If you’ve been watching UFC and MMA fights long enough, you might have noticed that plenty of fighters on the roster will be bald.
UFC fighters are bald typically because they have hereditary male pattern baldness. It’s natural and mostly affects men. But some fighters’ hair loss could be worsened by persistent friction or hair pulling during grappling training.
Let’s dive a little deeper into how and why UFC and MMA fighters are bald because there can be a few different reasons. Keep reading to find out.
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Male pattern baldness (genetics)
There’s no denying it. Some men have a genetic tendency for baldness. This is usually called male pattern baldness.
Male pattern baldness is to do with something called DHT. It’s a type of testosterone that, when produced in too high quantities, has the side effect of causing hair follicles to die at the root.
Although we presume that most people don’t suffer from baldness, men or not, you’d be pretty surprised at the statistics, according to TheBaldBrothers:
- 25% of men with hereditary male pattern baldness start losing their hair by the age of 21
- 66% of men will have experienced some level of hair loss by the age of 35
- 85% of men will have noticeably thinner hair by the age of 50
What’s surprising in those statistics is how one-fourth of all young men will have already started losing their hair by the age of 21! They haven’t even finished becoming “a man” yet!
Whether a fighter has male pattern baldness in their genes, many will start to see hair loss in their later years, just like any other man.
But there are plenty of other reasons UFC and MMA fighters could have hair loss and be balding. Let’s discuss why…
Friction burns from grappling
A widespread problem why fighters can often start to lose the hair on their head (or face, chest, legs, and even arms) is the constant grappling friction.
Grappling includes martial arts like Wrestling or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, whereby fighters will challenge each other in very awkward positions with high tension levels.
Fighters in an unfortunate position during grappling need to work hard with their wits, strength, and skill to free themselves. And in doing so, friction burns are common.
Being a hairy person myself, I know too well that the hairs all across your body can get pulled out and ground against your skin to cause burns and open sores.
It is not a fun experience. But it is a part of martial arts and something that your skin can develop resistance for.
Sometimes, though, the friction can become so great that it can cause scarring on your skin. The skin opens up to become a wound, and the skin that heals over is often thicker than what came before it.
The hair can struggle to grow the same way on this newly healed skin because it’s been subject to a lot of trauma that causes scarring. And scarring isn’t the same as healthy hairy skin.
Now imagine this problem on the top of your head! Fighters can spend a lot of time with their foreheads and the sides of their heads pushed up against their opponent’s chest, stomach, or opposing head.
This pushing force into your opponent can result in the hairs on your head being pulled out or even the underlying skin being scarred from friction wounds. Ouch.
Fighters often experience weird-looking cauliflower ears from the same friction with frequently pushing their head into their opponent.
Some get around it by using their forehead more than the sides of their heads, explained more in the article I just linked.
Hair pulled out in grappling
The hairs on a fighter’s head are open for being pulled out frequently during grappling.
There are plenty of positions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where your opponent may be reaching around your neck to try and get a submission hold and accidentally pull on the hairs on your neck and head.
This is often a problem for women fighters or men with really long hair, and that’s why plenty of fighters in training will choose to put cornrows in their hair or another method that lets them do MMA with long hair.
But cornrows or any other hairstyle aren’t always a savior for resisting your hair being pulled out of your head.
A particular grappling style or pattern of movements can be enough to cause repetitive hair loss from pulled stray hairs.
When it happens enough times in the same place, it can be enough for your body to develop resistance by scarring.
The scarring on a fighter’s head can stop the hair from developing at the root and growing altogether!
One of the only sure ways to protect the whole head from these problems (including the cauliflower ears) is to wear a head guard designed for MMA.
The hair can be tucked into the head guard and simultaneously protect the fighters’ ears.
Baldness by choice
Many UFC fighters will shave their heads and appear completely bald by choice, such as Georges St-Pierre, above, one of the greatest of all time.
This is mainly because keeping your hair from being pulled out or dealing with the constant sweat is frustrating for full-time fighters.
Fighters like Alexander Volkanovski have said that while they are in a prime fighting season, the last thing they want to worry about is keeping their hair clean, tidy, or safe from developing friction burns.
Instead, they decide to shave their heads and go bald. They will need to develop some extra resistance at first because a newly bald head will struggle to deal with sunlight and friction.
But in time, the bald head will be coarse enough to handle friction daily and not prevent the fighter from training regularly.
Having a much smaller hair follicle is much harder to cause damage to than it would be if it were long and at the risk of being pulled out completely.
Final word on why are UFC fighters bald
Now you know everything possible about why UFC fighters can be bald. Some of the best UFC fighters are bald — so I wouldn’t count them out.
Fighters can be bald because of different reasons. Some have male pattern baldness, which comes from their genetics.
Some fighters choose to shave their heads to improve their training. And some get bald spots because of friction burns or their hair being pulled out!
What to read next
Now that you know why UFC fighters are often bald, these next articles might be fun to read: