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The “Exploding Ear” Remains UFC’s Grossest Injury
Screenshot from YouTube

Anyone who’s ever flipped the channel to a mixed martial arts or UFC fight of any sort knows how dangerous it can be. Elbows, knees, hands and legs are flying everywhere. Fighters are choked out and knocked out. Blood flows enough to confuse viewers into thinking they’re watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Alistair Overeem’s lip once burst wide open after taking a forceful punch. Anthony Smith in one fight alone suffered a broken nose and lost two teeth (which he oddly handed to the referee in the middle of the fight). One female fighter even pooped herself because she was getting her ass handed to her.

For anyone that remembers UFC 180, Leslie Smith’s exploding ear may take the cake for grossest injury. It’s not quite Mike Tyson biting a dude’s ear, but it’s enough to make your stomach churn.

Leslie Smith’s Left Ear Explodes

UFC women’s bantamweight Leslie Smith went head-to-head with Jessica Eye at UFC 180 on November 15, 2014 at Arena Ciudad de México in Mexico City, Mexico. What’s ironic is that someone with the last name Eye had a hand in rupturing Smith’s ear.

Eye threw her right hand at Smith and pounded her cauliflower ear. It erupted like Mount Vesuvius and spewed blood into the air. Her earlobe dangled and, unsurprisingly, she wasn’t allowed to continue the fight.

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The match was stopped in the second round by one of the doctors. Smith needed medical attention and had to have her ear stitched back together after the fight. She had to stop fighting for 50 days and told ESPN she’d be wearing headgear for the rest of her career. UFC president Dana White told her she could return whenever she was ready.

“My ear is not feeling nearly as bad as you’d think it would be feeling. But I can say, my days as an ear model are over,” she joked to ESPN.

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Cauliflower ears are common among MMA fighters. The swollen ear is basically a pocket of blood that needs to be drained often. Smith said she was draining her left ear every month leading up to the fight.

If you dare look, here’s a picture of what her ear looked like:

She Called Her Ear Injury “Gnarly”

In an interview with ESPN‘s Ariel Helwani after the fight, Smith conveyed that she was more upset about losing the fight. She felt like she was just hitting her stride before the gruesome injury. She even wanted to continue fighting.

“I was saying that I can fight, that I’m not hurt, that I can still see, I still have my hands,” she told Helwani. “I did see the picture afterwards, and it’s pretty gnarly. It probably would’ve only gotten worse.”

Leslie Smith’s ear may never model earrings anywhere, but she at least returned to the octagon. The UFC fighter rebounded by beating Rin Nakaj at UFC Fight Night: Hunt vs. Mir on March 20, 2016. She then lost to Cris Cyborg by TKO in the first round of a fight at UFC 198 in May 2016.

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Now, Smith fights for Bellator MMA. She won her first fight against Sinead Kavanagh at Bellator 224 in July 2019. She was slated to fight in Bellator 241 in March 2020 before the event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Patrick has spent parts of the last four years covering University of Florida athletics and spent two seasons with Major League Baseball. He's a baseball junkie who spends his days defending Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins. A recent Gator grad, Patrick currently resides in Gainesville, Florida.
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