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UFC Designing New Gloves to Reduce Eye-Pokes, Rather Than Actually Penalizing Eye-Pokes

(“Revolutionary” new glove? Been there, done that.)

Eye-pokes: They’re devastating, career-threatening, unfairly handled during fights, and mysteriously under-penalized. Due to the open-fingered nature of the gloves, gouging is a unique and unfortunately common problem in MMA. But can anything be done to fix it? According to UFC president Dana White during an appearance on ESPN 710am radio in LA yesterday, the promotion is looking at a new solution — changing the design of the gloves:

We actually have started to work on a new glove that actually curves your hand. Like the glove is curved like a U, so you can still open your hand, but your fingers don’t point straight out.”

Bruce Lee’s bulky (but badass) mitts in Enter the Dragon immediately come to mind. But is the eye-poke epidemic really a hardware issue? As UFC Hall of Famer/VP of Athletic Development Matt Hughes told recently, “I don’t see how you can blame it on the gloves. It comes down to the fighters making mistakes with their hands.”

And that’s exactly it. It’s a discipline problem. Why are we blaming the gloves, instead of blaming the professional fighters who blatantly throw their fingers toward the eyes of their opponents, then claim afterwards that it was an attempt at a punch?

I’m not saying that what Michael Bisping did to Alan Belcher was intentional. (Although a lot of you seem to feel it was.) I’m saying it doesn’t matter. In what world do you jab your fingers into an opponent’s eyeball to the point where he requires eight stitches, and then you get awarded a decision victory? That fight should have been ruled an automatic disqualification for Bisping, regardless of “intent.” And if Belcher was able to continue with the fight, it should have been an automatic point-deduction.

The reason why it always makes sense to cheat in an MMA fight is because referees are very hesitant to actually dock points for fouls. They know how much impact a single point can have in a three-round fight, and they clearly don’t want that kind of responsibility, so they give fighters repeated warnings for obvious fouls, assuming that the groin-kicks and fence-grabs and eye-gouges and knees-to-a-grounded-opponent were unintentional. (Pro tip: When you’re involved in a fist-fight with lots of money on the line, never assume good intentions.)

That laissez-faire attitude toward fouls constantly puts fighters’ health at risk, and that will continue to be the case until MMA fighters actually have an incentive not to cheat. So here’s the logical solution: The referees need to start enforcing the rules. If points are immediately deducted for a clear eye-poke, fighters will be a lot more careful when they’re pawing their fingers out at their opponents’ faces. And once more fights start to be affected by poke-related point-deductions, maybe the fighters will stop gouging each other altogether. Then again, that will require the referees to step up and take a harder line on fouls, and have the boos rain down on them if their decisions affect big fights. It’s a lot to ask, I know. But does it really make more sense to redesign the gloves because we assume that fighters can’t stop themselves from poking each other in the eyes?


Cagepotato Comments

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Dizzylittlelord- May 12, 2013 at 8:33 am
i think youre focusing too much on one eye poke instead of the problem with the gloves. bisping beat belcher back to the prelims where he belonged. if he did one accidental foul move does that mean he should lose. its the same with jon jones elbows against matt hammil or fedors first "defeat" via accidental elbow cut where no elbows were allowed. change the rules and the equipment because fighters are going to make mistakes.
CrackMasterVanSnap- May 9, 2013 at 2:29 pm
I think everyone here is missing the point. And someone is losing a pant load of money on a potential revenue stream. Official UFC approved eye protection!
ArmFarmer- May 9, 2013 at 3:57 am
@Alan K The UFC can't tell refs what to do, they don't work for them.
Nobody is blaming the gloves.. it's just a solution to the problem. This is the UFC trying to develop a solution to the problem, and like I just said they have no control over the refs.. so they are working with something they can control. So that said, everything in this article following the quote is completely pointless isn't it?
Chri534.- May 8, 2013 at 11:17 pm
Also, thanks for that, Viva. I started getting a headache actually trying to spend some time reading the comments section.
Chri534.- May 8, 2013 at 11:14 pm
Well said. I'm glad someone else feels like I do. Where's the company line about 'doing everything they can to protect the fighters' in regards to rule infractions? They don't say a damn thing. It's indefensible bullshit.
Alan K- May 8, 2013 at 7:33 pm
One of the reasons for increased concussions in football is due to stronger reinforced helmets that are intended to reduce the number of shots to the head but don't because players feel the increased safety measures will allow them to get away with more shit. Do they really think that "improving" the gloves will, in any way, stop fighters from pawing with their fingers out and subsequently poking their opponents? Are the UFC really that big of morons or are they just trying to blindly solve a problem without thinking about it just to fans will shut the hell up? The UFC's solution is like fixing a stab wound with a Band-Aid. And then poking it. The only way to stop eye pokes is to either deduct points during fights or fine the fighters. That's what the NFL had to do and it's worked for the most part.
crappiefloper- May 8, 2013 at 7:14 pm
"90% of submission success is in securing the proper grip"
Write that down, and post in on the bathroom mirror.
Nippletwist- May 8, 2013 at 6:59 pm
ya why not just make it a penalty to throw a hand strike with the fingers extended. make it a rule that you have to close your hand when you throw a hand strike. problem solved.

