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Should punches to the chest be illegal in female MMA fights?

Hard-hitting California knockout artist Auttumn Norton said on Jan. 12 in an exclusive interview with Long Island MMA Examiner Eric Holden that she would like punches to the chest to be banned in female MMA bouts.

Norton, 19, says she was punched so hard in the chest during a recent training session that it injured her sternum.

"Yeah they should be illegal," Norton said of chest punches. "I got punched this morning and my sternum is so jacked up now."

Besides possible damage to the sternum, there are other issues that make chest punches in female fights different than in male bouts.

Breast tissue is hormonally sensitive, especially during a female's menstrual cycle.

In the days leading up to a female's monthly cycle, shifting levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone create a slew of changes, including breast swelling and enlargement of the breast ducts and glands.

Male fighters don't have to deal with the aforementioned issues, which is why chest punches should be viewed differently for female combatants.

Athletes Weigh In

"I think it should be illegal just as same as the groin area for the men, but most of the time when a fighter punches the boobs, it's an accident," said South Carolina WMMA fighter Andy Nguyen.

Opinions were quite varied on the issue, as Kentucky WMMA fighter Gina Begley thinks chest shots should only be illegal if they are done on purpose.

"Intentional boob shots maybe but I wouldn't call it unless it was extremely blatant," Begley said. "It's like this.. Groin shots hurt so bad that men voluntarily wear them under all combat sport circumstances without any resistance. Women have chest protectors available and not a single woman I've ever met has ever felt the need to wear one. And if you do combat sport as a woman for any time at all, like groin shots it just happens. Yet no one wants to wear one."

Several others told Holden that they think chest punches should be legal, but that they already take steps to protect themselves from such shots during a fight.

"I sometimes wear a turtle bra for my MMA fights. It has hard plastic cups in it," Bellator and XFC vet Heather Clark said. "My first Sensei Benny the jet always used to talk about how important it was to protect the woman's chest.

"I think they should be legal. And if you're worried about it, wear protection."

Oregon fighter Glena Avila also weighed in on the matter, but she said it's essentially a non-issue because so few fighters utilize chest punches during a fight.

"I highly doubt a serious athlete would use that as a tactic," Avila said. "And if they did, its not a good one."

Nebraska fighter Stacey Lynn agreed with Avila that chest punches aren't much of a concern for most fighters.

"I would honestly say if it were an issue, it would already be one," Lynn explained. "Fighters would complain and I haven't heard of that being an overwhelming concern."

Ashley Lane dug a bit deeper into the topic, as she said banning chest punches in female fights would only work to open more questions about equality between male and female fighters.

"If we were to start saying that boob punches are illegal, then what next? You know? This one is difficult because of all this equality stuff," Lane said.

Still others are perfectly fine with the rules as they are. TUF 20 contestant Bec "Rowdy" Hyatt says groin strikes are far more painful, so she doesn't mind chest punches remaining legal.

"No I don't think it hurts that much," Hyatt said of chest punches. "Strikes to the kitty hurt a lot though."

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