Australian UFC legend Chris Haseman explains his barbaric chin-to-the-eye socket hold


It was a submission hold so barbaric it is now banned in the UFC and every other mixed martial arts competition in the world.

Even in the days when the sport was billed as ‘no holds barred’, nobody even dared to try and pull off the horrifying technique.

But in the late 1990s, Australian MMA pioneer Chris ‘The Hammer’ Haseman became the first and only fighter in history to win a professional bout by way of chin-to-the-eye socket.

The legendary martial artist applied the dreaded lock by pinning his opponent to the mat, wrapping his arm around their neck, and jamming the point of his chin into the eye socket until his opponent tapped out.

Now 52 and living in Brisbane, Haseman spoke to Daily Mail Australia about taking on the world’s best in the ‘crazy’ early days of MMA – and what it’s like to be synonymous with the most infamous submission of all time.

He also opened up about losing his ‘beautiful’ wife Diana Saffigna, 51, in 2017 after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer just 12 weeks after they got married.

In the late 1990s Australian MMA pioneer Chris ‘The Hammer’ Haseman (pictured training Jiujitsu) became the first and only fighter in history to win a professional bout by way of chin-to-the-eye socket

To this day, Haseman (pictured) remains a fitness fanatic and has worked with some of  Australia's most successful sporting identities - including the Brisbane Broncos, QLD Reds and Australian Wallabies

To this day, Haseman (pictured) remains a fitness fanatic and has worked with some of  Australia’s most successful sporting identities – including the Brisbane Broncos, QLD Reds and Australian Wallabies

CHIN-TO-THE-EYE SOCKET SUBMISSION 

Although the submission can crush the eyeball and drive the optical nerve back towards the brain, that’s not actually the aim of the hold.

Haseman casually explained the real goal is to apply so much pressure to the eye socket it caves in the orbital bone.

While Daily Mail Australia strongly recommends you do not try this at home, if you want to get an idea of just how much force can be generated by a 100kg MMA fighter’s chin, try this.

What is the dreaded chin-to-the-eye socket submission? 

The horrifying technique originates from the little-known grappling art of catch wrestling.

Australian Chris Haseman remains the only fighter in history to win a professional bout with the submission.

It was immediately banned in the UFC and every mixed martial arts competition in the world. 

Although the hold can crush the eyeball and drive the optical nerve back towards the brain, the real purpose is to apply so much pressure to the eye socket it caves in the orbital bone.

While Daily Mail Australia strongly recommends you do not try this at home, if you want to get an idea of just how much force can be generated by a 100kg MMA fighter’s chin, try this.

Place your arm on a table with your thumb facing up and force your chin into the bone of your forearm – you’ll be surprised how much it hurts.

Now imagine that force is being applied to your eye socket.

Place your arm on a table with your thumb facing up and force your chin into the bone of your forearm – you’ll be surprised how much it hurts.

Now imagine that force is being applied to your eye socket.

Haseman had a background in traditional Japanese Jujitsu under the tutelage of his legendary father Mark, but he learned the bizarre technique after training in the little-known grappling art of catch wrestling.

‘It’s not so much that the chin in the eye is the art, it’s about the technical aspects of control,’ Haseman explained.

‘It’s skillful, very skillful, because you have to control their arms while holding them down on the ground.’

In the earliest days of the UFC before the sport’s unified ruleset was adopted worldwide, there were officially no rules and events were promoted as a Mad Max-style ‘two men enter (the cage), one man leaves’.

But behind the scenes, competitors had a gentlemen’s agreement not to intentionally maim their opponent with low blows, biting, attacks to the spine, and eye gouging.

When Haseman stood in the cage in 1997 in Sydney against his opponent Hiriwa Te Rangi for an eight-man tournament, there was no such agreement.

In fact, Bill Turner, the Scottish-born catch-wrestler who first showed him the technique, urged him to go for it at the earliest possible chance because they ‘won’t have seen it before’.

Not only did he pull it off once that night, he would repeat the victory moments later in his second bout against Elvis Sinosic – another Australian MMA legend who later went on to fight for a UFC world title against Tito Ortiz.

Haseman made the final of the Caged Combat 1 tournament that night, but before he was set to take on a feared Brazilian Jiujitsu phenom Mario Sperry, he was told the chin-to-the-eye socket submission was now banned.

‘Mario Sperry refused to fight the rest of the tournament if the chin-to-the-eye socket submission was allowed,’ Haseman said. 

‘He was very tough, so I took that as a compliment.’

Pictured: Haseman lands a right roundhouse kick to the head of former UFC champion Matt Hughes while fighting in Japan in 2000

Pictured: Haseman lands a right roundhouse kick to the head of former UFC champion Matt Hughes while fighting in Japan in 2000

Pictured: Haseman is victorious after beating his Japanese opponent in the fighting organisation Rings

Pictured: Haseman is victorious after beating his Japanese opponent in the fighting organisation Rings

Legendary Australian cage fighter dons the cover of an Australian martial arts magazine

Legendary Australian cage fighter dons the cover of an Australian martial arts magazine

EARLY DAYS OF MMA AND TAKING ON FEDOR EMELIANENKO 

It might seem like a man who built a reputation crushing the eyes of cage fighters in the 90s would be a bit rough around the edges.