changeing the glove is stupid, you will take away from the grappling, the gloves already inhibit grappling. especially jiu jitsue, the gloves already make submissions a lot harder. it'll be so difficult to secure something like a rear-naked choke if your fingers are pointing sideways with a weird curved glove on. i don't like it.
The12ozCurls- May 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Fucking Awesome! Lobster Boy approves.
paperplane- May 8, 2013 at 5:58 pm
I just don't know why you'd want to throw fingers instead of a punch.. It's the fighters responsibility to keep his hands closed
Viva Hate- May 8, 2013 at 4:31 pm
Simple solution, fingerless fighters. You wanna be a fucking fighter? Cut those digits off, problem solved, send me my check.
holeeball- May 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm
I don't know but I do know murder and obesity cost a shitload of cash to taxpayers.

Eye pokes... I agree. Automatic 1 point.
Dmonicideals- May 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm
Blame gloves for eye pokes, guns for murder, and soda for obesity. Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

Eye poke? Automatic 1 point. Problem fixed.
teep- May 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm
Bisping's worst nightmare.
crappiefloper- May 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm
Ah, but new, more curved gloves would make it all the easier to appeal to the unwashed masses of,"stand em up!" crowd. Cause subs are 90% in the grips. Diabolical Baldfather, well played
EdRuiz- May 8, 2013 at 3:13 pm
Try to get a rear naked choke with curved gloves, change the gloves is not going to work. They should treat eye pokes as headbutts in boxing, accidents happen and is the referee's work to see if there was intention or not.
nickyroose- May 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm
Why do you and crappiefloper seem to think that you need to interlace your fingers for a good sub grip? Look at anyone who does BJJ they do a gable grip unless they are grabbing clothes. Since you can't do that anyway what's the point. Anaconda, guillotine, Rear-naked are all grips that require no interlocking of fingers. Fingers should be binded at least to the first knuckle.
RoezCity- May 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm
Some fighters attempt to block, and or perry strikes with with their hands , and wind up poking the other fighter. While unintentional, I still think it is the fighters responsibility to keep their fingers tucked. I doubt modified gloves would work.
The12ozCurls- May 8, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I was waiting for a link clip of Fred Savage from THE WIZARD after I saw the lead pic.
Pen Fifteen- May 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm
Good point coolsnow, I was worried that I was the only one who saw Alan Belcher pull that ketchup packet and pencil out of his fight shorts right after Bisping grazed his face with his index finger.
Fried Taco- May 8, 2013 at 2:05 pm
What about the "I was aiming for his forehead" defense?
coolsnow7- May 8, 2013 at 1:49 pm
Three words: fighters faking eye pokes.
nickyroose- May 8, 2013 at 6:46 pm
I honestly had not even thought of that part. You would create an incentive to take one if you knew it was a point deduction. That turns the fight. And it's already haphazard enough. Not that guys would flop but guys would certainly make sure the ref knew it hit.
SnakeJake- May 8, 2013 at 2:45 pm
Four words: You can not count.