Often, cutmen are asked why they apply Vaseline before the fighters enter the cage. Some people have gone as far as to sarcastically call cutmen as “grease” men. There is, however, a reason for its application and why only cutmen are allowed to apply it to the numerous faces that enter the cage. This article will shed light on the application of Vaseline and its value to fighters.
Many people in the mixed martial arts and cutmen business remember “Grease Gate” and the changes that came thereafter. “Grease Gate” happened during the Georges St. Pierre versus BJ Penn 2 fight at UFC 94. During the course of the fight, GSP’s cornerman, Phil Nurse, applied Vaseline to Georges’ face. He then touched GSP’s shoulders and back before wiping his hands, thus accidentally transferring Vaseline to GSP’s back, which, according to his oppnent BJ Penn, made him more slippery. BJ filed a complaint with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). The victory was subsequently upheld, but as a result of the controversy, new rules were formed by the NSAC and UFC cutmen including Jacob “Stitch” Duran. The rule changes state that only neutral cutmen may apply vaseline to a fighter.
Which brings up a great question, what is the proper application? According to the Association of Boxing Commissions rules report, “Vaseline may be applied solely to the facial area…” That leaves the entire face open for interpretation and application of Vaseline. So, why do we not see it applied to the chin and forehead? For starters, there would be an advantage for getting out of submission holds. Also, a fighter may wipe his limbs with it to gain a slippery advantage. The use of Vaseline is to prevent lacerations and ecchymosis, especially those that would hinder vision, especially in the areas of the brow, nose, and cheekbones. These structures hold superficial arteries and veins, that if damaged could lead to bleeding that limits the fighter’s vision.
From the previous illustration, you can see the abundance of vascularity in the face, especially around the ocular and nasal region, as well as the diminished amount around the chin. The question arises, what about the forehead? Many cutmen will note, “The one in the middle of the forehead” (See Stitch’s interviews with FightMedicine.net here) also known as the Supratrochlear Artery and the mess it can make. Why do we not apply Vaseline to the forehead to prevent a laceration there and another mess like the one during the Cain Velasquez versus Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva? Again, we have to weigh the advantage of laceration prevention versus advantage in submission grappling. Per capita, the ocular region has more vascularity than the forehead, so just like in real estate, location is important.
Another important question is why do cutmen take time to put Vaseline on cuts during the brief one minute rest period between rounds? The main reason is we cannot put an actual bandage on the wound, since it would come off during the fight. In attempt to keep the wound from becoming larger, we pack the wound with Vaseline mixed with Adrenaline Chloride 1:1000, a vasoconstrictor medication. This helps reduce bleeding by causing the blood vessels to tighten up (vasoconstriction). The Vaseline also reduces friction and tearing at the edges of the cut, preventing it from getting worse. It is also put on hematomas to protect them from becoming bleeding lacerations, since the hematomas are like balls of built-up blood.
An ounce of prevention is greater than a pound of rehabilitation. That is why we use Vaseline before a fight, but if the fighter starts to form a hematoma or sustains a laceration we can use it to keep them in competition. Hopefully, this gives the aspiring cut person an understanding of anatomy and protocol with regards to the application of Vaseline.