A cauliflower ear occurs when the external part of the ear receives trauma and a blood clot is developed.

In the MMA, cauliflower ears most often occur in the the grappling world. Wrestling, jiu jitsu and sambo to name a few.

Why? When grappling, you're constantly fighting for the better position, and a big part of winning the position battle is head placement.

Grapplers are constantly rubbing heads (both purposefully and accidentally) and the ears are on the receiving end of the trauma.

Although other parts of the head are receiving trauma such as the face for example, the ear is a unique case as it is primarily made up of cartilage and skin. This causes the ear to react in its own distinctive way to trauma.

Cauliflower ears can develop in any position but these are some of the notable ones.

Combine all of these sports in Mixed Martial Arts, and it's easy to see why MMA Fighters' ears have extensive trauma.

Cauliflower Ears Earn Respect

Although it is not the best sight to look at, the cauliflower ear is actually a coveted feature for fighters and trainers around the world.

Typically the longer someone has been training, the better chance he has of having it.

It is seen as 'earning your stripes' and this is just part of the process.

fist bump

For those in less fortunate countries where becoming a professional fighter is literally their only way out, it is much more common.

Whether due to not having headgear, not having the option to take a few days off to let the ear heal, or actually wanting to have it to earn their stripes, or all of the above.

This is why you'll see most fighters from foreign countries sporting the cauliflower ear.