But the laid-back fitness fanatic said he was never a hothead and was actually slightly embarrassed to be associated with the fledgling sport.

 I had cauliflower ears from a young age and people would ask me if I played rugby and I just said ‘yeah’ because if you told someone, they either didn’t believe you or they thought you were a thug.

‘In those days I didn’t tell a lot of people because it was looked upon as very bogan, very brutal,’ Haseman said.

‘I had cauliflower ears from a young age and people would ask me if I played rugby and I just said “yeah” because if you told someone, they either didn’t believe you or they thought you were a thug.’

At the height of his illustrious career which featured 37 pro fights, Haseman was working for the Queensland prison system, training staff on restraint and control techniques.

He later went on to work as an operational skill instructor for the Queensland police force between 1996 to 2004, preparing rookie cops for what lay ahead.

‘I taught everything from wrist locking, cuffing and restraints all the way to capsicum spray,’ he said.

‘I was not a hothead, I was using martial arts in a professional way.’

Haseman (right) is pictured in 2002, shaping up against Russia's 'Last Emperor' Fedor Emelianenko - a heavyweight universally considered to be one of the greatest and most dominant fighters the sport has ever seen

Haseman (right) is pictured in 2002, shaping up against Russia’s ‘Last Emperor’ Fedor Emelianenko – a heavyweight universally considered to be one of the greatest and most dominant fighters the sport has ever seen

After making a name for himself in ‘all-styles’ tournaments on the Gold Coast he was offered matches in the Japanese MMA organisation Rings, where he would take on the world’s elite fighters.

Competitors from Russia, the US, Netherlands and Brazil would bring managers, trainers, and cornermen and have three or four fighters on the same card.

But on many occasions it would just be Haseman travelling over to Tokyo by himself, standing in the centre of the historic Budokan Arena in front of 20,000 fans with nobody in his corner to offer advice.

In 2002, he even locked horns with Russia’s ‘Last Emperor’ Fedor Emelianenko – a heavyweight universally considered to be one of the greatest and most dominant fighters the sport has ever seen.

Haseman would also go on to fight in the UFC against middleweight world title-winner Evan Tanner.

Although he lost both of those gruelling contests, his most painful battle was yet to come.

Haseman tragically lost his 'beautiful' wife Diana Saffigna, 51 (pictured together), in 2017 after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer just 12 weeks after they got married

Haseman tragically lost his ‘beautiful’ wife Diana Saffigna, 51 (pictured together), in 2017 after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer just 12 weeks after they got married

DEALING WITH TRAGEDY AND LIFE AFTER FIGHTING 

Haseman (pictured) had 37 professional MMA bouts

Haseman (pictured) eventually hung up the gloves in 2012

After 37 professional MMA bouts, Haseman (pictured) eventually hung up the gloves in 2012

'I'm keeping fit, living a healthy life with a fair bit of wine and surfing,' Haseman said

‘I’m keeping fit, living a healthy life with a fair bit of wine and surfing,’ Haseman said

Haseman hung up the gloves in 2012 to concentrate on his business, Fitness Industry Training.

As well as helping some of Australia’s most successful sporting identities into shape – including players on the Brisbane Broncos, Queensland Reds and the Wallabies – the fitness empire also trains and accredits fitness professionals.

He worked alongside his newfound flame Diana Saffigna and in 2013 the couple tied the knot in Italy.

But the fairytale soon turned into a nightmare when Ms Saffigna was diagnosed with terminal cancer just 12 weeks later.

'I'm on my still on my own, but I've got a free spirit and I've learned to enjoy being on my alone,' Haseman said

‘I’m on my still on my own, but I’ve got a free spirit and I’ve learned to enjoy being on my alone,’ Haseman said

She died in 2017 and Haseman has been trying to cope with losing her ever since.

He has two daughters, Jasmine, 15, and Kristen, 21, from a previous relationship who give him strength.

‘She was the most beautiful girl and she put up one hell of a fit,’ Haseman said.

‘It’s hard, I’m on my still on my own, but I’ve got a free spirit and I’ve learned to enjoy being on my alone.

‘I’m keeping fit, living a healthy life with a fair bit of wine and surfing.’

By the end of this year he also hopes to his memoir – From the Cradle to the Cage – ready for publication.

Haseman may not have received the fame and fortune of today’s MMA superstars, but he helped pave the way for the likes of Australian UFC world champions Robert Whitaker and Alexander Volkanovski – as well as Israel Adesanya across the ditch in New Zealand.

And although he may not be a household name in Australia, among hardcore MMA circles across the globe, he will always be remembered for that brutal chin-to-the-eye socket submission.

‘I guess it’s a legacy not many dads can leave with their kids,’ he joked.

In 2002, Haseman (pictured) locked horns with Russia's 'Last Emperor' Fedor Emelianenko - a heavyweight universally considered to be one of the greatest and most dominant fighters the sport has ever seen

In 2002, Haseman (pictured) locked horns with Russia’s ‘Last Emperor’ Fedor Emelianenko – a heavyweight universally considered to be one of the greatest and most dominant fighters the sport has ever seen