How Vaseline is applied in MMA fights and its potential effects on performance

Have you ever wondered why fighters use Vaseline and what it actually affects in a fight?
A cutman applies Vaseline
A cutman applies Vaseline / UFC

An MMA fight isn't the longest sporting event by any means, as a five-round main event in the UFC can only go for 25 minutes and that too, if there isn't a finish. However, there's a lot that goes into the preparation for these fights, and one of the things that fighters do at the very last moment is apply Vaseline on their face.

There have been many occasions where using Vaseline has become a controversial topic in the sport, but regardless, you'll always see a cutman putting Vaseline on a fighter's cheek, eyebrows, and nose right before they enter the Octagon. So, let's take a look at the significance of Vaseline for MMA fighters.

Why do MMA fighters put vaseline on their face?

Here's every advantage that MMA fighters gain by applying petroleum-based vaseline on their face ahead of fights and inbetween rounds:

Increases the moisture of the skin

One of the most instant effects of vaseline is that it increases the moisture of the fighter's skin and reduces friction generated by strikes. As a result, when they're hit by punches, elbows, knees, and kicks, the probability of getting a cut is reduced. This is very important as a cut can harm your visibility and breathing.

Stops cuts from worsening

If an MMA fighter is cut during a fight, the UFC cutman is quick to apply Vaseline on the wound between rounds so that the cut doesn't open up more because the opponent is likely to target the weak area repeatedly. Vaseline also helps in stopping bleeding which is why a lot of times, we see MMA fighters getting cut in the very first round but surviving till the end. In more serious cases though, coagulants and Adrenaline Chloride might be used to stop the bleeding.

Increases longevity of fights

MMA fans don't like doctor stoppages a lot. Nate Diaz losing his BMF title fight against Jorge Masvidal and Song Yadong vs Cory Sandghagen getting stopped in round 4 due to swelling near the eye are some of the many moments where a cut prevented a great fight from going further. Many fans do not consider doctor stoppages as the ideal way to end a fight as it's anti-climactic. This, alongside fighter safety, could be one of the reasons why applying Vaseline to prevent deep cuts is officially allowed in the UFC.

Vaseline usage rules in MMA fights

Of course, fighters and their corners don't do this themselves to ensure fairness, and the UFC's cutman handles the usage of vaseline and similar wound-treating items like ice, enswell, Adrenaline Chloride, and cotton swabs before the fight and during breaks. On top of that, the referee closely monitors the amount applied.

It is also important to remember that applying vaseline to your body isn't allowed in the UFC or other major MMA organizations. This is because a slippery body nullifies wrestling and makes it a lot harder to put in submissions.

It isn't a surprise that over the years, there have been many controversies surrounding vaseline in MMA organizations, including the UFC. One of the most famous incidents is called Greasegate when Georges St-Pierre's corner applied Vaseline on his back during the round break against BJ Penn. The opponent naturally complained that this created an unfair advantage for Pierre and impacted the outcome of the fight.