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How Do MMA Fighters Deal With Bad Vision?

MMA is a game of pinpoint accuracy, and fighters without glasses or contacts could have a leg up on the competition. Being close to your opponent is going to be crucial to your success in training and competition. Blurred vision could leave you open for serious injuries. How do MMA fighters who have glasses or contacts fight?

Before assuming that you can compete in an event, you must check with the governing body to determine how the fighter’s eyesight will be tested. Some states require that 20/400 vision without contacts is the lowest a fighter can score. Don’t let that scare you off! Read on and learn how fighters with glasses and contacts compete in MMA.

Ways To Deal With Bad Vision In MMA

Eyesight for fighters is constantly being compromised. Repeated blows to the face and closeness of the opponent will limit what can be seen. Having a clear picture, when you can get it, of your opponent could mean the difference between winning and losing. Near-sighted fighters could even opt not to wear anything into the cage if they wished.

Being near-sighted is not going to have much effect on the fighter. As long as they are able to make out the opponent’s body shape from across the ring, being able to read what is on his trunks could be another story. Going into the cage with low or bad vision is a gamble for any fighter. Be prepared to defend yourself at all times.

Glasses should not be worn when you are competing or sparring. Once a solid punch lands on a pair of glasses, they could be destroyed. Not to mention the fact that the lens could cut you or your opponent if it breaks. Rec-specs, glasses on a headband, are great for training but will not be allowed for competition.

Contacts can be worn if you are competing in state-sanctioned Mixed Martial Arts tournaments or bouts. If they are knocked from your eye, they may not be retrieved from the floor. The referee will not stop the time or the opponent. If they are dropped, they are gone. Glasses are never allowed in competition. 

Keep Your Opponent Close To You

If vision is a problem, the best thing to do is get close to your competition. When they throw punches or kicks, you should be able to feel them with your body. Often soaking up strikes or forcing them to land away from the target is your best defense in a body clench. Learn to use your closeness to disrupt your challenger’s ability to throw power punches.

By placing a foot between your opponent’s stride when they are throwing punches it will negate their power. Eyesight isn’t that important when working on this strategy. You can feel your opponent when they shift their weight to throw and move into them before they can build up momentum and deliver a powerful punch.

Being close to your opponent is going to mean that you might take some big shots. Prepare by spending extra hours with your sparring partner. Additional time will also give you time to adjust to your opponent’s weight. If you are fighting a hard striker, your best bet is to hope that your proximity doesn’t allow them to get the torsion needed for a hard punch. 

Stay On The Ground As Much As Possible

Leaning on the ground game is another excellent way to protect against bad eyesight in the cage. Staying the guard or half-guard will allow you to control what your opponent is doing. If you are lucky enough to be on top, you can gain control of the limbs much easier, which goes a long way when grappling for MMA.

The main thing about being on the ground is that your view is already obstructed. Your opponent’s body could be the only thing you see. Being down on the mat like this allows you to feel more than you see, which plays heavily on training and rolling with your mates at the gym. Knowing your body where you are in the cage is an essential MMA skill.

Ground and pound is a famous MMA strategy that has taken several stars to the top of the UFC and Bellator MMA ranks. It works well for fighters with bad vision and protects against wild punches or haymakers common when standing up. Bad eyesight isn’t a problem with a powerful strategy like ground and pound. 

Fighters Who Use Contacts or Glasses

One of the most overlooked parts for fighters with bad vision is ways to train that transfer to the fights. You should know that if you wear glasses, you will have to move to contact lenses if you intend to fight. Glasses and rec-specs are not allowed in any kind of competition due to their delicate nature.

Choose drills that are going to increase your ability to overcome your eyesight barriers. Work from outside of your sight-range back towards your face. This allows you to build compensation for the holes in your range of vision. 

Train Timing To Increase Defensive Chances And Response Time

Being able to pick up strikes before they land or are thrown is a skill that can be trained no matter how well your eyesight works. Timing also improves response time, which is the time that it takes for you to adapt to whatever attack your opponent is using. Improving how you respond to attacks gives you more options to defend against lack of eyesight.

Some ways to train timing for MMA are:

  • Double-End Bag Work – The double-end is a common training tool in boxing. For MMA, the application is the same but should be tweaked for your shortcoming in sight. The trick to using the double-end is to place a separate piece of colored tape on each side of the bag as it moves toward you, alternate hands for the corresponding color of tape showing on the bag.
  • Create Space – The MMA game has lots of close-up clenches and holds that cut of space for you and your opponent. Having poor eyesight could mean that you lose your bearings in the gym. Use a heavy bag and small rushes with two-step retreats to make a pattern you can remember. Not being able to see requires repetition of movement.
  • Use Punching Paddles – Punching paddles are small punching bags attached to long poles. These poles allow you to simulate punches and kicks thrown from outside the range of your vision and work great for color-coded defense work.

Just about any drill can be changed around to work with weak vision. The trick is to use repetitive movements and colors. The colors allow you to look for changes in the opponent’s movements and adapt accordingly. Repetition is necessary because you can move with your eyes closed and still know your location in the ring or your opponent.


Fighting MMA with glasses isn’t going to be allowed. They are fragile and have pieces that could injure both fighters. Contacts, soft lens contacts are permitted to be used in MMA. If they are lost in competition, there will be no time out to search for them. Fighters should prepare and train for their shortcomings with eyesight with repetition and memory drills.

Preparation for whatever your opponent can throw at you is an excellent rule of thumb when training for any type of fight. Training your timing will allow you to pick up strikes before they are thrown, which decreases your need for perfect eyesight. Remember, there are ways to prepare your MMA game for weak eyesight.