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Ohio Has No Rule Against Contact Lenses; Brunson's Vision Is Not Good Enough

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The Ohio Athletic Commission explains why Derek Brunson was not licensed to fight.

Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Derek Brunson revealed on Tuesday that he has been pulled from his planned March 3 fight in Ohio with Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, saying that the Ohio Athletic Commission wouldn't let him fight with contact lenses, as he has for his entire MMA career. But the Ohio commission says that's simply false.

"That's an absolute lie, an absolute falsification or misinterpretation from Mr. Brunson," Bernie Profato, Executive Director of the Ohio Athletic Commission, told

Profato said fighters can and do fight wearing soft contact lenses in Ohio, but in order to get licensed they need to meet a minimum vision threshold without contacts, so that it would be safe for them to continue if a contact were knocked out during a fight. And Brunson's vision is simply too bad for him to fight, according to the rules of the Ohio Athletic Commission.

Profato pointed to the eye exam form that is available as a PDF on the Commission's web site, which includes the following:

The commission shall deny, suspend, revoke or place restrictions on the license of any applicant applying for a professional license to participate in boxing, tough person, kick boxing, karate, mixed martial arts or any striking sports regulated by the Ohio Athletic Commission, because of any medical or visual condition, including but limited to the following:

(1) Uncorrected visual acuity of less than 20/200 in either eye or 20/60 with both eyes.

According to Profato, Brunson's vision is 20/400, which means that he lacks the "uncorrected visual acuity" that Ohio requires.

Profato said Ohio's standards for vision are similar to those of other states, including Nevada, where Brunson fought in November. Profato said he's not sure why this is the first time this issue has arisen in Brunson's career, but as long as that rule is on the books in Ohio, Profato intends to enforce the rule.

"There's nothing in our rules that says you can't wear soft contacts," Profato said. "But if they come out you can't go look for them -- it's not like a basketball game where you go out there and look and put the contact back in -- you have to keep fighting without them."

Profato says he's not sure where Brunson got the idea that he couldn't fight wearing contacts. Profato said that when Strikeforce forwarded the results of an ophthalmological exam for Brunson, Ohio informed Strikeforce that Brunson's vision was an issue. But Profato hasn't had any contact with Brunson personally.

"The state of Ohio can't let this guy fight when it says 20/400," Profato said. "I've never talked to him. I just got the form. Apparently Strikeforce told him he didn't meet our medical requirements but I've never talked to the guy."

Profato said this is the first time he's aware of that this has come up with an MMA fighter, although he said Ohio did previously reject an applicant for a boxing license for the same reason. Ultimately, Profato said, he doesn't see any reason Brunson should criticize Ohio, as he did in a series of messages on Twitter.

"Believe me, we don't want to cancel any fights," Profato said. "But the fighters' safety is our No. 1 priority."