UFC Headbutt: Is It Illegal in MMA?

(Last Updated On: December 11, 2018)

Headbutts are largely considered as illegal in mixed martial arts, mostly because of the repercussions that it poses not only to opponents but to the very fighters initiating them.

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Headbutting in the UFC

Whether intentional or not, headbutts can cause cuts which can be cause for the referees to stop the match. It also poses the danger of a head trauma to the fighter doing the headbutting.

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As such, there is no way to teach a ‘proper’ way to headbutt someone for mixed martial arts because however it’s done, it’s pretty risky and unsafe for everyone involved.

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Mixed martial arts enthusiasts have been trying to prove that there is more to their sport than just crude fighting, but it’s somewhat hard to uphold a clean sport label if audiences see something as ‘barbaric’ as headbutting.

Because there’s no right way to do it to lessen the harms posed to players, headbutts are risky and not guaranteed as a skill in mixed martial arts.

Because headbutts have been deemed illegal in mixed martial arts, intentional ones have become quite rare over time. Intentional headbutts warrant one point penalties and one point could make all the difference, especially in three round fights. If the injury received from the headbutt causes the opponent to become unable to continue fighting, then the player who did the headbutt could become disqualified.

Of course, headbutts can become inevitable in mixed martial arts. In the case that a fighter unintentionally headbutts his opponent, the referee still has the discretion to deduct a point from that player. In a three round fight, a immobilizing unintentional headbutt that occurs during the first two thirds of the entire fight would result in a no contest. If it happens in the last third, the judges would make a decision based on the scoring of all the rounds.

Other Illegal Moves in MMA

Groin Strikes

This might seem quite obvious, but any intentional move to strike at their opponent’s groin is another illegal move in mixed martial arts. But MMA is largely perceived as a no-holds barred type of sport so it’s still good to know that there are certain parameters that are still out of bounds, especially because of the risks posed by certain moves. MMA fighters are given protective caps to protect their groins, but it does not offer full protection from intentional or accidental groin strikes. Similar to headbutts, groin strikes are penalized with a point and the same rules apply with regards to debilitating strikes.

Eye Gouging

As in the case of headbutts and groin strikes, intentional eye gouging is illegal due to the dangers it poses. But there are also times when unintentional eye pokes occur.

However, as they largely remain unintentional, eye pokes are not grounds for disqualification. Intentional eye gouges are, though.


If you are training for a fight or you are sparring with someone remember that headbutts and eye gouging can not only be extremely dangerous for your opponents health but also yours.

Fights in mma that do these illegal strikes will get penalized with a point and sometimes disqualified so its best to avoid them all together.

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