How The UFC's Leslie Smith Is Recovering From An Exploded Cauliflower Ear

Ed Mulholland for ESPN

Leslie Smith (black trunks) routinely drains fluid from her own cauliflower ears -- but a punch from opponent Jessica Eye still caused a hard-to-believe eruption of blood.

By now, you've probably heard or seen what happened to Leslie Smith, the UFC's No. 3-ranked 125-pounder. To quickly recap for those who have not groaned out loud in agony yet: In a preliminary card bout against fellow title contender Jessica Eye, Smith took a right hand to the side of her head, which caused her cauliflower ear to explode. Yes, her cauliflower ear exploded.

The fight was stopped shortly after that, when Smith's ear basically tore in half, dangling from the side of her head, blood pouring down her chin. Armed with roughly 300 followup questions, W caught up with Smith on Wednesday.

Q: Well, how is your ear?

A: My ear is not feeling nearly as bad as you'd think it would be feeling. But I can say, my days as an ear model are over.

Q: What did it feel like when the punch landed and your ear exploded?

A: I really didn't feel anything. I don't remember it hurting at all until after the fight. When I watched the replay, I saw the ringside person pushing gauze all the way into my ear, and I remember that in that moment, it did hurt. Otherwise, I was so mad that they stopped the fight that I didn't feel anything.

Courtesy Leslie Smith

Leslie Smith's ear, four days later

Q: Seriously, though, they had to stop the fight, didn't they?

A: Seeing the replay, I understood why they came to that conclusion. I understand why it is someone else's job to make that decision for me. That being said, I would trade my ear for a win in a heartbeat.

Q: So you don't sound completely at ease with the fight being stopped?

A: Again, I get it after seeing how it looked. But I also had everything essential to keep fighting: my hands were fine, my vision was fine. That's what I was yelling at the crowd after the fight.

Q: What kind of reaction have you gotten on social media?

A: My favorite thing was a Twitter message from Mick Foley the next day, saying: "Welcome to the wounded ear club." I guess I have a support group.

Q: There was a photo of you with Dana White afterward. What did he say to you?

A: He said he could see me screaming that the fight was stopped, but that he was at cageside screaming that the fight should be stopped. I was such a wreck about the loss, but Dana gave me a lot of positive feedback and I asked when I could fight again. He said,"As soon as your ear is ready, you can fight." So I feel like I am in a really good situation still.

Q: What happened with your ear after you left the cage?

A: I was so angry and frustrated that the fight was stopped, so I darted to the back. I was in such a bad mood, bumming that I lost the fight. I laid down in the back and watched the replay and then it was like, "Oh OK, I understand why the fight had to be stopped." Then the doctor came in and numbed it, so he could stitch it back together. He just used one long thread and he kept going and going and going, like he was sewing a blanket or something. I think it took at least an hour.

Q: What did you do for an hour as you laid there and had your ear sewn back together?

A: Well, I am learning Spanish, and the fights were in Mexico. So I dis-attached myself a little bit and just listened to them speak, and I tried to learn a little Spanish as I waited.

Q: So what happens now with your ear?

A: They told me that night that I cannot fight for 50 days. I saw an ear specialist when I got back to the U.S., and he said the stitch job was really well done. I can say, I will be wearing headgear for the rest of my life.

Q: How did you get a cauliflower ear?

A: I didn't start training until I was 26 years old, but I got really into it. I was a personal trainer at a gym, and I watched an MMA class for 10 minutes and thought, "I want to do that." So I started training, and a month later, I had my first fight. I've done so much grappling and striking over the years without headgear that I guess that's how my cauliflower ears developed.

Q: Were you surprised that your ear became an issue, or is it something that you worried about beforehand?

A: I had been draining my ear every month for a while, and I was getting three full syringes of fluid out every day. So I knew my ears could be a problem. There is a coolness factor to having a cauliflower ear. But at this point, my cauliflower ears are not screaming hot and sexy.

Q: How is your other ear feeling right now?

A: Pretty good. That one's not as bad as my left ear. But I'm sure it's feeling happy to have a little time off from getting smashed every day in the gym.

Q: How do you feel about your ear going viral?

A: I'd rather be known for getting a big win than being the fighter whose ear exploded. But it is amusing. You have to laugh about stuff like that.

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