UFC heavyweight provides update after brutal, fight ending eye poke

Justin Tafa has given us a positive update about his eyes after UFC Fight Night: Emmett vs. Topuria.

By: Kristen King | 3 months ago

There was a lot of concern for Justin Tafa after he was on the receiving end of one of the worst fouls at UFC Fight Night: Emmett vs. Topuria this past Saturday. Within the first 30 seconds of his fight against Austen Lane, the ‘Bad Man’ had a few fingers accidentally shoved into his eyes during an exchange.

Tafa screamed, and referee Dan Miragliotta paused the action to give the UFC heavyweight the allotted five minutes of recovery, but due to the extent of the damage, it was futile. After telling the ringside physician he could not see out of his eye — which was now bloodied — Miragliotta waved off the fight. He determined the foul was accidental, so Lane vs. Tafa was ruled a No Contest. 

Justin Tafa feared the worst after UFC Fight Night: Emmett vs. Topuria

In one of his first post-fight interviews, Justin Tafa revealed he initially thought he was facing the worst-case scenario after the fight-ending foul.

“I thought my eyeball had been ripped out, honestly,” said Tafa to Brendan Bradford of CODE Sports. “That’s why I turned around and stepped away. The first thing I was thinking was, ‘can I see my kids again?’ I didn’t even care about the fight, I thought my eyeball had come out of my face. I just hope it’s not really bad damage. Everything’s blurry now. I can see your face, but everything’s just blurry.”

A few days after that interview, Tafa provided a positive update on his eyes. As it turned out, he did indeed avoid ‘really bad damage’ to them. 

“Cleared of any major damage to both eyes but both eyes did suffer some damage,” tweeted Tafa. “Right eye still in some pain, sensitive to light and blurred vision on the [left eye] but I thank God nothing that was going to end my career or cause serious damage to to my eye. 

“Thank you all for your concern.”

Lane apologizes

As for Austen Lane, he apologized and sent well wishes to Tafa.

“Justin Tafa… I apologize,” tweeted Lane. “Not how I wanted it to go down. That s—t is on me and I hope your eye is alright. To the city I call home. The energy you gave me as I was walking out will be something I’ll remember the rest of my life. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a show. 

A former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end, Lane was hoping to get his UFC career started with a win in front of his hometown. After a failed appearance on Contender Series in 2018, he returned to the show in 2022 and earned a UFC contract with a first-round TKO of Richard Jacobi. 

Tafa was hoping for a quick turnaround after Lane fight

Prior to the result of his fight, Justin Tafa was hoping to get himself on UFC 293, the upcoming pay-per-view event scheduled for Sept. 10 at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia.

“God willing, I come out of this unscathed,” said Tafa at his media day (video provided by MMA Junkie). “I would love to get on that Sydney card. I know the Aussies would love that, too. If not, I’d love to fight again one more time [this year]. I had a whole year off last year, so [I’m] making up for lost time.”

Now that he has avoided major damage to his eyes, perhaps he can return to the Octagon at his desired event. 

After going 1-3 in his first four UFC appearances, Tafa found his footing with two consecutive KOs of Harry Hunsucker and Parker Porter at UFC Vegas 45 and UFC 284, respectively. 

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About the author
Kristen King
Kristen King

Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016, getting her start with outlets such as FanSided, MyMMANews and MMA-Prospects. She joined the BE team in 2020, covering a mix of news, events and injuries. In her time with BE, Kristen has created ‘Fright of the Night,’ a series that highlights some of the worst injuries in the sport.

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