A lot of fighters receive stitches above their eyes many times over their careers. The cuts have affected them, doctors have to stop fights and faces that get battered influences judges’ decisions. Can plastic surgery in MMA make a fighter’s skin less prone to cutting? Plastic surgery may become the norm for cut-prone fighters who are trying to prolong their careers.
Surgeons can now burr down the bones around a fighter’s eye sockets and remove scar tissue around his eyes and replace it with collagen made from the skin of cadavers. Now, at least in theory, when a fighter takes a blow to the face, he will be less likely to bleed. Medical researchers have not analyzed the procedure, and until they do, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons will not comment on its efficacy. But many fighters including Nick Diaz swear by it.
Since at least the 1970s, boxers have had plastic surgeries to repair scar tissue and prevent excessive bleeding. But mixed martial arts, which combines wrestling, kickboxing and grappling, has a higher incidence of deep, potentially fight-ending lacerations, according to doctors who are familiar with both sports. For some doctors, that prospect has prompted ethical questions about the potential advantages of plastic surgery. For others, it has served as a call to address the reasons fighters developed unstable scar tissue in the first place. Some say that it is not the fact that they were cut, it’s that after they got cut their wounds are not treated properly.
“Wherever there’s a bony prominence or a sharp ridge on an anatomical area on their skull that creates a sharp edge – on the cheek, the orbital rib on the eyebrow, the bridge of the nose – you’re going to get cut,” Stile says. “If you notice a guy like Oscar De La Hoya, he’s a handsome guy still, but it’s not because he hasn’t been hit…
As in boxing, a loss or an injury before a bout can be a major setback, dropping a fighter’s ranking or his chances for a title shot. Nick Diaz, now 31, found this out the hard way. After he sustained cuts above each eye during the first round of a 2007 title bout, the referees stopped the fight, fearing the blood would affect his vision. Facing the prospect of being cut again and potentially losing another crack at a title, Diaz underwent plastic surgery. Since the surgery, Diaz won his next five fights. His trainers say that he has sparred countless times in the gym and has not had a serious cut and added that the worry about a cut stopping a fight takes a fighter away from doing his normal game.
The long-term benefits of the procedure remain uncertain. Some doctors have raised concerns about the ethical implications of elective surgery in the sport. Surgery isn’t for everyone, but if it helps the fighters stay in the sport that they love, then why Not?